One Real-Life Product Owner Team

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Okay… enough of the theory.  I want to share with you guys the roles involved with one of the Product Owner teams I’m working with right now.  I’ve listed each role and why we added these people to the team.

As always, interested to know your thoughts:

  1. Chief Product Owner – The CPO provides strategic product direction to the Product Owner Team and interacts directly with each individual Scrum team as necessary.  The CPO’s primary responsibility is to interface with each of the other Product Managers, gather their requirements, understand their business drivers, understand their high level timelines and make business focused trade-offs that deliver the most value to the business, given the time and cost constraints, and measured throughput of the team.  The CPO can pull other Product Managers into the Product Owner team, or even the individual Scrum teams, as necessary to communicate business goals to the team.
  2. Architect – The Architect provides strategic technology direction to the Product Owner team and interacts directly with each individual Scrum team as necessary.  The Architect’s primary responsibility is to make the significant architectural decisions that impact the long-term direction of the product, or those design decisions that have impact across multiple Scrum teams.  The goal with the Architect’s participation is to make the decisions that cannot, or should not be made at the team level.  This role should defer as many design decisions to the individual Scrum teams as possible.  The Architect will also help the PO team to understand the cost of features we might add to the backlog, and work with Product Management to develop solutions that can be delivered within the time, cost, and ROI constraints of the business.
  3. Project Manager – The Project Manager manages the overall plan and makes sure that the mechanics of the Product Owner team are happening as necessary.  The Project Manager will manage release level communication with external stakeholders; facilitate meetings as necessary, and work to help people come to consensus in the best interest of the overall product.  This person will understand the velocity of each Scrum team, and how their progress supports on-time delivery of the release, relative to the size of the backlog.  They will work across the Scrum teams to understand organizational constraints and impediments, and either get these issues resolved, or make recommendations on how the overall delivery capacity of the team could be improved.
  4. Business Analysts – The BA’s role is to provide domain knowledge in her area of expertise, facilitate the participation of other Business Analysts as necessary, work with Product Management to elicit requirements as necessary, work with Product Management and the Product Owner team to define acceptance criteria, and maintain the prioritized product backlog.
  5. Systems Engineer – The SE’s role is to provide technical domain knowledge in his area of the product.  The SE will facilitate participation of other Systems Engineers as necessary, and work with the Architects and Team Leads to document any design constraints that either guide, or limit the options of the individual Scrum teams.
  6. Quality Assurance – QA’s role is to provide domain knowledge in the area of testing and facilitate the participation of other QA engineers as necessary.  The QA representative has the job of assessing the readiness of the user stories from a testability perspective and providing guidance on how to break down user stories in a way that makes the job of the test engineers easier and results in better quality, easier to maintain, code.
  7. Technical Leads/ScrumMasters – These folks are not part of the core team, but may participate as necessary in the backlog grooming process.  Their participation in the Product Owner team is primarily a formal feedback mechanism to help the Product Owner team understand team level impediments and coordinate dependencies between teams.

Collectively, these people are responsible for decomposing the backlog in a way that can be easily consumed by the team in sprint planning.  The Product Owner team will also provide an early, high-level estimates so that we can quickly determine a release candidate scope.  The Product Owner team will bring the release candidate scope to the team for final validation, breakdown, and estimation prior to making either a final release decision, but definitely before anything get’s pulled into the sprint.

It’s early for this particular team, but I think we’ve got all the right pieces in place, and are on our way to getting this team of folks to gel.  As I said, always welcome your comments.