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Tips for hiring a Product Owner

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  • Markus Silpala
    Greetings all. I wonder whether anyone here has tips on how to hire a Scrum Product Owner from outside the company. Background: a client of mine is
    Message 1 of 7 , May 30, 2008
      Greetings all. I wonder whether anyone here has tips on how to hire a
      Scrum Product Owner from outside the company.

      Background: a client of mine is implementing Scrum for their software
      development. One clearly missing ingredient is a person or even
      appropriate group of people to play the role of Product Owner.
      Different sub-products have champions, but the job of prioritizing
      work often falls to or is driven through the CIO and the rest of the
      executive management team. That group doesn't often produce a clear
      vision and never has enough time to properly steer the team building
      the software.

      Bringing Scrum to the IT side has made the issue visible to the execs,
      so now they're looking to fill that role. Because there is no clear
      internal candidate, they may want to hire from outside. Any tips,
      pointers to content, or anecdotes would be appreciated. Thanks in
      advance!

      -Markus Silpala
      Coach/CSM/Developer in Minneapolis, MN
    • hawkshookem
      If this is for an IT organization that primarily serves internal customers I would suggest finding a Subject Matter Expert who fits the following credentials:
      Message 2 of 7 , May 30, 2008
        If this is for an IT organization that primarily serves internal
        customers I would suggest finding a Subject Matter Expert who fits the
        following credentials:

        * Understands technology capabilities
        * High Initiative (will get up and go talk to folks, force people
        to get in a room if needed, etc.)
        * Decision Maker (will make judgment calls as needed, but not
        someone who is going to solely push their own agenda)
        * Smart (Capability to learn and understand Scrum as well as
        quickly pick up new problem domains)


        We were able to find this person on our operations side and it has
        worked out well. We immediately sent them to a 2 Day Product Owner
        training class for their initial training kickoff.

        If you are primarily serving external customers then you would
        potentially want to look for someone with more of a Product Management
        background. Be sure that this person will be willing to "serve" the
        development team on a daily basis, not do market research all day long.

        Hope this helps.

        David Hawks
        Austin,TX
      • Rob Park
        Why do you feel that you have to have a person/team for product owner? Could you challenge that thinking and get the whole team to discover the stories and
        Message 3 of 7 , Jun 1, 2008
          Why do you feel that you have to have a person/team for product owner?  Could you challenge that thinking and get the "whole team" to discover the stories and priorities from the right people, but as a team?
           
          .rob.

          On Fri, May 30, 2008 at 10:21 AM, Markus Silpala <msilpala@...> wrote:

          Greetings all. I wonder whether anyone here has tips on how to hire a
          Scrum Product Owner from outside the company.

          Background: a client of mine is implementing Scrum for their software
          development. One clearly missing ingredient is a person or even
          appropriate group of people to play the role of Product Owner.
          Different sub-products have champions, but the job of prioritizing
          work often falls to or is driven through the CIO and the rest of the
          executive management team. That group doesn't often produce a clear
          vision and never has enough time to properly steer the team building
          the software.

          Bringing Scrum to the IT side has made the issue visible to the execs,
          so now they're looking to fill that role. Because there is no clear
          internal candidate, they may want to hire from outside. Any tips,
          pointers to content, or anecdotes would be appreciated. Thanks in
          advance!

          -Markus Silpala
          Coach/CSM/Developer in Minneapolis, MN


        • Markus Silpala
          ... I ve tried to do that in the past, but did not find much success. It led to some goldplating and discussions that went too easily into the weeds as the
          Message 4 of 7 , Jun 2, 2008
            On Jun 1, 2008, at 12:25 PM, Rob Park wrote:

            Why do you feel that you have to have a person/team for product owner?  Could you challenge that thinking and get the "whole team" to discover the stories and priorities from the right people, but as a team?

