New to Product Ownership and struggling to join the dots

Last post 01:44 pm October 3, 2021
by Ian Mitchell
3 replies
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01:07 pm October 2, 2021

Hi - I'm new here looking for help at the start of my product owner career.

I have recently been given the role as ‘Head of Product’ in a long established organisation and I am finding it difficult to get a single view of all the conversations, incoming requests and the work being done in the different product teams within the company. I therefor find it difficult to confidently communicate to the wider stakeholders where we are across our entire portfolio and where we are against our objectives.

My main issue currently is that we have 4 products that all have different tech stacks, use different tools (mixture of DevOps, Jira, TFS) and until recently worked in silos. We are trying to change all of this but at the same time maintain our legacy systems and develop a new online system to replace a desktop platform.

Our legacy solutions are a mixture of desktop and online but unfortunately they are creaking at the seams and as a result incoming bugs and customer requests for improvements are creating a whole lot of noise.

So I have been appointed responsible for the future direction our products take and whilst I have no real product management expertise I like to think I am an expert of the subject domain in which our company operates. I also have a good working knowledge of how development works and I’m becoming more familiar with Agile. I co founded and helped build a successful online research platform that the company I now work for purchased two years ago. 

My problem today is getting visibility of what is coming in, what’s on the backlog and what is going into sprints without having to talk to POs and the wider teams on a daily basis and essentially duplicating work and wasting time.  Without this I am finding it hard to prioritise and direct my team and share progress and roadmaps with internal and external stakeholders. I crave one system - one source of truth that is maintainable and shareable across many levels so I spend less time fact finding and more time planning.

What I have been in search of is a product that bridges the gaps between incoming bugs, feature requests and the developer tools such as Jira, DevOps, etc. I’m looking at ProductBoard and have a demo next week, but I’ve been looking for a solution for a long time and have looked at various tools such as Asana, Trello, Monday, AirTable, AirSource, Craft.io and none of them seem to solve the problem. I could of course just use Jira or DevOps but these were designed for developers not as ways to communicate with the team and stakeholders - there is too much detail.

I’m not sure if this is a problem for just me or is in fact a common pain point but keen to hear what tools other Product Owners/Managers use.

Thanks :)

04:30 pm October 2, 2021

You say there are 4 products. How many Product Owners are there, and why are you trying to prioritise and direct a team?

05:24 pm October 2, 2021

We have 3 product owners. We have 4 products although we are maintaining multiple versions. One product has 4 versions in circulation. 

Regarding your second question, we have a vision of where we want our products to be in the future and in order to get there we first need to end of life some of our product versions to free up resource to focus our efforts on moving forward. Like all businesses going through change we have priorities in the medium and long term and in these early days I need to prioritise what we focus on to get us moving in the right direction asap.

It's worth also mentioning that I am best placed in the business to evaluate most of the decisions needed at a product direction level when an enhancement or feature is being assessed and when we are designing new products for our customers due to my background experience. Please don't take that as arrogance but there has been much criticism aimed at our products in recent years and this in part is due to a lack of understanding in the business of what our customers needs are. The business has never had someone like myself in the business who is able to objectively challenge PO decisions. 

I'm not sure if that fully answers your question? 

 

01:44 pm October 3, 2021

The business has never had someone like myself in the business who is able to objectively challenge PO decisions. 

That's the thing. There's a world of difference between objectively challenging PO decisions and setting priorities and trying to direct a team. Each role in Scrum describes an accountability, and the more you do the more team members will be robbed. For their part, they must learn to value and leverage your experience, insights and advice.

The strategic view you can provide ought to be informed by by bottom-up intelligence from team members best placed to inspect and adapt and who are accountable for outcomes. I'd suggest that daily collaboration with POs and other team members should anchor your working day. Avoid the situation where information is filtered through reports or tooling into a management bubble, just as surely as you ought to avoid micromanaging and information overload. An agile leader is a servant leader and most of the benefit you can provide will come through wondering about things and being invisibly present.