Product owner - unknown product

Last post 07:00 am October 12, 2020
by Nicolette Cameron
8 replies
Author
Messages
10:14 am October 2, 2020

Hi all

I have been a product owner for a while for a product that I know inside out, because I used to be a 'super user' for this product.

I am looking at new opportunities and I was wondering: what are your experiences or tips for starting a new job as a product owner for a product that you don't yet know? So not a new product that still needs to be developed, but an existing one that is in use and needs to be continuously improved.

How do you go about getting to know the product? And in how much detail? Do you really need to be at that 'super user' level?

Regards

Nicolette

03:33 pm October 2, 2020

How do you go about getting to know the product? And in how much detail? Do you really need to be at that 'super user' level?

No, not really. Are you able to explain the vision for the product, and be truly accountable for how value ought to be maximized?

04:03 pm October 2, 2020

Have you had to collaborate as a Product Owner with other stakeholders in the past? e.g. other super users who have a different opinion to you, or users who had different needs from the product.

If so, how did you treat their feedback?

The balance will be different, but maybe you will be able to rely more on skills that you were only using occasionally in the past.

03:15 am October 3, 2020

No professional knowledge is required, but:
1. Organizational strategy and vision, strategy and vision extending to the product
2. Priority
3. Maximize the value of products from strategy and vision
4. Responsible for ROI

09:14 am October 5, 2020

Thanks all

Yes, I have definitely had to manage different stakehpolders' expectatons and priotitise to get maximum value.

But you still need to understand the product to explain implications of requirements and decisions, right?

07:42 pm October 5, 2020

But you still need to understand the product to explain implications of requirements and decisions, right?

This comes from the Scrum Guide section that describes the Product Owner. 

The Product Owner may do the above work, or have the Development Team do it. However, the Product Owner remains accountable.

Do you have the ability to convey the implications with the help of others?  Do you understand the product well enough to determine the needs of the stakeholders so that the product direction can be made visible? 

07:44 am October 8, 2020

Thanks Daniel

This is my question exactly - if you DON'T understand the product well enough to determine the needs of the stakeholders so that the product direction can be made visible, how do you go about that?

I can imagine you can go on a product training, you can do user tests to see how people use it (and why), you could maybe do a 'job shadow' of the people using the product if it is an internal application, you can fool around in a test environment, etc.

What has worked best for you?

05:05 pm October 8, 2020

This is my opinion and what has worked best for me in the past.  Your experience may be different and other techniques may work better for you. 

I learn what the customers want from a product first. Read what ever user research exists from the previous Product Owner.  Talk to your User Experience team.  Talk to your Sales organization to see what makes people want to use your product. Talk to the Customer Support organization if you have one. They will know what kind of questions or problems the current users face.  If there is a training course that your customers go through, you should also. Learn it as a customer first.  That will help you to approach your work from their perspective.

Then go to the team that supports it with specific questions such as "Many customers have said they want to be able to multi-select line items and do bulk changes.  Can you show me how to do that and if we can't explain to me why?".   That will gain you the most important knowledge the fastest.   The other intracacies of the product will come to you as you continue to work with it. 

I limit my contact with actual users until I have a better understanding of the product from the above activities. That will help me look less like a "newbie" and also help my confidence when I do talk to them. But none of the above will completely replace the need to talk to users directly.

And remember that you are not the only one that needs to or does know all of this.  Just as I have suggested many groups to consult with, you can continue to do that as you proceed as the Product Owner.  That quote from the Scrum Guide does not say "The Product Owner has to do all the work themselves". You may not know all of the answers but knowing people that can help you find them is extremely important. 

Good Luck.

07:00 am October 12, 2020

Thank you!!