Lead Developer / Product Owner

Last post 10:02 am June 4, 2018
by Filip Łukaszewski
17 replies
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04:52 am April 24, 2014

What are the potential threats of having your lead developer also being the Product Owner?

I was talking with a mate and he told me that within their company their most senior developer also act as Product Owner. As the Scrum guide doesn’t really talk about this I was wondering what you guys think of this.

Cheers, Pablohttps://www.scrum.org/DesktopModules/ActiveForums/themes/grey/save32.png

07:19 am April 24, 2014

There is no such thing as a lead developer.
The Product Owner should be someone who has a high interest in the product and is accepted by the stakeholders. It does not help in any way if he is a developer. The potential thread is a conflict of interests between working towards the sprint goal on one hand and working with the stakeholders and managing the product backlog on the other hand.

08:01 am April 24, 2014

Posted By Ludwig on 24 Apr 2014 07:19 AM
There is no such thing as a lead developer.

I know the theory tells us that there are only developers in a team, but in reality in every team there is a “most senior person” and in some companies (not all obviously) this person will/can take the lead.

The Product Owner should be someone who has a high interest in the product and is accepted by the stakeholders. It does not help in any way if he is a developer. The potential thread is a conflict of interests between working towards the sprint goal on one hand and working with the stakeholders and managing the product backlog on the other hand.

I don’t really see a problem here? The team is working towards a sprint goal and they notice that the goal isn’t feasible anymore. This developer/PO can discuss this with the stakeholders.

08:15 am April 24, 2014

The problem arises before you already see that the sprint goal is not feasible anymore. The developer/PO would focus on the goal and make it happen. Due to this pressure, the team accomplishes the sprint goal and is happy in the Review. Aferwards in the planning, the developer/PO sees that the product backlog is not in a good shape and he doesn't know which features are most important to the stakeholders. He thinks: If only I had spent more time managing the backlog and talking to stakeholders. As I said, this is a potential thread. It does not necessary happen like this.

08:21 am April 24, 2014

Posted By Ludwig on 24 Apr 2014 08:15 AM
The problem arises before you already see that the sprint goal is not feasible anymore. The developer/PO would focus on the goal and make it happen. Due to this pressure, the team accomplishes the sprint goal and is happy in the Review. Aferwards in the planning, the developer/PO sees that the product backlog is not in a good shape and he doesn't know which features are most important to the stakeholders. He thinks: If only I had spent more time managing the backlog and talking to stakeholders. As I said, this is a potential thread. It does not necessary happen like this.

So what if the developer/PO is timeboxing these events? For example: 3 days development and 2 days spend on shaping up the backlog. Plus during the Sprint Planning Meeting the team will also have the oppertunity to "reshape" the backlog.

04:23 pm April 24, 2014

Lead Developer / product owner: It's very relative, for a program where an existing system, application or process is restructured or re engineered an veteran developer with good grasp of business and functional demands for and of the system would be a good choice. but not the same in case of an application with critical business demands & various user base in such a case an senior business / program manager who has the bigger picture needs to be the PO. In both cases the SCRUM master should assess the situation and bring it in to light appropriately.

04:14 am April 25, 2014

> What are the potential threats of having your
> lead developer also being the Product Owner? 

In Scrum there's nothing to stop a PO from also being a member of the Development Team. The idea of a "lead developer" is however a confection that does not exist in Scrum.

There are risks to combining the roles, including the potential lack of time to do both jobs properly. The Scrum Master may also struggle to represent and defend the interests of the Development Team when the PO is also a member of that team.

Of course there are also potential benefits, including the on-hand availability of the PO to the team, and perhaps a clearer demonstration of having skin in the game.

01:04 pm May 16, 2018

The Product Owner can be part of the Development Team according to the Scrum Guide. If a person is appointed as a Product Owner it becomes that persons top priority, and main focus. That doesn't mean he can't be part of the development team, it means that he can be untill it affects his primary tasks.

This is ok for a very mature Product Owner that is well aware of his capabilities, in other cases is asking for trouble.

02:58 pm May 16, 2018

I don't know. While it is not forbidden, being a PO is a huge task and responsibility. Not only must you be on the same page with your Scrum Team, you must also be on the same page with your stakeholders. Doing that as a developer would be quite challenging; it almost 100% of the time means that either the Stakeholders suffer or the Scrum Team suffers in some way. I see it the same way with movies. Directors have similar responsibilities that PO's do. They must create a film that the viewers will enjoy and pay to see, while being mindful of the budget and time constraints put forth by the producers, and lead/serve his actors/actresses by guiding them in their work. There are a handful of movies out there where the director is also the main actor that turned out to be great movies, but for the most part when you're directing and acting; performance on either side usually ends up suffering. 

 

09:38 pm May 17, 2018

@ Curtis,

Another analogy could be professional sports, where a single person is not only a member of the team, but also the manager/coach.   It is very rare when someone can adequately fill both roles, and it is always an impediment to team self-organization and maturity, much like identifying a "lead" on a Development Team.

08:19 pm May 21, 2018

Tim, Exactly. I was going to call out Jerry Jones doing his dual roles but since he isn't a player I didn't think it would fit well.

09:27 pm May 21, 2018

I can think of only two examples off the top of my head, but I know there are others:  Lenny Wilkens (NBA), and Pete Rose (MLB).

09:43 pm May 21, 2018

Bill Russell (Celtics)

01:09 pm May 22, 2018

Personally, I think anyone in the development team can play most roles temporarily. Even QAs can be scrum masters or PO, it really depends. There are advantages and issues for a lead developer, tester, architects, etc. to play different roles. It can also lead to problems that might make products veering off course  according to the role they play based on their background experience. The group as a whole needs to have the necessary understanding and conversations before commencing.

02:11 pm May 22, 2018

That's a good call out. I actually do dual roles between QA and Scrum Master and it works very well. However, for me the PO role is something that I would need to focus on 100% full-time. There is so much going on and so much that you have to be mindful of in order to be a successful PO, all of which demands a huge amount of time. That isn't to say Scrum Master doesn't demand a lot of time but I find it easier to juggle the SM responsibilities with a separate role; I couldn't do that were I the PO. 

10:47 pm June 3, 2018

I see many arguments stating that the PO should not be part of the development team/ lead the development team (although i understand that there is no Lead Developer role in Scrum).

However, how about this scenario- could there be a conflict with PO trying to push items into a sprint, based on business feedback, not understanding the development effort required to do so? This could cause friction between the developers and the PO. Having a PO with a development hat could alleviate this as that person understands more about what is possible and not possible.

06:44 am June 4, 2018

Or if he is a former developper, maybe he will push the Dev Team : "Come on, I did it hundred times 5 years ago, it is very easy...".

The main skill required is Respect toward each other skills.

10:02 am June 4, 2018

"PO trying to push items into a sprint, based on business feedback, not understanding the development effort required to do so? "

 

What would such scenario tell about transparency withing that Scrum Team, that is one of Scrum pillars?

 

Or if he is a former developper, maybe he will push the Dev Team : "Come on, I did it hundred times 5 years ago, it is very easy...".

This also sounds like a reason to discuss within the Scrum Team.