Review: The Professional Product Owner

poDon McGreal and Ralph Jocham wrote the book The Professional Product Owner – Leveraging Scrum as a competitive advantage.

This book gives you the insights how you, as a product owner, can identify, measure, and maximize value throughout your entire product lifecycle.

The authors explain that you can call yourself a professional product owner if you can excite, can envision, can cause the product to emerge and you can manage and administer the product as it matures.

The chapters in the book are clustered into three parts strategy, Scrum and tactics. Every chapter starts with a little quiz (statement: agree/disagree) and at the end of each chapter you will find the answers.

The first part – strategy focusses on proper agile product management and maximizing the return on investment (ROI of a product by looking at the three Vs (vision, value, and validation) as a way to achieve this.

Vision creates transparency, value provides you with something to inspect and validation causes adaption. The authors explain why the world of product management a lot bigger is than Scrum. There are many types of product owners starting with scribe, proxy, business representative, sponsor and entrepreneur. Going from left to right the expected benefits from the product owner type will increase heavily. We got an explanation of the business model canvas, the added value of a good vision and what it means to deliver value. Evidence-based management with current value, unrealized value, ability to innovate and time to market is illustrated (in grey boxes you will find the corresponding text from the EBMgt Guide (see review on my blog). In the last chapter – validation, the authors discuss feedback, the usage of different types of MVP’s, the Kano-model and the build-measure-learn feedback loop (based on Eric Ries’ book Lean Start-up).

Part II – Scrum explains empirical process control and how Scrum is a tool for managing complexity and continuous delivery of value. In the text you will find, in grey boxes, corresponding text form the Scrum guide too.

It starts with an explanation of complexity. You get a certainty quiz to measure the uncertainty of your own environment/team. To visualize complexity a modified Stacey graph (categorization model) is explained as well as the usage of Dave Snowdon’s Cynefin model (sense-making) with the five domains obvious, complicated, complex, chaos and disorder. The empiricism of Scrum helps to address risks (misunderstanding of requirements, lack of top management commitment and support, lack of adequate user involvement, failure to gain user commitment, failure to manage end user expectations and changes to requirements and lack of an effective project management methodology). For the rest of this part the focus is on Scrum itself. The pillars (transparency, inspection and adaptation), The Scrum roles (product owner, development team and scrum master) and stakeholders, the Scrum artifacts (product backlog, sprint backlog and the increment) and not official Scrum artifacts (Definition of done, burn-down, burn-up charts), and Scrum events (sprint, sprint planning, daily scrum, sprint review, sprint retrospective). For every element the authors explain the relation with the product owner.

qrc (backlog items, 190121) v1.0To download: qrc (backlog items, 190121) v1.0

The last part – tactics introduces more concrete practices and tools for managing product backlogs (see the attached QRC) and release plans and concludes by examining what it means to be a professional product owner.

It starts with an explanation of a requirement and you get an explanation of the different items on a product backlog (feature requirements, non-functional requirements, experiments, user stories, bugs/defects, user cases, capabilities, …) and an example of a product backlog item template with acceptance criteria and common ways of writing acceptance criteria (Test that …, Demonstrate that …, Gherkin syntax (given, when, then)). How you can order a backlog based on business value, risk, cost/size and dependency including measuring value, risk and size is a next topic. The definition of “done” is defined as well the meaning of ready. A lot of other techniques are discussed e.g. story mapping, impact mapping, specification by example and agile testing. Release management is the next big chapter in this part. What are release management, reasons to release, release strategy, major, minor and functional releases? How can you use estimation and velocity to answer the question when will I get it? Scaling in terms of more products or more teams as well as a brief overview of the Nexus framework are introduced. This chapter ends with some more techniques like the Monte Carlo simulation to estimate a product backlog, velocity breakdown by type (features, bugs, technical debt and infrastructure), budgeting, governance and compliance, release kick-off and quality (definitions, product and technical quality, keeping quality). This part ends with the skills and traits of a good product owner.

Conclusion: If you are a product owner this is absolutely a must read. You get explanations, techniques, examples and real-life cases from the authors how you have to and can play your role as a professional product owner.

To order: The Professional Product Owner

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2 responses to “Review: The Professional Product Owner

  1. Thanks for the review Henny. I haven’t bought it myself. It looks like I need to buy it now.

  2. Pingback: Review: The Professional Product Owner – Project Management World

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