So I am a Product Owner. Owner of what?

By the way, what is a Product again?

Is it a project? Or is it a product?
The product is “the software”.
It’s the application. It’s the platform.
Our customer’s product is “the product”. We provide services.
The product vision is “what our customers want”.
I am a Product Owner for this Project, not for that one!

Confusing enough? But it’s what we often ask ourselves. Most of the time we can't find an answer, one that is shared by everybody in our organization. But then the question is: “Who cares”?

Well, we always use the word “Product” anyway:

Product Owner
Product Vision
Product Backlog
Product Manager
Product Marketing
Product Strategy
Minimum Viable Product
Product Canvas

It looks like we need to have a common, shared understanding of the word “Product” and the context it is commonly used. In the software business, we tend to produce software usually. The word business though brings much more than that:

What problem do we help solving?
Who has that problem?
Do we solve that problem in an unique manner?
Are there alternatives (something that lessen the need of our product, such as competitive products or just “Do Nothing”)?
How will this product be sold?
How will it be found and bought from customers?
Who are the target customers?
How do we know when the product is good enough? For who?
How much does it cost to acquire a new customer
How do we make money with that?
What channels do we use to find customers and partners?
How about customer care and support?

you see, nothing of these is “The Software”

So, what is the product again?

The Product is not “The Product”!

A product is something you build a sustainable business around.

The product is the whole “canvas”:

LEAN CANVAS

Slightly adapted from Lean Canvas by @ashmaruya which is licended under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Now, this is just a set of information we need to care about when we deal with a product. It’s not the software only, it’s not a service or a project. It’s something that captures the essence of a product and its related business. In fact, there are several canvases that have been gaining popularity in the last few years, with the common goal to dissect that complicated entity called “Business Model”. The first and most influential one is probably “Business Model Generation”. A book that has now become a movement.

Select image from Business Model Generation — 2009 Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur — http://businessmodelgeneration.com/

There are others, which are extremely valuable as well. Here is another example:

http://www.romanpichler.com/tools/vision-board/

Getting back to our original question: what does it mean for product owners? It’s simple. Product Owners or Product Managers own the Lean Canvas. They never lose sight of the various pieces and the correlation between them. Now, note that each area of the canvas has a sequence number on it. “The software” (which is “the solution”, the “How”) is only #4. That’s true. On fact, you don’t want to start with that, ever. Even if you need to revamp an exiting software.

Looks complicate with all those rectangles? Start with only two of them. Two! They are by far the most important ones anyway.

Let’s see a real example to understand what a Product Owner/Manager will typically do when attempting to set a vision for a certain release of his product …

to be continued…

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