Product Owner : How to handle different client priorities ?

Last post 02:14 pm September 13, 2021
by Daniel Wilhite
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10:52 am September 13, 2021

Ours is a product for public sector needs, We have small number of clients which puts us in the commitment to satisfy each and every individual needs of all customers. What one client asks need not to be there for another, also the management has fear that we may loose client if we delay what they asked. Because of this the team is in frustation that we are more getting into project mode more than product mode. 

I as a SM feel that Product Management training required to PO so he can better prioritise the backlog and learn the art of saying 'No' to clients. Need suggestion how to help my PO here 

11:33 am September 13, 2021

also the management has fear that we may loose client if we delay what they asked

Aren't they concerned about the risk of doing what clients ask for, only for it to turn out to be the wrong thing?

12:23 pm September 13, 2021

If you're in a position where you have to satisfy the needs of all of your customers, can your Product Owner actually say "no" or "not now" to one customer without risking losing that customer?

You mentioned one case, where you have conflicting timelines and your product development team is unable to meet all of the demands. Another case may be when the needs of one client are in direct conflict with the needs of another - satisfying the needs of one client would prevent you from satisfying the needs of another.

I'm not sure that helping the Product Owner with ordering the Product Backlog or learning how to say no would be of benefit here. There are much bigger shifts necessary to get into a product-centric mode of development. If those shifts aren't possible, it may be necessary to consider alternatives, including scaling up the team and/or maintaining separate products for each customer.

01:45 pm September 13, 2021

Do your clients know what situation you're in? Do they know that you have to prioritize you Product Backlog based on input from multiple clients? Maybe somewhat of a bold move, but would it make sense to run a workshop with your clients to give them insights in the product?

One of such workshops could be this one. This would give your clients an insight into the product and the Product Backlog. They might not know what your Product Owner is actually dealing with.

02:14 pm September 13, 2021

Are you sure you aren't creating a custom product for each customer and trying to shove it all together as a single one? 

The Product Owner needs to learn how to order the items in the manner that provides the most value to someone. You can not have three #1 items.  The Developers need to help the PO understand how they could provide better deliverables if they were allowed to focus on one at a time instead of trying to do multiple distinct bodies of work at once.  Your management needs to learn how to manage client expectations and market demands. 

This is not all the Product Owner's fault. This is an organizational issue that runs the full extent of the company.