Scrum’s Product Owner Role Challenge

In my experience working with Scrum for over a decade, the main challenge with the Product Owner role that Scrum recommends is that the people who usually perform that role have limited understanding of software development, and have different measurements for their job success than the Development Team. For these reasons these POs usually care little about Scrum’s description of what the role should be. More often than not the PO cares mostly about getting more features done, and little about sustainable pace or technical debt.

It’s easy to understand the problem once you realize who the PO works for:

– He is usually part of a lager product management team, and he responds to larger concerns they impose on him, in particular he may be overwhelmed with too many teams he has to work for.

– On occasion he is part of Sales team, and acts as either a revenue maker, or a revenue facilitator. Here his main concern is listening and responding to customer demands, to generate sales, not so much to building quality features.

– Finally the PO may be a part of the PMO, or the Business Analyst team; this case is one of the best since he will truly be a point of contact for all things requirements and usually cares about the PO role, but still his key concern is delivering the project, or making the business happy.

Of course there are some POs who actually perform an amazing agile role, and truly have authority over the product they lead, and even understand software development well, but these are in my experience very few.

What do you think, how has the Product Owner role happened for you the Scrum teams you’ve led or worked for?

Keywords: #scrum #agile #productmanagement

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About Joseph Hurtado

Enterprise Agile Coach, Developer and Software Engineering Manager who seeks to deliver great solutions to achieve the Triple Win: happy customers, happy management and a happy team. My passion is to innovate and apply new ways to make people's lives more productive, fun and stress free via technology products and services.