B Calm and B Corp
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B Calm and B Corp

Product Owner: The Scrum Team Equilibrist

Interview with David Rodigari

Within the Scrum team, the Product Owner (P.O.) is the person who represents the principal point of contact between the stakeholder and the parts of the organization which require it. His responsibility is to determine the highest value product increments and to ensure that the product has the highest possible value at each stage of its development.

(Scrumalliance.org)

As written in this article, P.O. is a servant leader role.

1. The Product Owner serves the customers and the users by delivering the highest possible value regarding features/product.

2. The Product Owner serves the organization and the sponsors by aligning with the company’s overarching goals and mission.

3. The Product Owner serves the Development Team by clearly expressing Product Backlog items for the team to focus on, delivering the most valuable outcomes

4. The Product Owner serves the Scrum Master by helping her/him in understanding the business challenges and needs

5. The Product Owner serves the business and product management sectors of the organization by making decisions based on empirical data.

As one can easily see, there are many parts that a P.O. must take into account in order to fulfill his/her role, qualifying them as a true “equilibrist” who tries to maintain harmony between elements that are sometimes in contrast.

To better understand what it means to be a P.O. in everyday life, we interviewed David Rodigari, developer and Product Owner in mondora.

Maintaining the balance between the needs of the product and those of the team is not a simple job, says David “It is essential not to remain closed in oneself but to be receptive to what comes from the outside”.

At a customer level, one of the main activities of the P.O. is listening “It is important to help the customer understand what he wants. On the one hand, in fact, often the customer must be accompanied in understanding what type of increase is the one that best meets his needs, on the other hand, the needs and requirements of the product can change over time”. An example of this is what happened with the pandemic, which transformed the needs of some customers and imposed a change of course for different products. “To reduce the risk to products, and not lose weeks to implement small value increases, it is essential to be flexible: decreasing the time range of the increase reduces the risk to the product”.

If on one hand the P.O. engages with the customer while trying to maximize the value of the product, on the other hand, he needs to maintain the commitment and motivation of the team, in collaboration with the Scrum Master.

According to David, the key to achieving this is transparency “If the team raises critical issues, these must be taken and analyzed, verifying the risks. Communication is a pillar that supports the relationship of trust with the team: it is important to discuss and reach clarification where there may be things that aren’t right and address any problems by discussing them openly”.

It is also useful to understand how to regulate the pressure that is put on the team “I have to adapt to the moment the team is living. If the group is stressed I try to mask external problems, eliminating stress. At the same time, however, you cannot eliminate pressure completely, in order to keep the team focused on what it is doing”.

Previous experience as a member of the development team has been useful, says David, to cover the role of P.O. “The fact of being first and foremost a developer allowed me to understand the critical issues faced by the team and to know that it is essential to protect the team from distracting situations”.

Introducing changes and making work more dynamic can keep team motivation high. One example is Sprint Retrospectives. “If standardized, people lose interest in this information, they need to be renewed to help people stay active. For example, we use different templates depending on the mood of the team: if the group is stressed I do not insist on negative issues, it is important to find the right time to make different requests”.

Changing collaborations and making different teams interact is also useful in this regard “Being a sub-team, I try to create stories involving different groups in order to create synergy between different people”.

This strong sensitivity towards the team also leads to adapting scrum models according to the people you work with “The process should not be distorted but modeled on the team. We must find a balance: to not be static but to try and introduce new ideas to make it all evolve and involve people”.

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