If you’re exploring Scrum, you’ve probably encountered some new terms and new titles. Perhaps you’re wondering?
What is a product owner, and what do they do?
Products are how businesses deliver value today. These products can be physical, digital, or even experiential. The journey from ideation to testing to production to delivery are all part of the development process. Scrum organizes the team to develop products, and the Product Owner plays a vital role in this team
The Scrum Product Owner's primary responsibility is to maximize the team's value to the product. They accomplish this goal through 5 habits:
I describe these as habits, not steps because they are cyclical and ongoing. Scrum is not a linear process but an iterative one.
The backlog contains all requested work in prioritized order and is continually evolving. The work at the top is prioritized because it will deliver the most significant value. Because the backlog constantly adapts, backlog items are sometimes not well defined. The requirements may not be clear, or there may be context missing the team needs to deliver the proper value. Or there may be assumptions about what’s already been developed that impact the feasibility of a new feature.
The backlog refinement meeting is a part of the rhythm of Scrum. It includes both the product owner and the development team together. They evaluate each backlog item to have a common understanding of the work represented in the backlog.
Ensuring that the Product Backlog is visible, transparent, and clear to all, and shows what the Scrum Team will work on next; and ensuring the Development Team understands items in the Product Backlog to the level needed.
- The Scrum Guide
The product owner facilitates this meeting by communicating the vision and context for each item. They respond to the development team's questions and often end the session with a list of questions to follow up on. Sometimes, an assumption or ambiguity is uncovered, requiring the product owner to return to some of the stakeholders to get the clarity needed.
The whole backlog will never be fully defined. Using progressive elaboration, more details are added over time, and the items at the top of the backlog are more refined than the ones at the bottom. During the meeting, the team works through the list one item at a time.
There will always be competing interests among the stakeholders, and the product owner is accountable for synthesizing these.
A vital tool in defining the requirements is user stories, representing the user and their goals and motivations. Each backlog item should have a user story defined and likely its counterpart, acceptance criteria. They may also have links to research data or other context the development team will need.
By the end of the meeting, everyone on the Scrum team should have a shared understanding of what value each item brings to the product. The backlog refinement meeting isn’t the time to figure out how to build it. That will come later in sprint planning.
Leaning Scrum for the first time can be a bit overwhelming. There are many new terms and concepts in Scrum.
Well we’re here to help.