Product Owner – The «all in one» Hero


Lukas Rüdlinger, Consultant Professional

Many companies that develop and operate software products have switched to agile methods and frameworks. But no matter if it is Scrum, Kanban, SAFe, etc., too often a distinction is made between development and operation – especially with regard to the organisational structure.

Although DevOps is an approach that counteracts this challenge it imposes substantial demands to a company, both in terms of structure and technology. Many companies do not yet meet these requirements. Alternatively, employees are often deployed in the role of “Application Manager” to ensure maintenance and support after development is accomplished.

Today, however, software products are becoming increasingly more complex with regard to their interactions with other systems and interfaces. In addition, stakeholders are becoming more and more numerous and heterogeneous. If one combines these demands with the ever-faster demand for adaptation and the inclusion of feedback, the classical application management is no longer able to cope with the situation. New and further development, maintenance and support can no longer be easily separated and must be reconsidered and a new solution found.

A competence-extended and self-organizing Product Owner Team is the solution!

One approach that addresses this problem is to combine these disciplines into one role in the organisation. The different groups of needs and tasks are satisfied centrally by one person or a dedicated team.

PO_Team_E

 

The holistic product idea as well as the principle of the effective “ownership” of a product represents the foundation. The product owner is no longer exclusively responsible for the first phases of the product life cycle but also ensures that the product continues to be supported throughout the entire cycle. Accordingly, this includes not only the development focus at the beginning of the product life cycle, but also the maintenance (bug fixing) and the technical support (2nd or 3rd level) of the product. In general, but especially with regards to the size and complexity of a product, a team of product owners is an excellent way to meet the quantity and complexity of the demands. This holistic “product ownership” approach that is organised in a team requires more time and technical expertise from the product owner, but brings significant advantages for the organisation and attractiveness of the role:

Opportunities / Advantages

  • Technical and professional expertise is organized more efficiently and sustainably in the self-organized team. This also reduces the amount of documentation effort.
  • Simplified and more immediate flow of feedback. This leads to leaner and more efficient communication ways and processes.
  • The sense of responsibility of the Product Owner Team increases as a result of the holistic ownership. Cooperation and team spirit are also encouraged.
  • Varying or cyclical load peaks or personnel bottlenecks (absences) can be managed more easily and efficiently by a homogeneous and self-organised product owner team.

Although this approach may not seem entirely new, it is rarely applied in reality. The establishment of such a holistic Product Owner Team requires certain organisational qualities. It requires a delegation of responsibility and a fundamental trust in competence. The employee profile is also becoming broader and more demanding. A foundation of cooperative and trust-based teamwork is crucial.

Application Opportunities and Practical Tips

  • Establishment of a self-organizing Product Owner Team (Holacracy Approach), which is set up according to specific topics and perceived as a unit within the organization.
  • Transfer of the entire responsibility for a product to the Product Owner Team.
  • Strong involvement of the Product Owner Team in the design of the operation and support process of the product.

 

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