Agile Software Development

4 Strategies for Product Owners across Multiple Teams

The “product” in “product owner” is singular. There is a reason it is not the products owner, yet sometimes product owners find themselves attached to more than one product across different teams. In a post at her blog, Natalie Warnert discusses four potential strategies for people put in such a draining situation:

  1. Appoint another product owner or partial product owner on one of the teams.
  2. Prioritize when the product owner is truly needed at meetings and do trade-offs.
  3. Lean on the scrum master(s) and the team.
  4. Use fewer tools in meetings.

Not the Right “Productive”

If you have another capable product owner on hand, terrific, problem solved. But the risk of a partial product owner is that the person may not be taken seriously, and he or she is likely also a developer who will incur more technical debt and defects as a result of spread obligations. The second strategy, prioritizing meetings, might be a little more practical in the interim. The product owner likely does not need to attend the daily sprint, for instance. And even in sprint planning, as long as the product owner is there at the beginning to cover the groundwork, perhaps he or she will not be absolutely critical later on.

Scrum masters and teams should have their wits about them to conduct some backlog grooming (etc.) without the product owner. The product owner will still be around as needed to answer questions of course. And one last way to save precious time for the busy product owner is to cut down on how much technology is used in meetings:

How much time in meetings is wasted getting technology set up to cooperate? … if all team members are co-located, can we go back to using index cards to write out stories and break down work? I guarantee it will be faster than putting it all in a clunky tool in front of the team (not to mention the inevitable mistakes we make when nervous typing). Sounds simple, but if we can cut out an hour or two a week of hassles, that gives our time-strapped PO some time back. It would also be a great review to enter the stories/tasks into the tool separately to once again review if there is anything missing when we think about it a few hours later.

None of these options utterly solve the problem of a product owner stretched too thin, but they are feasible stopgaps while additional permanent product owners are found. You can view the original post here:

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