So you want to be an APO?….(Awesome Product Manager)
If you’re a new Product Owner this brief guide will give you an idea of what to expect (and whats expected of you) to help guide you along the right track.
What have you agreed to?
Now that you’re a Product Owner you are responsible for the ultimate success of the product not just for part of it. This means you must be comfortable with that responsibility and be able to make empowered decisions. You will have to be an enthusiastic advocate for the product being delivered so you need to know your customers and the product inside out.
Your understanding and clarity about what is required will help you and the team deliver what the users need
(even if that may not initially be what they think they want)
Your main focus should be on getting value for your service (and measuring that it is delivered). You will need to concentrate on the delivery, adoption and take-up of ‘your’ product
Go-live is not the end for you!
Know what you want….Understand the Ultimate Goal
You need to be able to articulate your vision to the project team and to your service and stakeholders to help everyone to understand what the Ultimate goal is and why it is being undertaken. This will help in the crucial task of gaining buy in during the early stages?
Understand the Process….Become Agile Aware
To work well with the delivery team as an APO you will need to be aware of and engaged with the basics of an Agile way of working with an understanding of how projects work in an Agile environment.
Agile is a way of thinking about project delivery so you should commit time and effort upfront into bringing stakeholders on board (your Scrum Master will help you with that)
Understand that in an agile delivery there is a lot of experimentation (trial and error helps us to get actual user feedback that we can capture and act on to improve the product). You can help us deliver value by keeping the Product Backlog* items small and contained so an end-to-end feature can be delivered early!
You will hear the abbreviation MVP a lot, this refers to the minimum viable product that can be delivered to provide what is needed.
Get Talking…..Communicate communicate communicate
An APO absolutely has to be good at communicating, with their service and stakeholders and with the delivery team. It is crucial that there is a clear and above all honest two-way communication with the product owner, scrum master/project manager and the project team. Of course we will try to help with that but you need to dedicate time to join scrum calls and attend and contribute to demos and retros to get the most out of the information available. Don’t underestimate the time you will need to put in to achieve your goal.
Use the tools….collaboration systems and channels
We’ve mentioned communication as being key so the delivery team uses a number of online tools and systems to help make this as easy to do as possible. A few are listed below, if you familiarise yourself with them it will help you get involved effectively:
- Trello this is a virtual board that holds all the questions, requirements and user needs and helps track tasks
- VSTS Helps track and organise, manage and monitor all the products in the backlog
- Slack This is an instant messaging group that allows open communication between all team members
- Huddle in an online document storage that facilitates collaboration regardlesss of where you may be
Get the right people involved….Manage your stakeholders
One of your primary responsibilities is to collaborate closely with your Stakeholders and users to make sure that what you are delivering represents the best value for them. The team will manage the day to day activities in the Sprints but you need to remain visible to your customers and users so you can answer questions or relay feedback quickly and regularly.
You may need to get a firm grip on some of your stakeholders and ensure the right stakeholders for the project are as involved as they need to be – i.e. some will need to come along to workshops, others need to come to demos, some just need to be kept informed – but you will need to map these stakeholders with us and manage them appropriately
An APO should know of every single request for items to go into the backlog, you must be able to sense-check all requests and crucially be able to push back if requests don’t tie in with the agreed ‘MVP’, You should be in a position to deal with any internal team issues/politics before they get a chance to impact on scope or delivery.
Above all else you must be willing to say NO when needed..
Who are we doing this for….Know your customers
As the PO you should have a personal stake in the success of the project and have a strong understanding of the customers ‘actual’ needs, you should be considering at all stages how the customer will view/use/complete the ultimate product. Try to look at the product from an inexperienced user’s viewpoint.
Be an empowered decision maker….be decisive
You must be fully aware of the service requirements but senior enough to make FINAL decisions daily (and be able to stand by those decisions when challenged) to make sure others opinions don’t sway project timelines and outcomes. You will also need real budgetary authority as you may need to quickly commit or bring in additional team resources when required e.g. for testing. You will be responsible for choosing which of the items in the Product Backlog get tackled in which order, so you will need to be confident enough with the priorities of your service to organise the work items appropriately as only the most important things will be done to start with.
Get engaged, get excited….be enthusiastic about the product we are delivering
Finally, it is important that you are team spirited and understand that the success will be jointly achieved. You need to be interested and involved with a focus on a collaborative style of working and be open to learning and trying new things.
If you can invest the time to become part of the product team with us we can co-discover, co-design and co-produce an amazing end result.