When we talk about scrum, the first person that comes to mind is the Scrum Master. Often overlooked is the role of Product Owner in the scrum process. The Product Owner is just as important as the Scrum Master in the scrum process if not more important. If the Product Owner does his or her job in the scrum process effectively, it can make the whole scrum process downstream flow a lot more smoothly.
While I was search through the internet for the roles and challenges on the Product Owner during the scrum process, I came across a game called “Product Owner Challenge Game” using Legos created by Michael Tarnowski. The game is about the role of the Product Owner in scrum and the things the Product Owner have to overcome in order to achieve the objective. The objective of the game is simple, to build a Lego set from the many different pieces of Lego, something any child can do. But the challenge is to build the Lego set without the original Lego instructions, using the instructions provided by the Product Owner only. What makes it even more challenging is that the Product Owner is in one room with the original Lego plan, and the rest of the scrum team is in another room with the actual Lego pieces with only the instructions provided by the Product Owner to build the Lego set. The game points out the challenges the Product Owner must face in scrum software development.
One of the challenges of the Product Owner is to clearly communicate to the team the overall vision of the product they are trying to build. This is like the original Lego instructions to build the Lego set. Only the Product Owner has the original Lego instructions. The Product Owner must somehow convey the original instructions to the team in the next room without the original Lego instructions. The Product Owner have in his or her head the vision of how they want the product to look like. The Product Owner must clearly communicate this vision to the team. This is what the Product Owner needs to do during sprint planning in the scrum process. The Product Owner must set a goal for the sprint and communicate this goal to the team.
Another challenge for the Product Owner is to come up with a process of communication with the team. Sure the Product Owner can just jump straight into the original Lego instructions and start giving instructions to the team what pieces they need and how to put them together. But without a process or guidelines, there can be many ways to connect the different Lego pieces. The Product Owner need to setup these guidelines and processes first. It might take some time to set this up, but in the long run this initial step will provide the foundation of how they interact with the team. This is like sprint planning for the Product Owner during the scrum process. During sprint planning, the Product Owner coming up with an estimate and priority for a story during sprint planning. It might take some time in the planning stage, but if the Product Owner take the time and plan it out correctly, the rest of the sprint will be a lot smoother. Even through Sprint estimation is about assigning points and the priority, it forces the Product Owner to really think about each story and how each of them fit into the overall product and goal.
Once the Product Owner have clearly communicated to the team in the next room on what they are going to build and provided a way of how they are going to communicate, the rest of the process is about making sure everything is on track. In the game, the Product Owner is able to inspect the plan as often as he or she needs to. With each iteration, the Product Owner is able to catch mistakes and further refine the plan product. This is like the sprint review of the scrum process. The Product Owner and the scrum team meet at the sprint review to show and discuss the progress make during the sprint. It is a chance for the team to show what has been accomplished to the Product Owner. The Product Owner can then check to see if what was built is really what he or she had in mind. If there are any mistakes or misunderstanding, it is the role of the Product Owner to address these issues to make sure the team is on track to meet the goal.
The Product Owner plays a very important role in the scrum process. The Product Owner is responsible for clearly communicating the goal for the team. The Product Owner also has to plan properly to ensure the team is working as efficiently as they can. And finally, the Product Owner has to continuously keep the team on track to ensure the team meets its goals.