Being a communication talent…
The Product Owner is not the only person who defines and gives requirements though. Often many stakeholders, as the marketing or guarantors of the quality assurance (QA) section are involved defining requirements on different levels. The company needs a better performance; the QA-section must assure certain safety standards and the marketing wants to build in the new corporate design as fast as possible. Due to that network the realization of the tiniest User Story takes up a lot of time and goes a long way through the entire company. The interests of all stakeholders may differ quite a lot, but they’ll always have one thing in common: their own requirements are the most important. The task of the PO is on the one hand to assess the requirements and to keep the business value and also coordinate it and to decide when the team is realizing which requirements. On the other hand he needs to be provided with strong communicative, argumentative and diplomatic abilities. This is important for a two-way understanding between the responsible stakeholders and to create that way general acknowledgement. The confidence of the involved parties, their participation and bidirectional flow of information lead to results, but also the problems can be recognized quickly and openly treated.
The Domain specialist
This is not even close to being everything. The Product Backlog does not only contain requirements but also the User Stories resulting from the requirements. Those User Stories need to be realized by the team. Besides the requirements elicitation and prioritization of the PO, he also has to be able to break down the requirements in concrete tasks. Therefore the PO needs a round about knowledge about what the product must perform in the end or rather to estimate what the user of the software is willing to pay eventually. A role like that does not exist in traditional corporate structures so far. For this very reason a controversial discussion about the occupation and the responsibilities of the PO always comes along with the introduction of agile methods as scrum. The question which classical role he should or could take in the company is not easy to answer. Depending on the corporate structure this could be the requirements analyst, the business analyst, the project leader, the product manager or others. First we take a look at the classical project manager. With the adjustment to scrum he actually can only choose between the role of the Scrum Master (analog to the team- or project leader) and the Product Owner. Mostly the project manager chooses the Scrum Master because the Scrum Master is more likely to have tasks of a project manager and furthermore he works closer to the developing team. This decision is correct if he is primarily keeping the scum rules and being an aid for the team. That way he focuses on the “project lead”. The term agile leader describes to that effect the role of the Scrum Master the best (see “online sources”). In respect of analysis, regulation, budgeting and customer communication as required tasks, the classical project manager should more likely take the role of the Product Owner.
Figure 2: A Product Backlog in Agilo for Scrum.