The Scrum Glossary is an often overlooked page on Scrum.org that goes a bit deeper into terminology commonly seen in relation to Scrum. These are not always a mandatory part of doing Scrum, but are often common terms seen used by teams using the framework. I feel that the glossary takes away a lot of misconceptions that the Scrum Guide does not always take away, due to it not being Scrum and therefore not mentioned or for the sake of brevity. I am not going to explain the use of practices or parts of Scrum as these have been described over and over. These articles have a different purpose, which is to instil deeper understanding about aspects of or related to Scrum for the practitioner.

Today we are going to talk about one of these terms in the Scrum Glossary: Product Owner. The glossary has the following description:

Product Owner: the role in Scrum accountable for maximizing the value of a product, primarily by incrementally managing and expressing business and functional expectations for a product to the Development Team(s).

The Product Owner is one of the three roles defined within the Scrum Guide and is as such an essential part of using the Scrum framework to develop your product. The guide has a section on describing the Product Owner role which is more elaborate than the Scrum Glossary description. What stands out to me however is that there’s a lot of descriptive text in this description about how the Product Owner role is commonly performed. Let’s dive a bit deeper into the description and break it down:

the role in Scrum accountable for maximizing the value of a product,

Scrum is really clear on that the definition of role means that is has a specific accountability. The Product Owner role is one that is instated to strive for the Scrum Team to be finishing highest value work for the stakeholder. To incentivize this even more the role is held accountable for maximizing the value of the product that is being developed. Because the effectiveness of the Product Owner is measured by the (preferably) continuously increasing value of the product being build there is a need to make this transparent.  Whether that is through an expression of return on investment, generated revenue, NPS score, or whatever the stakeholder decides is value for them, it is important to determine whether or not maximizing value of a product is taking place.

primarily by incrementally managing and expressing business and functional expectations for a product to the Development Team(s).

This part of the description has a lot of interesting wording. “Primarily” insinuates that this is not the only way a Product Owner is maximizing value of the product. The pitfall here is a Product Owner who is scoping their activities to only the ones mentioned in this description. The resultant risk is potential activities that could also help maximizing value of the product not being done.

“incrementally managing” means that this is not a one-time action, and will be continuously adding, changing and building on the artefact that the Product Owner uses to express these expectations: The Product Backlog. By managing the Product Backlog the Product Owner strives to maximize value by describing and ordering the expectations as items in a list. This order is determined by the Product Owner and because the nature of product development is that emergence of new information or importance of information changing continuously takes place he or she needs to continuously process this information into the Product Backlog.

“expectations” is an accurate description of what Product Backlog items actually represent. An idea about what the customer wants the product to do and what it will create in value. By explaining these expectations to the Development Team, the Product Owner is able to facilitate the discussion between customer and team on what information they need to estimate effort and be able to create an initial plan on how they are going to build the item.

Conclusion
I hope this blog clarifies the accountability and what holding this accountability means in practice for the Product Owner role. Of course there’s a ton of Product Owner practices that can be used to further increase the opportunity to maximize value, but understanding the fundamentals behind what it means to hold accountability for maximizing value is important to be able to determine if these practices are helpful or not.

We finished the letter “P” in the Scrum Glossary and we’re moving onwards to the “R” for “Ready”.

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