Scrum ceremonies are checkpoints
Scrum knows three ceremonies. Two of those matter for the PO. During the “Sprint Planning meeting” the PO presents the most important requirements to the team and discusses those with its members. Before that meeting he already puts the requirements all together in the Product Backlog and prioritizes those. He has to answer all the questions of the team and he needs to point the direction – the “Big Picture” – and demonstrate the goals. That way the team can start the realization, already aiming at the asked goals. In the end of that meeting the team commits to a particular number of prioritized requirements to be fulfilled until the end of that very sprint. The team clarifies together with the PO, which criteria the software has to meet in order to get bought. Now the team can start with the sprint, whereas the PO now has time to collect the following requirements and arrange them prioritized for the next Sprint Planning Meeting.
At the daily gatherings of the team – the Daily Stand Up Meetings or Daily Scrums –all stakeholders can participate including the PO; although they are not allowed to speak. This meeting only serves its purpose for the team and the Scrum Master because they talk about finished tasks, new tasks or problems that occurred. The Product Owner acts in the end of the sprint at the Review Meeting again. The team presents the finished tasks to the PO and he checks whether the acceptance criteria are met or whether some rework is necessary.
Not everyone is a superman
Being a talent in communication, domain specialist, request-engineer and business analyst –a good Product Owner should be all of that. What can be done in a company where no-one has all of these abilities or when the product development is so complex that various teams work for one common goal?
One decisive reason for the success of scrum is the direct and clear communication between the particular roles. The team “promises” a person, namely the Product Owner, that it will fulfil certain tasks until the end of the sprint. If more than just one person acts as the PO the commitment would get lost. A solution for that dilemma is the Product Owner Team which unites different skills and combines different activities. The members of that team identify the requirements, govern the budget, write User Stories ect. The Product Owner himself collects all information and is the responsible contact person for the team. That way know-how and capabilities of various people can be combined without disregarding the important “face-to-face” aspect of Scrum.
Since all companies have different structures, methods as scrum need to be adjusted. This does not mean that scrum needs to be changed but rather that the important rules get integrated in the context of a company.
The role of the Product Owner is complex and often difficult due to his voluminous duties and his requested diplomatic capabilities. He has to arrange the differing desires of all stakeholders by importance and he has to make sure everybody in the company accepts this list of prioritizations.
Furthermore many companies regard scrum only as a “software development subject” and aren’t aware of the consequences of the introduction of scrum. Producing a product - let it be software, hardware or a combination of both - requires the collaboration of all participants; starting with the idea and the finding of a functionality spectrum over to the realization and shipment and also desired changes and with that, new requests. All participants in that process should also participate in scrum.
Scrum is an effective and transparent method for the optimization of collaboration of all product-developing-participants. The Product Owner serves as an interface. This is what turns his “job” into an interesting and difficult one at the exact same time.