            I've tried to do that in the past, but did not find much success. It led to some goldplating and discussions that went too easily into the weeds as the team argued over their differing guesses at business needs. Have you succeeded with that approach in the past or present? I'd be interested to hear of some positive cases.

            Tangential side-question: were you in the Sunday morning discussion of this at Agile Coach Camp?

            -Markus

          • Mike Sutton
            Hey Rob, It does challenge current thinking, but its not so far fetched! Although in my experience - where teams have had to do this (and many have to when
            Message 5 of 7 , Jun 3, 2008
              Hey Rob,

              It does challenge current thinking, but its not so far fetched!
              Although in my experience - where teams have had to do this (and many
              have to when they suffer from 'the absent PO' smell), realise that
              they do not have the skills (business/communication etc) to

              a) elicit criteria from the stakeholders
              b) facilitate discussion amongst stakeholders in a way that doesn't
              impede the team (remember when the team is negotiating story discovery
              it isnt doing anything else - although I have seen teams send a pair
              as story scouts!)
              c) fight the corporate judo that is often required to ensure that the
              business value is properly appreciated by stakeholders and management.


              Markus - my suggestion would be get someone from the helpdesk (if
              there is one!) and make them the product owner. They know the product
              domain better than most, they have more than enough of the user
              experience (good and bad) to represent the user and they are motivated
              by getting the product built right so that they don't have to face
              angry customers when version 2 comes out! Look for someone untainted
              closer to first line (not technical resolution!).

              If you do look at an external PO, my suggestion would be to find
              someone (preferably a user!)in the same industry, so for a product for
              the common cold, get someone with who gets lots of colds!


              cheers
              mike.csm.csp.cspo.certified.certifiable.

              ps. I really enjoyed meeting you guys (rob and Markus) at
              agileCoachCamp!!! It was bloody awesome.


              --- In scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com, "Rob Park"
              <robert.d.park@...> wrote:
              >
              > Why do you feel that you have to have a person/team for product owner?
              > Could you challenge that thinking and get the "whole team" to
              discover the
              > stories and priorities from the right people, but as a team?
              >
              > .rob.
              >
              > On Fri, May 30, 2008 at 10:21 AM, Markus Silpala <msilpala@...> wrote:
              >
              > > Greetings all. I wonder whether anyone here has tips on how to
              hire a
              > > Scrum Product Owner from outside the company.
              > >
              > > Background: a client of mine is implementing Scrum for their software
              > > development. One clearly missing ingredient is a person or even
              > > appropriate group of people to play the role of Product Owner.
              > > Different sub-products have champions, but the job of prioritizing
              > > work often falls to or is driven through the CIO and the rest of the
              > > executive management team. That group doesn't often produce a clear
              > > vision and never has enough time to properly steer the team building
              > > the software.
              > >
              > > Bringing Scrum to the IT side has made the issue visible to the execs,
              > > so now they're looking to fill that role. Because there is no clear
              > > internal candidate, they may want to hire from outside. Any tips,
              > > pointers to content, or anecdotes would be appreciated. Thanks in
              > > advance!
              > >
              > > -Markus Silpala
              > > Coach/CSM/Developer in Minneapolis, MN
              > >
              > >
              > >
              >
            • Rob Park
              Yep I was in that discussion at camp :) I have had success with this more than once. In 2 cases, there is someone that I normally refer to as the product
              Message 6 of 7 , Jun 3, 2008
                Yep I was in that discussion at "camp" :)
                 
                I have had success with this more than once.  In 2 cases, there is someone that I normally refer to as the product owner, but he is not always present and doesn't do all the deciding... he is always the "persona" that we use to qualify team choices however.
                 
                What I'm against is the team trying to pass the buck in saying it's his fault or it's not our fault, we just don't have a product owner.  The healthier the team the more they are all thinking like the customer regularly anyway.
                 
                .rob.

