Agile Book – Roles

We are getting closer to the publication of the Agile textbook that I have co-authored with Sondra Ashmore.  It is such an exciting time for us and I want to use this blog series to highlight chapters from the book.  I hope you enjoy this so much that you want to order the book.  Pre-orders are available on Amazon right now – just search Introduction to Agile Methods by Sondra Ashmore and Kristin Runyan.

One of the chapters that I was responsible for addresses the roles within Agile and specifically Scrum teams.  Here are the chapter learning objectives as well as an excerpt from the section about Product Owners, something I am very passionate about.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the roles in Scrum with their specific responsibilities—product owner, Scrum master, and team
  • Identify the attributes and personality types that are most successful in the various roles
  • Learn the Agile definitions of “chickens” and “pigs”
  • See how extended team members interact with the team
  • Compare and contrast the roles in Scrum and the other methodologies
  • Walk through practical examples of how the roles are filled in different-sized organizations

Product Ownership – Breadth

Another nuance of the product owner role is the breadth of his or her ownership. Does one product owner manage multiple products? Or is one product so big that it requires multiple product owners? Both of these situations are common in the workplace where teams are thin and expectations are high.

To examine the first instance, what are the advantages and disadvantages of having one product owner responsible for multiple products? The biggest risk factor is time and attention. Can the product owner devote adequate time to every product that he or she is responsible for? Does this person have the necessary depth of understanding to truly collaborate with IT on the best solutions? It is a risk, but certainly one that can be overcome.

In the instance where the product is large enough to have multiple product owners, there is a chance that the priorities will not Manyto1align. Related to the previous reference of business value, if one product owner wants to expand to new cities to attract new users but another product owner places top priority on improving the processing speed, then you can run into conflicts. However, one of the core tenets of Agile is collaboration, which includes collaboration between product owners. Product owners need to be in communication with each other to clearly articulate the best plan for all groups—knowing that at any given time, one group’s needs will take precedence over another’s.

Even if you have a single product owner for every product, that does not mean that things are easy. Between systems there are interactions, and to create a new feature or make a modification, the product owner may need to consider dependencies.

Using our Cayman Design example, the product owner has decided to place the highest business value on driving incremental revenue. Thus, the weather application that Cayman Design has offered will have an additional feature allowing their end users to purchase weather calendars that provide statistical information for the next 12 months based on historical data and trends. To sell these calendars, the front-end web interface needs to be designed to take order information from a consumer; the order is then sent to a back-end order management application where the data is stored and the product purchase is fulfilled.

From an Agile perspective, there may be one product owner for the front-end web application and another for the back-end order management system. To be able to sell these calendars, enhancements will need to be made in both systems. The two product owners will have to collaborate to make sure that the timing of the enhancements is aligned. It does not necessarily mean that the changes to the two systems have to happen at the exact same time, but it does mean that they need to be coordinated, tested, and launched in concert.


One of the joys of writing this book was getting to interview true gurus in the world of Agile.  For this chapter, we got to hear from two experts, Roman Pichler and Lyssa Adkins.  Wow!  What an honor.  I hope you found this excerpt valuable and are excited to read more.  I love Agile and I love Product Management and I hope that passion shows.  Thank you for reading.

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