While there was some debate around full-time or part-time engagement, what was consistently mentioned was how important this role is in agile development. The product owner has to be knowledgeable about the business need and – most importantly – engaged with the development team.
The consensus is that there is a direct relationship between the level of engagement with the product owner and the quality of the product. Training suggestions varied from hands-on engagement, to a half day coaching workshop, to inclusion in a full agile training course.
“I’ve had great success with this. On a federal project, there was a current site that had a person who supported users and truly understood their needs, current issues and past and future goals. She made the time to become the PO since she was very invested in the outcomes and had the trust of both the client and users. For a state level project, the state partnered with a local organization and we used someone there as our PO, which may be a fringe case, but was quite successful, since she helped the state plan for this new project and was very invested in the outcomes. In both cases, training occurred as we went along. The basics are discussed up front: time commitment, prioritization, communication of stakeholders needs, review of work, continuos feedback. From there, we improve with support and reminders. We also ask the PO to attend scrum calls to stay in the loop and be available to us first thing of the day. In many cases, we don’t say it’s FT, but perhaps 10 hours a week, and maybe more when in testing or planning.”
“In our office, we’ve had folks migrate to the position of product owner who came from the private sector. They all took a certificate track training course to achieve that transition. They’re all now FT POs. This was a time when our entire office underwent the shift to agile so perhaps the formal training facilitated the en masse culture change?
“In the government, I can see program managers taking on the role of product owner quite smoothly. I guess they could pursue formal training, but I think they can get more benefit from working with an experienced agile scrum team to learn the PO ropes.”
“I see the biggest challenge to successful PO adoption as more of mind set change. Public sector employees are so habituated to have applications done “to them” rather than “with them” that when given the opportunity to be directly involved in development they don’t always know what that means.”
Thanks to everyone for your input and feedback!