Tag Archives: product owner

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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SAFe 4.0 Product Manager / Product Owner

course_cover_pmpoTo prepare myself for the SAFe 4.0 Product Manager / Product Owner training classes with  PMPO certification, I used the Scaled Agile offered material for SAFe SPC4 certified consultants (downloads, videos and PMPO examination). Fully comparable with the SAFe Scrum Master material and also here a lot of valuable material.

The two-day training will help you to achieve the following learning objectives:

  • Identify the major components of the Scaled Agile Framework
  • Connect the Scaled Agile Framework to core Lean-Agile principles and values
  • Identify key roles and responsibilities within a SAFe implementation
  • Contribute to Portfolio content using epics and the Portfolio Kanban
  • Apply Value Stream strategies to define and manage solution value
  • Engage in Product Manager strategies
  • Operate as a SAFe Product Owner
  • Develop a stakeholder engagement plan
  • Build and grow communities of practice

In this course you will:

  • Embrace the Lean-Agile mindset
  • Explore Product Manager and Product Owner roles and the differences between them
  • Explore Epic Owner role
  • Explore the Business Owner role
  • Contribute to Portfolio content
  • Define and manage solution value
  • Understand patterns for splitting work: Capabilities into Features, Features into User Stories
  • Be an effective SAFe Product Manager
  • Be an effective SAFe Product Owner
  • Develop the vision, roadmap, features and user stories
  • Estimate Features and User Stories in story points
  • Engage stakeholders (using a stakeholder map, develop a communication/engagement plan
  • Build your Communities of Practice (role- or topic-based, CoP lifecycle)

As you can see this is much more than you will find in the scrum guide but the training will definitely help you to understand the role of Product Manager or Product Owner (in a Safe enterprise).

Book review: The Product Samurai

9789462287860-480x600-product-samuraiChris Lukassen wrote the book The Product Samurai. A Product Manager’s guide to continuous innovation.

An easy to read book to get a good idea of the Product Manager’s role within an agile environment, with lots of examples, techniques to be used, figures, and tables and on many places analogies with martial art experiences and great black and white martial art pictures of the author himself with quotes. Every chapters end with a kata, an individual training exercise. After reading you want, if you aren’t, to be a product manager.

To explain the title, the author made the comparison with the seven principles a Samurai warrior used. In product management the same apply and by following these you can become a Product Samurai. The seven principles are: Integrity, Respect, Courage, Honor, Empathy, Sincerity, and loyalty.dia1

The book is divided in three parts following the three key aspects of product management: vision, winning and crafting.

Vision (Discovering, Defining): The discovery process and ways to identify and develop innovation potential. You get many examples and techniques that will help you to discover a product vision. To mention a few techniques:

  • The innovation granularity pyramid with four levels (feature, product, portfolio/segment, industry) of innovation and provides a framework for defining a product in relationship to the overall business strategy.
  • The Flux Capacitor technique. A brainstorming based approach that involves concept diagram mapping combined with traveling to and from the future.
  • The 3 x 3 framework (status quo, observations, story, insight, opportunity, analogy, solution, advantages, ethos): To pitch your product and it will help to define your product vision.
  • The value model canvas: compare the business model canvas and the lean canvas. Here we focus on customer needs (wants / rational, fears / hidden, needs / emotional) and product benefits (benefits /why?, experience / what?, features / how?)
  • Rolling wave planning and product roadmaps to create transparency. To rank the goals, the following formula is explained: (Market Evidence x Problem Impact x (Usability + Vision + Buying + Competitive Advantage)) / Estimated effort.
  • The customer journey map to frame your opportunity and translate this into a business case.
  • Last but not least: genshi genbutsu: to truly understand, you must go to the real place. Vision comes from the real world out there, through real people with real needs.

Winning (Growth, Steer, Observe): The tools (growth models and tools that create feedback loops) that help create winning products once the vision is in place.

Here you get many product strategy techniques:

  • The product adoption cycle: innovators, early adopters, early majority and the late majority/laggards
  • The AARRR (Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Revenue, Referral) framework. This framework provides you a series of metrics you can use to measure performance and determine improvements.
  • Eric Ries’ three engines of growth: paid engine of growth, viral engine of growth, sticky engine of growth.
  • Cohort analysis. To expose groups of users to alternative versions of the product to figure out which performs best (e.g. A/B testing).
  • Pruning the product tree. A tree analogy to achieve the shape you envision by plotting (post-its) existing products, latest product’s feature additions and optimizations, etc.
  • Gap, SWOT and the Ishikawa diagrams
  • A persona is a narrative, or story description about the user that resonates with the team and the stakeholders on an emotional level.
  • Customer experience testing. It starts by testing two things: usability (can they use the product) and discovery (context of the product: who, why, when, where, what, what for and how)
  • Alternate realities: or product variants to test with real customers (multi-variant testing)
  • Blue oceans and red oceans. It is easier to capture market value when you create a new market (blue ocean) than to fight the competition in a saturated market (red ocean)
  • ERRC quadrant: how does your solution enable your growth (Eliminate, Raise, Reduce, Create)
  • The expanded buyer utility map: it shows the six utility levers (productivity, simplicity, convenience, risk, brand image, environmental friendliness), combined with the ten stages of the buyer experience cycle (awareness, evaluation, selection, purchase, delivery, use, supplement, maintain, discard and recommend).

Crafting (Practical, Meta): The art of product creation. Here we closely follow the path of the product manager.

To gain knowledge you have to go through three phases: Shu (just copy what you see), Ha (understand why you are doing it), Ri (learn from your own practice). In this part we got an explanation of Eric Ries’ Lean Start-up and especially the usage of a Minimum Variable Product (MVP). Also here several techniques are explained:

  • Design thinking: using a five-day challenge to go through the six stages of design thinking: understand, define, diverge, decide, prototype and validate.
  • Judo Solution: follow the central guiding principle of judo: “maximum efficiency with minimum effort”. Compare with the MVP.
  • Double loop learning: replace “knowing” (your product features and value) with “assuming” (unvalidated insights about user’s requirements). So as a Product Manager you plan, do check and adjust, think again and make new assumptions. Here we get a new user story format: As a <persona> I have a <problem> which causes me <impact> as can be seen with <metrics>.
  • Three horizons of growth: now, next and beyond.

To become a great Product Manager, a Product Samurai you have to comply with the seven principles. To succeed you must show passion, empathy and compassion, focus and tenacity and decisiveness. You have to practice and train to develop the following skills: observation, questioning, association, networking, experimenting, planning, analysing, detail orientation and self-discipline.

Conclusion

A great book to read if you are a Product Owner or Product Manager and want to achieve continuous innovation. It will help you to understand the role you were asked to start playing or you are already playing and what you can do, what techniques you can use to become a great Product Manager.

To buy: The Product Samurai