Many people might ask the question on the importance of having not only a very distinct person identified as a Product Owner, but also why does the priority become so important. Let's explore together...
Why a Product Owner?
Recent experience has shown me with some companies when there is an ownership by committee for decision making, it becomes nearly impossible to know whose opinion you are really trying to sway as a stakeholder or contributing party. Someone needs to be the designated person to make that decision. Otherwise, if the people are across multiple geographies, sites or even different floors or cubicles they can contradict one another on what really is important. I have seen this where it was across geographical sites where multiple stakeholders believed they were the ones responsible for the success of the product or getting everything back in line with where it needed to be. Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth becomes that if something is “behind schedule” or not delivering the results expected, why is it not doing that? Are we willing to address the root of the problem? Does the product need to be created in the first place? Are we hitting the right target audience and what do customers want? Unless you answer some of these questions, the notion of getting something back on track will simply frustrate and alienate various stakeholders and create a false sense of ownership that should exist with one key person that we call Product Owner. They need to be empowered trusted and provided with good information to enable to best possible decisions. The other key here is that the Product Owner, just like the team, needs to be given the ability to discover what features of a product are really the most desired by trial and error. Some failure will occur and we prefer that it happens early before we roll out the entire larger suite that we are trying to sell to our clients. Product Owners are people too!
Why is a prioritized backlog important?
Perhaps the single greatest problem a company can have is to finish a project on time, on budget and in scope. People might think that sounds like a dream come true, but it isn’t. With anything being created for clientele, we want to minimize the output and maximize the outcome. We should be able to cut a software suite or application early because we have enough Minimally Marketable Featured to create a Viable Product, also referred to as an MVP. If we are always spending our money and time building exactly what we planned to build, where is the creativity? Where is the feedback from the client letting us know whether we have even got close to something they would deem valuable? We need to be willing to discover and adjust priority in a way that maximizes either revenue generation, cost efficiency, customer satisfaction or a combination of the three. If we aren’t doing that then we hold the risk of creating a great product that no one really wants. Allow discovery by making sure your Product Owner has a prioritized backlog and they adjust that priority with new feedback they have received. Only then will you get the best product because you have learned by iterating around your potential end solution.