                On Mon, Jun 2, 2008 at 10:40 PM, Markus Silpala <msilpala@...> wrote:

                On Jun 1, 2008, at 12:25 PM, Rob Park wrote:

                Why do you feel that you have to have a person/team for product owner?  Could you challenge that thinking and get the "whole team" to discover the stories and priorities from the right people, but as a team?

                I've tried to do that in the past, but did not find much success. It led to some goldplating and discussions that went too easily into the weeds as the team argued over their differing guesses at business needs. Have you succeeded with that approach in the past or present? I'd be interested to hear of some positive cases.

                Tangential side-question: were you in the Sunday morning discussion of this at Agile Coach Camp?

                -Markus


              • Rob Park
                In my case, when I m on a team, I generally have the skills you refer to and will jump and do that myself, but I don t try to own it, but rather get it done
                Message 7 of 7 , Jun 3, 2008
                  In my case, when I'm on a team, I generally have the skills you refer to and will jump and do that myself, but I don't try to "own" it, but rather get it done and push it to others as much as possible, since I actually would prefer to be coding. :)
                   
                  .rob.

                  On Tue, Jun 3, 2008 at 5:34 AM, Mike Sutton <mike.sutton@...> wrote:

                  Hey Rob,

                  It does challenge current thinking, but its not so far fetched!
                  Although in my experience - where teams have had to do this (and many
                  have to when they suffer from 'the absent PO' smell), realise that
                  they do not have the skills (business/communication etc) to

                  a) elicit criteria from the stakeholders
                  b) facilitate discussion amongst stakeholders in a way that doesn't
                  impede the team (remember when the team is negotiating story discovery
                  it isnt doing anything else - although I have seen teams send a pair
                  as story scouts!)
                  c) fight the corporate judo that is often required to ensure that the
                  business value is properly appreciated by stakeholders and management.

                  Markus - my suggestion would be get someone from the helpdesk (if
                  there is one!) and make them the product owner. They know the product
                  domain better than most, they have more than enough of the user
                  experience (good and bad) to represent the user and they are motivated
                  by getting the product built right so that they don't have to face
                  angry customers when version 2 comes out! Look for someone untainted
                  closer to first line (not technical resolution!).

                  If you do look at an external PO, my suggestion would be to find
                  someone (preferably a user!)in the same industry, so for a product for
                  the common cold, get someone with who gets lots of colds!

                  cheers
                  mike.csm.csp.cspo.certified.certifiable.

                  ps. I really enjoyed meeting you guys (rob and Markus) at
                  agileCoachCamp!!! It was bloody awesome.

                  --- In scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com, "Rob Park"


                  <robert.d.park@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > Why do you feel that you have to have a person/team for product owner?
                  > Could you challenge that thinking and get the "whole team" to
                  discover the
                  > stories and priorities from the right people, but as a team?
                  >
                  > .rob.
                  >
                  > On Fri, May 30, 2008 at 10:21 AM, Markus Silpala <msilpala@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > > Greetings all. I wonder whether anyone here has tips on how to
                  hire a
                  > > Scrum Product Owner from outside the company.
                  > >
                  > > Background: a client of mine is implementing Scrum for their software
                  > > development. One clearly missing ingredient is a person or even
                  > > appropriate group of people to play the role of Product Owner.
                  > > Different sub-products have champions, but the job of prioritizing
                  > > work often falls to or is driven through the CIO and the rest of the
                  > > executive management team. That group doesn't often produce a clear
                  > > vision and never has enough time to properly steer the team building
                  > > the software.
                  > >
                  > > Bringing Scrum to the IT side has made the issue visible to the execs,
                  > > so now they're looking to fill that role. Because there is no clear
                  > > internal candidate, they may want to hire from outside. Any tips,
                  > > pointers to content, or anecdotes would be appreciated. Thanks in
                  > > advance!
                  > >
                  > > -Markus Silpala
                  > > Coach/CSM/Developer in Minneapolis, MN
                  > >
                  > >
                  > >
                  >


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