Agile Product Management with Scrum – Roman Pichler

This is the best book about Agile Management that I’ve ever read. Thank you so much, Roman.

If you want to get the best out of this book, of course you need to read the whole of the book. The purpose for this article is to note critical things that I found out throughout tons of valuable information and advices.

1. Product Owner role

First of all, forget all about other traditional development framework. To have an agile team, product owner is crucial and the biggest challenge.

Characteristic of a product owner:

  • visionary and doer
  • leader and team player
  • communicator and negotiator
  • empowered and committed
  • available and qualified

“Being adequately qualified usually requires an intimate understanding of the customer and the market, being passionate about the user experience, and the ability to communicate needs and describe requirements, to mange a budget, to guide a development project, and to be comfortable working with a cross-functional, self-organizing team

“Since the product owner of a component team has to help translate product backlog items into technical requirements, the best individual to serve in that role is usually an architect or a senior developer rather than a product manager

A product owner committee is a group of product owners without anyone in charge of the overall product. There is no one person guiding the group, helping to create a common goal, and facilitating decision making. A product owner committee is in danger of getting caught in endless meetings with conflicting interests and politics – something also referred to as “death by committee”. No real progress is achieved; people stop collaborating and start fighting each other.”

The chief product owner guides the other product owners. This individual ensures that needs and requirements are consistently communicated to the various teams, and that the project-wide process is optimized. This includes facilitating collaborative decision making as well as having the final say if no consensus can be reached.”

As a product owner, you guide and influence the team. You behavior matters. A lot.”

2. Product Vision

Being able to envision what a new product or the next product vision should look like and do is essential for getting there.”

The vision acts the overarching goal, galvanizing and guiding people, and is the product’s reason for being.”

A vision is truly shared when you and I have a similar picture and are committed to one another having it, not just to each of us, individually, having it” 

“The product vision should describe the broad and engaging goal: a goal that guides the development efforts but leaves enough room for creativity, a goal that engages and inspires people.”

When it comes to product vision, less is more. The vision should be brief and concise. It should contain only information critical to the success of the product.”

“As our ability to predict the future is limited, our best chance of success is to envision the minimal marketable product, a product with minimum functionality that meets the selected customer needs.”

“By reducing time to market, we are able to listen and respond to the marketplace more frequently, rather than trying to outguess it… This allows us to build the possibility of failure into our strategy, an approach Google has embraced.”

Launch the product quickly, inspect the market response, and adapt the product accordingly

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” Leonardo da Vinci

“Whenever you have an idea for a new feature or you discover a new requirement, ask yourself if the new functionality is critical to the success of the product. If not, discard the idea.”

“Refrain from putting too many controls and procedures around the visioning work.”

“Keep the vision humble and focused on the upcoming product vision. Think big, but start small

Customer needs and product attributes are at the heart of the vision and deserve close attentionNonfunctional attributes can be an important differentiator – they can impact the user experience as well as the extensibility and maintainability of the product, which intern influence the total cost of ownership and the product’s life expectancy.”

3. Product Backlog

Definition: it is simply a prioritized list of the things which can bring product to life. The mot important items are found at the top.

Requirements are no longer handed off to the team; the team members coauthor them.”

“A requirement is clear if all Scrum team members have a common understanding of its semantics

“A well-groomed backlog is a prerequisite for a successful sprint planning meeting.”

“Treat existing requirements as suspicious and consider them as a liability, not an asset”

“Because risk and uncertainty influence product success, uncertain and risky items should be high-priority

“Dependencies restrict the freedom to prioritize the product backlog and influence the effort estimates; the item on which others depend has to be implemented first. You should therefore try to resolve dependencies whenever possible

4. Release planning

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.”

“Even though release planning is a collaborative effort, the product owner is responsible for ensuring that the necessary decisions are made.

Compromising software quality means trading in short-term gains for longer-term growth. You would cheat yourself of a better, brighter future”

“More precisely, velocity is the sum of the effort for the work results accepted by the product owner in a sprint.”

“To get the most out of the plan, I like to show the functionality each release will provide in terms of themes and epics. Showing stories in the release plan tends to introduce too much detail”

“Whatever tool is used, though, the plan should create transparency and facilitate dialogue between the Scrum team and stakeholders”

Pipelining is a last resort. You should employ this technique only if all other options have failed.”

Using feature teams rather than component teams whenever possible will reduce the need for pipelining.”

“In fact, the product owner should drive the release planning activities. As the person first and foremost responsible for the success of the product, it is in the best interest of the product owner to guide the project proactively.”

5. Becoming great Product Owner

“The product owner role is multi-faceted. It’s difficult – perhaps impossible – to find new product owners who have every necessary skill. You can therefore expect to find gaps in your own knowledge and skills.”

“Listen to feedback from your fellow Scrum team members, and work on the remaining gaps in knowledge and skills”

“Without sponsorship form the right level, you are likely to lack authority and, as a consequence, will struggle to do a good job.”

“Senior manager must recognize the authority and responsibility of the product owner role and the likely impact it is going to have on the organization. Doing so is not only crucial for making agile product management work, but it is also a critical success factor for any Scrum adoption”

“Product owners must be selected with care”

 

Thank you. Hope you had a good read!

business analyst in Agile development

Business Analyst role in Agile development – BA work in Scrum team

Normally in Agile development, people don’t mention about Business Analyst role. So what will be the true story behind the scene?

Business analysts play an important role: Traditionally, they act as the link between the business units and IT, help to discover the user needs and the solution to address them, and specify requirements. But in Scrum, there is no business analyst role. (Roman Pichler)

What will BA do in a Scrum team?

Option 1: product owner

This is a natural move. The individual needs to own the product on behalf of the company instead of analyse and get features approval from specific clients. For that significant change, the individual might need to learn new skills to adapt new role.

Option 2: team member

The role of business analyst as a team member will mostly to address and help other members groom product backlog. Since this responsibility is for the whole team, business analyst inside a Scrum team usually covers additional tasks as well like writing technical documents, coordinate with testers.

The role of a Business Analyst in an Agile project is not well-defined just as there is no defined role for a Project Manager on an Agile project. On small, simple Agile projects there may not be a need for either of these two roles but that is frequently not the case on large, complex enterprise-level projects.

The role of a BA is often neglected – it is assumed that the Product Owner plays that role but it can be difficult for a Product Owner to perform that role without some assistance on very large complex projects

(chuckc3)

Option 3: proxy product owner

Dealing half-heartedly with the role of business analysts in Scrum is a common mistake: Business analysts neither play the product owner role nor are they team members. Instead, they end up as proxy product owners, a go-between the real decision maker and the development team, as shown blow.

Using a proxy product owner is best avoided—certainly as a permanent solution.

(Roman Pichler)

Why this model is not-recommended? Because it requires many communication to verify each single decision thus brings lots of miscommunication, misunderstanding as well as inconsistent product requirements. At the end, no one is really the Owner of Product.

The head of a business unit was asked to take on the product owner role for a new product. As he struggled to fill the role effectively, the business analyst stood in as a proxy. While the analyst did all the detailed grooming work, the business unit head decided about the product features and when which functionally was released. Unfortunately, this resulted in miscommunication, a long-winded decision-making process, and poor morale. (Roman Pichler)

Conclusion

There is no fixed direction, solution for a traditional business analyst to follow in Scrum world. But I think from the above suggestions, insights, we’re all more clear about the basic concepts.

Scrum is not a plug-and-play environment that will guarantee that product development will succeed. If improperly managed, the product development will not adequately scale to the customer’s requirements, which will increase costs, impact return on investment, and lead to instability. (Sriramasundararajan Rajagopalan)

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