Do you have the wrong product owner?

Developers in agile projects often tell me the greatest challenges in they face are in relation to the product owner. The specific issues vary but a couple of things usually come up:

So why do so many product owners struggle to fill their role? The answer lies in how organizations select the product owner. Most organizations choose a product owner based on domain knowledge. The person that is most knowledgeable about the parts of the organisation that will be affected by the new system gets the job. In practice this often leads to a manager at the appropriate level becoming product owner. Unfortunately, a strategy that intuitively feels correct can sometimes be completely wrong. A contributing factor to the problems many organizations have in finding a suitable product owner is a lack of experience in the workings of agile development. After many years as a product owner for hire I have concluded that the following criteria are essential in order to master the product owner role (in addition to having domain knowledge):

If these are the factors that decide whether a product owner will be able to do a good job the question of where to find one needs to be rethought. It is easier to understand why so many organizations have such difficulties finding a candidate that is up to the job. Fortunately, there are alternatives to just taking the best available candidate and hoping that things will work out:

The product owner role is critical to the success of a project. Too many projects suffer from having the wrong person on the job.

Addenum: This post has some interesting thoughts on the product owner role.

Posted on 2009.12.15 at 13:45

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About Niklas

Born in Sweden, grew up in New York, lives in Norway. Yes, I have problems with identity, but I do think that my background helps me see things from a different perspective.

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