Best choice for Product owner

Last post 05:01 pm July 15, 2014
by michael
23 replies
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06:16 am July 15, 2014

Interesting question.

Who would be the most suitable choice for product owner?

Dev team member
Scrum master
Project Manager
Manager
Business Specialist

Really I have no idea how you could say either one is correct 100% of the time, if I'm totally honest.
I doubt that the books would give a spot on answer either, there is so much variance with this question.
You could argue neither if they dont have the required skill and experience, or all of them if they tick the boxes.

Any advice from a PST on the thinking around this question?

08:19 am July 15, 2014

Well, I usually ask - who is going to be killed if the product fails? OK, this is the one who's your Product Owner.
I suggest to read a wonderful post about the role of the Product Owner written by Gunther Verheyen:
http://guntherverheyen.com/2014/04/30/product-ownership-in-scrum/

08:19 am July 15, 2014

Think of the PO role as a mini-CEO. So, what's the best fit for that?

08:42 am July 15, 2014

In my context, it is not easy.
Very often, the one who is going to be kill is flying from meeting to meeting, which make him a bad choice for PO.

08:53 am July 15, 2014

Would the the BA not being able to take serious decisions and almost no access to business be a good one?

08:59 am July 15, 2014

Yes, actually, our PO are usually people from the BAs, but in a highly pyramidal structure as mine, they won't be killed in case of failure.

09:15 am July 15, 2014

Althoguh it's possible to work in Scrum with BA being a PO (or proxy PO) this is a very limiting position.
Would the BA be able to invite important stakeholders and end users to the Sprint Review?

09:23 am July 15, 2014

Thanks Guys,

Thats what i like about questions like this, the debate on what is the actual answer.

The wording is a bit off, "suitable" or "most appropriate" I cant remember the exact wording.
Any of them could be suitable or even most appropriate, I dont think entreprenuer was listed as a
chioce as in Gunters Blog sadly.
Remember there are good CEO's and lousy CEO's, even mini CEO's that applies to any role,
PM, Manager, Dev team, Bus Spec etc.
Manager would be mini CEO, as the PM is a whipping boy for everything (although no PM in scrum).
Bus analyst could be graduate with no experience, SM and Dev team may have experience.
You could overcook this time and time again as a question.

If we say the PO is responsible for the success and failure that is great, as is a PM for the project.
PM and manager attend lots of meetings, but what makes them better or more suited than anyone else?
Why would a bad PM or bad manager make a better PO than a good SM or Dev team or Bus Analyst?
What we cant say is that either one of them is a better choice, more suited or most approprate
just based on a current role. There is much more to it than that.
Sadly the question doesnt go that far so its one persons perception vs what someone thinks.

Michael

10:44 am July 15, 2014

@Illya : yes, for most product, the BA manage to invite some important stakeholders, but it is very difficult because they have very little time to share with the scrum teams.
So we have a hard choice between (more or less) powerfull PO and available PO :-(

10:59 am July 15, 2014

Is there a way to combine best of 2 choices? (merge)

11:12 am July 15, 2014

IIlya / Oliver

Sadly no, you can only select one from the list.
Question is as debated, which one is the 100% answer and how do we get to that conclusion from what
we have discussed in this topic?
What I think differs from what you both think, tricky question eh.
Has no one nailed this down anywhere that categorically says "The most suitable choice for a PO , when choosing one is xxxxxxxx, the reasons are as follows if we look at the other realistic options......"

Regards

Michael

Michael

12:16 pm July 15, 2014

OK, let me nail it down:

1. There isn't the best anwer in a complex world (Cynefin framework) and also I don't know your context and can only ask questions, trying to do my best so that you could answer that question on your own.
2. This is not Scrum that has to fit your organizational structure and make the best fit for the PO, on the contrary it's your company which has to embrace the importance of the PO role and thus change its approach in PO selection. SM can be a brave change agent to challenge this status quo.
3. Realistic options - BA is too far from business and is not powerful PO. On the other hand, having a PO who isn't able to work with the Team on the regular basis is a bad choice. Remember one of the Agile Manifesto principles - developers and business people should work together on a daily basis.

Now think what you can do about that.

12:54 pm July 15, 2014

> Any advice from a PST on the thinking around this question?

I'm not a PST but if I had to choose exactly one answer of those available, I'd choose Scrum Master. I'd make this choice on the basis that, if an SM was appointed PO, he or she may be placed in an improved position to coach certain stakeholders about product ownership.

> 2. This is not Scrum that has to fit your organizational structure and make the best fit for the
> PO, on the contrary it's your company which has to embrace the importance of the PO role
> and thus change its approach in PO selection. SM can be a brave change agent to challenge
> this status quo.

Illya is right. That's the behavior a Scrum Master might encourage and coach as an organizational change agent.

