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Extremely frustrated Product Owner

Last post 07:59 pm October 19, 2021 by Daniel Wilhite
4 replies
02:50 pm October 19, 2021

I struggle to enter into my role of  Product Owner (?). The project I'm working on, it's kind of the creation of an ecosystem for selling specific products.  But it's not an ecosystem built from scratch, it's based on a lot of existing software systems that must be integrated by 5-6 different teams.

Speaking with stakeholders, they care only about very high-level features and when the "features" will be available. But the "features" are so big, like "creating a social network for users". They don't care or don't mind what users will do on the network, as far as it related to product sales. And they want to know when it will be available for their customers. I'm throwing to them dates without much understanding the scope of the features.

Technical people, don't understand what I'm doing in the project, because I'm a former developer who is not very updated on new technologies. And they are more comfortable speaking with UI designers and business people, rather than getting second-hand requirements from me. But they are getting technical input from me also, because they should build an "ecosystem" not a web application and some decisions they make could have an impact on the overarching ecosystem goal or the final business model.

UX designers are getting input from many people, including me. Prospective customers are very much involved in the UX design, so much that they are sometimes bending the "product" to their limited scope.

I've tried a story mapping exercise, but it turns out that it's too high level for technical people and too low level for business people.

I try to set up technical meetings with people from different teams involved in integration, but my role there is basically down to selecting time slots in outlook. As soon I "introduce" people, most of the meaningful conversations happen without me.

I don't get to be a Scrum Master as some teams have already one, or they just don't have it. I attend dailies in the hope of understanding something, but my contribution is close to zero as it's my understanding (why are they doing X instead of trying to fulfill the goals set in the overarching sprint? maybe there is a conflicting team-level goal? or another product owner pushing more?)


But, while I feel useless or unable to add value, I feel that my role is sorely missing because I fear the project will not be implemented on time nor correctly, I feel like an impotent bystander. Or will they manage to organize themself and produce something useful?

But so what am I doing there?







03:41 pm October 19, 2021

I struggle to enter into my role of  Product Owner (?). The project I'm working on, it's kind of the creation of an ecosystem for selling specific products.

Does each of these specific products have a clear Product Owner who is accountable for its value? If your own product is an ecosystem, do you account for the overall value of its constituent products, or just for the added value the ecosystem brings?

I feel that my role is sorely missing because I fear the project will not be implemented on time nor correctly, 

In Scrum, each Sprint is a project to get value delivery right, on time and correctly. There is a clear line of sight to valuable outcomes in the form of a Done, integrated and immediately usable product increment. What barriers prevent you from optimizing stakeholder value in these terms

04:43 pm October 19, 2021

I'm accountable for the the ecosystem infrastructure and for the constituent products, that however belong to other projects. An empty ecosystem will not add much value (mainly because the business model is not to sell the ecosystem per se, but to create internal solutions based on that ecosystem that could be customized and sold).


As for the value produced in each sprint, after 6 sprints there is nothing usable or barely visible. Just imagine that to create a specific customized product that could be sold by other applications in the ecosystems, you must go through a complicated process, maybe checking part in stock, getting authorization etc. It's definitively not something that could happen in a sprint. 

What we can do in one sprint is "click, create a dummy product, done!". Basically, this has the same value as a clickable mockup.

The only idea that I had in this respect was to start considering API and integration infrastructure as some sort of product. In an ecosystem that could make sense.

And also would be something we could make visible with documentation, swagger etc.


Anyway. I like the simple approach of Scrum to complex situations, but I struggle to put it into practice.





06:09 pm October 19, 2021

Can a Done increment for each individual Product within the infrastructure be completed and put into use every Sprint? 

07:59 pm October 19, 2021

You mentioned Product Owner and Scrum Master as roles you are trying to fulfill.  Those are two very distinctive roles.  You spend more time discussing the product so I'm going to assume that you are mostly interested in fulfilling the Product Owner.   You also mention the ecosystem as the product you own.  So I am tailoring my answer based on those assumptions. 

The stakeholders you mention are not interested in the ecosystem.  They are interested in the products that will be within the ecosystem.  Your stakeholders are the teams that will be providing all of those products.  You should be engaging with the Product Owners and Developers of the end user products.  They will be the ones that requirements and need from the ecosystem that your team owns. The questions of "when will the social network be available to the users" should be answered by the Product Owner for the team doing that work.  You should be answer questions like "when will the API to add a product to the public offerings be available".  

This comes down to correctly identifying the products and stakeholders.  Not all products have to be external facing and not all stakeholders have to be interacting directly with the customers. Maybe some effort into adjusting the stakeholder product definitions would help your organization be more successful. 

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