Product Owners and Stakeholders – Maintaining a Healthy Relationship

Christina Anderson is an avid Agile Enthusiast & AgileDad Guest Blogger

One of the most challenging parts about being a Product Owner is working with stakeholders. Why? Because in a perfect world stakeholders would always have a strong technological background and understand the complexities and challenges that come with developing software. Unfortunately, the reality is that most stakeholders live in the business world, and therefore, know very little about the Software Development Lifecycle and what happens once a feature goes “over the wall”. A perfect example of this is when a stakeholder hears the word “automation” and then in turn celebrates— “automatically” thinking that they are now going to get their requested feature done twice as fast. Another example is when a stakeholder requests something seemingly simple, like a label change, only to have the Product Owner tell them that adding that feature will set the release back another two weeks. The stakeholder is shocked and asks, “Why would it take that long? It should be a piece of cake.” What the stakeholder does not understand is that they’re actually asking to change the logical name of the label which requires updating databases, processes, workflows, and even plug-ins—definitely not a quick fix! Stakeholders are also notorious for asking questions such as “can this be done?” Well, in the current world of technology, there isn’t very much that can’t be done. The question lies in whether the stakeholder wants to spend the time and money in order to do it. That is when the Product Owner can step in and avoid what could be a frustrating experience. A good Product Owner will use the following concepts when dealing with stakeholders to help establish a good, solid foundation and a healthy working relationship:

  1. Defines the vision and mission statement of the product with their stakeholders.

  2. Is transparent with their stakeholders and updates them regularly on goals and progress.

  3. Engages with their stakeholders and uses their knowledge and skills to help gather information and helpful insights.

Defining the Vision and Mission Statement: