Disciplined Agile

Product Owner: Practices Overview

Ideally, there is one team or at most two teams per product owner.

Table 1 describes responsibilities of the product owner as they help the business and the team achieve their goals.

Table 1. Responsibilities and practices of the product owner 

Responsibility Area

What the Product Owner Does

Integrating into the development team

Being available to the team, colocating with the team as much as possible.

Driving the team at a sustainable pace,

  • Understand and help to allocate capacity for enabling work
  • Writing stories to represent the requirements and the pace
  • Explaining the stories to the team with “just in time” elaboration

Walking the floor and look for issues / delays / improvement opportunities

Serving as liaison with the business and business SMEs

Participating in or observing team meetings

Helping the team to resolve or escalate impediments as appropriate, providing the team lead with status of impediments reported by the team.

Protecting the team from distractions and outside influences, including loaner requests, multiple projects, and production support (where possible).

Integrating the team into the broader value stream (or program)

 Acting as the designated communicator for the team to the value stream (or program) level, discussing with the product manager:

  • Team-level prioritization decisions
  • The implications of implementing the desired value, such as team technical challenges
  • Non-architectural implementation issues 

Assessing the business value of the team objectives.

Attending planning events and the iteration demonstration and review events.

Managing the team backlog

Populating the backlog.

  • Decompose features in the program backlog into user stories that go into the team backlog.
  • Each user story should be sized to be done in one iteration; preferably in two or three days.

Prioritizing the backlog.

  • Work with the team to apply a prioritization method such as Weighted Shortest Job First to put the backlog items into order of priority.
  • Assist team in developing estimates for the relative effort expected to be required to implement features and stories.
  • Observe the team as it picks stories from the team backlog and adds them to a “commitment list” for the iteration.
  • Observe the team as it chooses additional “stretch objective” stories that they will try to finish in the iteration.

Maintaining and modifying the backlog.

  • Refine the product backlog to maximize ROI.
  • Add new items or modify existing items based on feedback from stakeholders and learning by the team.
  • Understand and establish capacity for enabler work.

Getting ready for the next iteration.

Monitoring iteration execution

Understanding and help setup visual controls.

Reviewing information visibility charts.

Reading the information visibility boards for signs of problems with the iteration for signs of failing agility.

Remaining aware of whether the team’s other responsibilities (changes, internal projects, unplanned work) are reducing their ability to complete the committed backlog items.

Note: Using a burn-up chart is recommended, because it shows changes in the team’s capacity (the top, “target” line on the chart) along with completed work. 

Assessing and accepting product

Understanding the priorities of the product manager.

Specifying acceptance criteria for each story in backlog.

Accepting or rejecting backlog items at the iteration demonstration and review at the end of the iteration.

Deciding with team about unfinished work

Working with release management

Working with release management to release as appropriate.

Writing stories required for release.