01:31 pm July 15, 2014

IIlya / Oliver /Ian

Thanks for the discussion,

This is an actual question, I just couldn't see the thinking with it.
I just wondered if anyone knew the actual thinking around it?
SM would make sense coupled with the fact if it was the team that selected the SM.
May be a member of the dev team as well.
The SM would have the respect of the team and as you rightly say, understand the framework .
Having to "provide services" technically would tick all the boxes for a good PO with coaching.
Clearly either of them could be good, better choice. most suitable based on experience.
Best guess could put it at SM from the ones in the list, but its a odd question for sure.
As to if that's the actual right answer, that's anyone's guess.

01:43 pm July 15, 2014

> Best guess could put it at SM from the ones in the list, but its a odd question for sure.
> As to if that's the actual right answer, that's anyone's guess.

Correct. The person formulating the question could have excluded an SM/PO combination because of the potential conflict of interest, which would be a reasonable position to hold. It is unlikely they agree with my own reasoning for making that choice. It does seem to be an odd question.

03:40 pm July 15, 2014

I found this in CSPO along the same lines, although the question is from scrum.org
We can at least adapt some lines of thinking from it.

Who should Be a Product Owner

Needs to be empowered to make decisions about the product.
At a suitable level of seniority in the organization so that stakeholders can be managed effectively.
Should be familiar with the application area
Should understand the consequences of business and technical decisions
Can be a line manager
When he or she respects the self-management of the team
When he or she does not have objectives conflicting with the project goal

Based on that thinking (also scrum), the SM could be a choice, but so could PM and manager.
As PM isn't a role in scrum and SM is a management position, plus what we discussed above.
With only one possible clash Ian pointed out SM/PO, "looks to be" the most suitable answer.
What a great question, its a real stinker to answer and a good question for PST's to add to their
thinking for candidates.

Michael

03:42 pm July 15, 2014

Re: the original question/post above...

If you were to read this article:
http://guntherverheyen.com/2014/04/30/product-ownership-in-scrum/

What would be your answer?

Remember that the question didn't say "100% of the time" -- it says "best".. put your Scrum/Gunther hat on.

03:48 pm July 15, 2014

Another good article on point... maybe even better than the one I posted above:

http://guntherverheyen.com/2013/12/19/illustrations-of-scrumand/

04:08 pm July 15, 2014

Charles,

Thanks for the links but its really still unclear from the list.

Business person with full (functional and budgetary)
responsibility over the product and knowledge over all product management aspects
(marketing, competition, users, legal, finance).

This puts the SM out, Dev team out, Business analyst out.

PM will (or should) understand
scope
time
cost
communication
risk
quality

May not understand SCRUM and as a thought may not be able to deal with self organising teams.

LM should understand and usually has gone the PM route first.
scope
time
cost
communication
risk
quality
finance
competition
legal
Marketing

May not also understand scrum, but should have the ability to understand people.

Mini Ceo really doesn't answer the question, unless it was in the list (TBH cant remember).
There are so many variables in it, you can have a bad mini CEO so that's not concrete enough to say
this is the best choice based on a job role alone, or that's my thoughts on it.
Would you employ a mini CEO just based on the fact that he or she has been a mini CEO.
Wouldn't be enough for me, I would need a little more than that for selection.
To support the debate, lets assume Jenaro Garcia Martin came for a job as PO, he would be the best fit?

http://www.thedrum.com/news/2014/07/14/ex-gowex-ceo-could-face-over-ten…

Michael

04:29 pm July 15, 2014

Let me start from another angle... where did this question come from?

04:44 pm July 15, 2014

Hi Charles,

PSPO I exam, that is why I appreciate the thoughts of PST on it.
I was stumped when i saw it as a question, as its so variable on many fronts.
What is the correct thought for the answer, SM looks to be blown out of the water with what
Gunther has written on it, and looks to be the Manager, if we use all those factors.

I have had some great Managers over the years, i have also had some bad ones.
Mini Ceo isn't a term i have heard used, that's like saying mini SM or mini dev team member.
What do you believe is the best/suitable choice and why?
(Excluding Jenaro who ticks all the boxes but still doesn't look like a favorite) :-)

Michael

04:47 pm July 15, 2014

Shouldn't the 'most suitable choice' be based upon the future fulfillment of the role, over where to look for someone?
Think of the Product Owner as a 'value optimizer'. Wouldn't the 'most suitable' person be the best placed person to decide gather, express and order ideas on the Product Backlog?
This question has little learning in it.

05:00 pm July 15, 2014

Cool. If this is from our assessment, then we will revise this ;-)

05:01 pm July 15, 2014

Hi Gunther,

You are correct in that its based on the future fulfillment of the role.
The SM would be an ideal choice as he would tick most of the boxes, but that's a guess.
From your write up Mini Ceo would put the SM out, so really have no idea, puts me at Manager.
I agree, the question is a stinker as its so variable, any of them may have the experience to be a good PO.
I will contact Admin and see if we can get clarity on the question in the pool.
Thanks for all the help (Everyone in the thread) that's contributed to try to resolve it.

Michael