Father of the Bride: Essentials of the Product Owner’s role

Product Owner’s role is one of the primary roles on the Scrum but as it is with most of the Scrum practices and Agile principles , Everyone interprets it in their own way.

As was trying to find examples of a PO’s role, I remembered Steve Martin (who else…..) [And if you are thinking why and how.. you are certainly a Gen Z rather than a millennial or the GenXer]

If you were born in that era, you would certainly remember the Steve Martin cult movie and the big fat weddings, demanding in-laws and the farting, passed out uncles which were the quintessential part of the big fat wedding

If you have been to a wedding in that era, you would also remember that guy who was supposed to be in-charge of everything, in control of every single bit yet he was the most tense, most haggled of the lot..

Yes, yes… I am talking about the Father of the bride, the ever beaming, smiling one… That, my friend is your inspiration for the PO’s role

BUT not to worry if you have not experienced that feeling of being powerful but still being like ice-cream (trying to make everyone happy I mean..).. let me take you through the journey, my dear co-learner…

If you are the Father of the bride (ummm… Product Owner I mean)… who are you really..:??? Let’s discover

The Cupid/ The Matchmaker or simply ‘Sima Aunty’

( Sima aunty is now in season 3 on Indian matchmaking, making matches, do you know and remember her ;))

The first task of the parents of the bride is to find the suitable match. You would be lucky if your child says, they already have a partner but if they say, we will marry with a person of your choice.. be prepared, It’s a long, bumpy ride ahead and the storm is brewing… because you child is now the customer and they have a lot of ever changing demands, multiple meetings, screaming matches, tantrums et al, yet you are the one trying to be the matchmaker and find that suitable life partner for your beloved child…

and very very similar to this, the PO’s role is to ensure the Developers and Customers know each other, talk to each other frequently, understand each others’ needs well and promise to be friends forever (impossible almost but we can always give it a shot :D) …

Easier said than done though, so here is your survival kit as The Matchmaker:

The Facilitator: You would need facilitation skills to ensure that the developers and business people behave like perfect buddies and actually reach conclusions during meetings

The Negotiator: Negotiation skills to ensure that they don’t start the World War V between the business and developers and also , developers do not take up more than what they can chew.

The Diplomat: to ensure that both business and technology understand each other. If not, get some interpreters on board aka Architects, Product designers, BAs etc.

The Wedding planner

So, after a lot of meetings and ever changing needs, finally we have a match ..and now starts the big task.. planning for the D-Day…and that includes everything from identifying the kind of wedding, to venue, to deciding when should the guests start rolling in and kind of food and everything else to make the occasion unforgettable

Similar to this, as a PO, you are the future gazer of the team. Helping the team build a vision statement, identifying product goals, establishing milestones, identifying what PSI and MVP means for us and much more…

But, this is not a one time activity, because as a wise man said once, planning is important , plans are useless. So, continuously updating the Product plan, strategy and roadmap ,based on the feedforward received from customers and stakeholders, sprint over sprint, is an essential part of the PO’s role.

But when the going gets tough, the tough get going, so here is your survival skillset:

The Astrologer: Being able to understand and envision the future, understand market needs of today and predict the future.

The Planner: to plan for the broad horizon as well as the minute details, to ensure that we do just enough plans and adjust them as the team sprints.

Kuber- The chancellor of the exchequer

A big fat wedding means a lot of people and a lot of demands and ever changing needs of the relatives. But while the demands are endless, the money is not.

So, sometimes as the person in-charge, you have to make some tough decisions ; which wedding item/ ritual to focus on first and what can wait for later, when we have more funds., whom to invite and whom not to go, what venue do we want etc. etc. etc.

Akin to this, your customers would have a lot of demands from the team, but which ones can we do, which we cannot , which should be done first, what can wait for later; these are tough decisions that you would need to take as a PO. And chances are not everyone may like the decisions you take, so its better to be prepared with your survival skills:

The Chitragupta aka the accounting person: You would need to have an understanding of budgets, priorities, hiring, Balance sheets and more to ensure you take the right decision which create value for the business and customers

The astute businessperson: You should know where to invest the penny and how much is it worth, what time to launch the product, what do the users like and what will maximize the profits for the product.

The Iron smith aka Completer Finisher

On the day when the urge to forge comes upon him,
The bellows do everything but speak.
The pile of slag rises higher and higher.
Just look at what has been forged

-Shona praise poetry-Ironsmith, Zimbabwe

It’s the night before the wedding, its well past midnight and everyone is asleep , the wedding planners have done their job and made everything ready…there is a silence all over but there is one guy, who is checking and double checking everything; ensuring and worried everything goes smooth; instructing the wedding planners to make some final changes so everything is perfect on the D-day. There is the father of bride.

The PO is there to ensure that when the team says ‘Done’ , doublechecking and confirming if it is indeed done. When the team needs any clarifications making sure, they get the details in time.

But the final survival skills that you would need are here:

The completer finisher: Ensuring everything is DONE; Definition of done and Acceptance tests have all been completed and quality is inherent in the PSI the team is creating

The tough soul: At times as a PO, you might need to take hard decisions about the product. Focusing on logic rather than emotions about the product you are building.

To conclude , the PO role is an all encompassing role who is responsible for generating value for the customer, frequently and efficiently delivering the right build and product

So, Are you ready for it , Dear Product Owners?

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