Tag Archives: product manager

Building a Product Owner – Existing Backlog

Product Owners – like great products – must be developed.  While some skills are innate, others must be learned and organizations tend to throw new Product Owners into the mix without adequate information. In this blog series, we have explored new product owners who are assigned to new products and those owning a system migration.  Now we are going to explore a new product owner who takes over an existing product with a robust product backlog.  In some respects, one might think this is the easiest of the three scenarios but it comes with its own set of challenges.  Here are some tips for how to get started.

1. Get to know your customers

The first step to get your arms around an existing backlog is to understand your current customers.  To do this, you need both

Backlog in Jira Agile

Backlog in Jira Agile

qualitative and quantitative information.  Data is always your friend.  How many customers do you have?  Are they profitable?  Are they the ideal customers that you want to attract?  Once you understand the numbers, now you need to actually talk to customers.  Schedule interviews with key customers – both happy ones and those that are frustrated.  Use your strong product management skills by asking open ended questions.  My favorite is “What keeps you up at night?”  Let your customers talk or complaint or suggest – wherever the conversation goes can be valuable.  Knowing who is buying your product is very important.

Measuring an Agile Product Owner

I went to a meeting last week and we were discussing how to measure a Product Owner.  The concept is completely understandable, but there was something about the meeting that didn’t sit well with me so I am devoting this blog to trying articulate my concerns and things that I think need to be considered.

The premise is sound  – how do you know if the Product Owner is leading you down the right path?  What if you build the wrong thing?  And how can you assess their mis-direction before precious time and resources are spent?

That is a 100% valid question and one that we should certainly spend time and thought to resolve.  The idea that there are ratio-driven metrics to measure the PO’s performance, though, seems counter-productive.

fignerpointing

Image Source: http://thoughtsonleadership.biz/three-fingers-pointing-back/

First, I think Product Owners have a very difficult job and I think very few people are naturally great Product Owners, if you go by the broad definition.  Product Owners are supposed to understand the market place, stay on top of the competition, interview current and prospective clients, and break down all of that data into meaningful features that will be delivered in order to drive the most business value.  They are also supposed to be experts at writing user stories, adding acceptance criteria, understanding at least some level of the technical details associated with the application, and they need to be decisive, informed and immediately available for the Scrum Team.  That is a tall order.  In fact, I recommend splitting the Product Owner’s responsibilities between the Product Owner and a Product Manager, as I referenced in a previous blog.