On July 20, Medhane Mengistu and I hosted our Digital Transformation Awareness session. We discussed Prowareness’ view on Digital Transformations and exchanged many thoughts and experiences. In this context, Martin Vodegel shared a war story about the Digital Transformation Roadmap of a midsize organization in Financial Services Industry. Which is a nice example to point out the changing role & responsibilities of the PO here.

PO in an agile transformation

In my previous blog I shared the shifts of capabilities development. I stated we observe a shift from product backlog alignment of Business and IT to focus on customer experience. In Martin’s war story, we see a similar shift.

First step of the agile transformation was to create a way of working with agile teams, product backlogs and a responsible PO. Business and IT backlog alignment creates a more effective governance and integrated (product or even company) backlog. Core responsibility of the PO is maximizing value of the backlog. In this stage of the transformation the value maximization is product based. Focus is on building the right product for the customer.

In Martin’s war story, the next phase of the agile transformation was to extend the value proposition of the organization. Which means, after building agile teams, extending the organization’s product portfolio. And deliver more value to the customers by providing new products. The PO still has the responsibility to focus on maximizing product value in this phase.

Looking at the first two phases of the transformation, it’s mostly focused on agile. However, two digital capabilities are building up here as well: Business Process and Organization. In the third phase of the organization’s transformation there’s no doubt about it. A digital transformation. But what does that mean for the role of the PO?

PO in a digital transformation

In the war story, the goal of the third phase is to improve customer centricity. This can be achieved by focusing on both operational excellence (Business Process capability) and a delighting customer experience (also a capability). Looking at this focus, what is the impact on the role and the responsibilities of the PO?

Further development of the digital capability Business Process means a bigger focus on operational excellence. In operational excellence, the entire organization behind the visibility line (internal processes and systems, the internal side of the customer experience) is optimized continuously. Lean practices can be applied here in order to reduce waste and to speed up straight-through processing. The internal processes need to deliver high quality constantly.

The customer journey is the visible part of the process for the customer. The moment a customer contacts the organization is a touchpoint (moment of interaction) in the customer journey. And here’s the major shift in the PO’s responsibility. From this perspective the PO is responsible for maximizing customer value of these specific areas of the customer journeys—the trigger points.

We’re talking about trigger point backlog optimization here. Which makes a PO a Trigger point Owner (TO). The core responsibility of the TO is to prioritize the trigger point backlog and balance trigger point optimization (customer journey focus) and internal process and system optimization (operational excellence focus).

Lesson learned from the war story

One of the learnings from Martin’s war story is the major consequence of digital capability building on the role of the PO. Which shifts from maximizing product value to maximizing customer value. In the first phases of the transformation (improving organizational agility), the PO has to focus on maximizing product value. From the third phase of the transformation (improving customer centricity) onwards, the PO is responsible for maximizing customer value based on trigger point optimization.

What changes for the team?

What does this shift from product backlog management to trigger point backlog management mean for the scrum team—its members and their roles and responsibilities? We’ll discuss the impact on the team in another blog.

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