The Scrum Guide is clear about the role of the Product Owner. In addition, there are sufficient best practices that clarify the nuances of the role. There is a discussion that we believe is not being conducted enough: where does the PO come from? While the choice determines the success of Scrum.
PO from the customer side
The Product Owner knows the business and the market, the wishes of the users, et cetera. It is therefore only logical that the PO is someone on the client side, assisted or not by an experienced PO from the agency side. Or not quite… Based on our practical experiences, there are a few considerations that you should take into account anyway when you are faced with the choice between a client side PO or a PO on the agency side.
- If the challenge is not so much at the product level but mainly at the process level (for example due to the complexity of several small projects at the same time), the PO is always preferred on the agency side. Process responsibility should not lie with the customer
- Agile has no hierarchy, but that equality is at risk if the PO comes from the organization that also pays the invoices;
- The PO role is part of the scrum team – and participant in retrospective – but team members are less likely to speak out when the customer is present. Trust is the basis of scrum;
- The customer knows the product best but also quickly suffers from tunnel vision. He knows, which means that the user often remains out of the picture. Purpose PO is to diverge in problem and solution. Therefore, in the design thinking pitch, the problem that the customer sees (and the possible solution direction) is only one of the frames;
- The PO represents the stakeholders, including the customer. A PO on the customer side has a history and does not always have full support in its own organization;
- A PO on the agency side is familiar with the culture of the development team and will have a cultural match with it.
- PO on customer side will be under pressure from de`deadline and / or disappointing results the opdrachtgeverspet up (the payer determines);
- By placing the creative process completely at the desk, there is never a discussion about process responsibility;
- The PO protects the development team from the customer. That is difficult if you are the customer yourself;
- A PO is available dedicated to the development team and is located within Agile ‘Individuals & interactions’ distance. That is not always feasible for the customer-side PO;
- You learn the PO role by making flying hours. Dedication and focus on the role. This speaks in favor of the PO on the agency side.
NB In the interdisciplinary team (of which LSD is a fan, especially for design thinking teams) the customer is represented, but as an equal member of the development team and not in the role of project manager or product owner.