Why a Product Owner Proxy is Key in Software Development Projects

The Product Owner is a key component of Scrum teams as the role a major influence on software development projects. It is however not always possible for the Agile team to get access to a full-time qualified Product Owner. This is why Marcelo Leonetti discusses in this article some situations where a Product Owner proxy could help Scrum teams solve some problems.

Author: Marcelo Leonetti, UruIT, https://www.uruit.com/

What do you know about the Product Owner Proxy?

If you are familiar with how software projects are typically managed, you might know team member roles. Such as Project Managers, Business Analysts, and Product Managers. The Project Manager ensures the project stays on track. The Business Analyst defines and refines requirements for the development team. And the Product Manager guides the product throughout its life cycle and gives the team vision. These roles are associated with traditional software development methodologies. But Agile methodologies require another role, typically on your side: the Product Owner (PO).

Scrum Product Owner

We believe having a team member playing the PO role is key for running your project in the most successful possible way.

The Product Owner determines and sets project objectives. In addition, the PO manages the to-do list so the project’s return on investment is achieved. Besides, the PO defines the product or solution needs and requirements, prioritizes them in order to meet goals. All of that while ensuring the lowest investment and the maximum possible profits.

For the PO to successfully play his role, we believe it’s important that he or she follows some key agile and lean principles.

Use working software as the primary measure of progress

  • What actually counts as progress is not the number of work hours, lines of code, or other technical metric, but completed, fully functional product pieces that are ready for release.
  • The PO will focus on helping the development team create working software, ensuring a fast and continuous delivery, and eliminating time sinks and unnecessary work.

    Be responsible for the product profitability
  • The PO maintains a global view of the project’s risks and requirements. This person defines the product’s characteristics, prioritizing them according to the market value. Work is accepted or rejected according to these prioritization, and the PO uses these to determine release dates.
  • The PO prevents situations where stakeholders push the team to develop something that doesn’t add value to the product or is not relevant as a priority.

Be flexible about change and react to it

  • The PO represents the business and the development teams, and is the liaison between them. As a result, the PO is constantly engaged in a dialogue with you and with the development team. It allows the team to iterate adjustments the product characteristics and priorities and continually respond to requirement changes.
  • The PO will help you see the impact that changes you want to make to your product will have. Also, he/she can help you to avoid those that that can negatively affect the product.

The Product Owner Proxy

In our experience, the PO is a very important factor for project success. But we have found that it is common for our partners to experience difficulty with finding a team member who has the time, proximity with the team, and skills needed to play the PO role.

At UruIT, we solve that issue with a Product Owner Proxy. The PO Proxy is an UruIT team member who works along with either a PO you provide, or a subject matter expert from your company, helping him or her as needed.

Some of the situations when a PO Proxy will help your PO or subject matter expert are:

  • When time is short. The PO needs to invest time to be able to play the role successfully; to be in touch with the team, attend meetings, negotiate with stakeholders, iterate adjustments of the characteristics and priorities of the product. Also, continually respond to requirement changes. The PO Proxy will help your PO or subject matter expert by providing the development team with refined requirements, discussing development team doubts and participating in team meetings.
  • When team members are not familiar with software development or agile methodologies. The PO should ideally be familiar with Agile methodologies and interfacing with a software development team–but that isn’t always the case. The PO Proxy will help you follow Agile and lean principles to make the project flow, refine requirements and help the development team create working software. If your PO or subject matter expert isn’t technical, our PO Proxy helps him/her understand the needs and challenges of the development team and the realities of time to develop. This allows your PO or subject matter expert to negotiate with the stakeholders. This person will do that in a more precise way while helping the team keep focused.
  • When you don’t have an in-house development team. If the development team is part of another company, you won’t be physically located on the same place and won’t be there to have daily meetings face to face or answer questions from team members, discuss development team doubts, or know the team members. Likewise, they won’t know about your business. The PO Proxy will travel to your location, learn about your business and industry,speak frequently with you and your team.

Ingredients for Success

Not all software projects are driven by Product Owners – but projects at UruIT are. This is because we strongly believe that in order to make nearshoring successful, communication is key among the teams. In our experience, PO Proxies eliminate misunderstandings and solve challenges faster. That way, the team complete software projects correctly, on time and with success.

About the Author

Working as a Product Owner for various projects, Marcelo Leonetti focuses in improving teams and customers’ way of work and processes in order to deliver the best possible solutions. With over 8 years in the industry, Marcelo holds a BS in Computer Engineering as well as certifications as CSPO. This article was originally published on https://www.uruit.com/blog/2016/03/03/why-a-po-proxy-is-key-to-your-software-development-project-success/ and is reproduced with permission from UruIT.

1 Comment on Why a Product Owner Proxy is Key in Software Development Projects

  1. In my point of view, the fact that the project cannot have a full dedicated Product Owner should already a smell that maybe the organization is not so dedicated to Agile. Then I know also that reality and theory are two different worlds and you have sometimes to accept not optimal context for your Scrum project.

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