One of the key roles in any Agile developmental effort, especially if it’s software development, is that of a Product Owner.
They decide the path the effort will take, which features will be built, which order it will be built in, and when it will be built.
They control the allocation of resources between the members of the Scrum Team, ordering of the items in the Product Backlog to best achieve goals and missions, making sure that the Product Backlog is visible, transparent, and clear to all, and shows what the Scrum Team will work on next.
They also make sure that the Product Backlog items are clearly expressed, and that the Scrum Teams fully understand them.
In short, the Product Owner is pretty much in charge of the shape of the final product.
So, it’s no surprise that if the Product Owner faces challenges, it often jeopardizes the productivity of the entire Scrum Team and hence, risks impacting the return on investment for building or updating the product.
A high-functioning Product Owner is absolutely crucial to any Scrum Team.
So, if you want to be an excellent Product Owner, you’ll need to be aware of the challenges you’ll have to battle with. Along with this awareness, CSPO training helps massively too, as it’s a structured way to learn some of the key principles that the job would entail.
Also as it happens, companies are always on the lookout for people who are well versed in Scrum. A great way to catch their eye would be through the CSPO course and certification, as it lets them know that you’ve undergone a thorough classroom dynamic that has instilled in you the collaborative mindset that is often central to Agile methods.
Now, let’s see some common challenges that you as a Product Owner would face:
1) The Lack of a Roadmap
The product roadmap is your guide to the project – it’s the funnel that channels the efforts of your team.
The lack of a good product roadmap would have you and your team making knee-jerk reactions to customer requests, rather than acting out of a strategic plan or vision for the product.
Though it’s very important to listen and respond to customers’ requirements actively, it may put you at risk of listening solely to the “noisy” customers and over-customizing to their needs – affecting the needs of the general and future customer bases.
To make a good roadmap, it’s advisable to make one based on sound market research, industry standards and best practices rather than building a product exclusively based on the customization requests from the clients.
2) Having Unclear Acceptance Conditions or Cast-Iron Details
Having user stories that are under-defined, leaving too much free room for interpretation puts your product team in danger of having to deal with scope creep – and it often requires extensive rework to correct it.
On the other hand, if the acceptance criteria are chock-full of unyielding, rigid details, the Scrum team will then just become a team of order-takers, unable to exercise their creativity and innovation.
It’s important to draw a fine line of balance between the two tendencies.
3) Skewed Time-Investment Ratio Between Product Support and Backlog Grooming
Backlog items with ambiguous acceptance criteria are traps for unaware Product Owners. They suck invaluable time and often hide the enormous negative effect they have on the deadlines, being masked as productive work.
Loosely defined user stories have stakeholders translating the requirements freely according to their own perspective, and the Scrum team would develop a product that is far removed from the end user’s expectations, resulting in a complete setback.
This is not the end of the problem. The development of the new user story could have even further deviation. Sales teams would begin promotion from the standpoint of how they believe the product would work, not on how it actually works. Hence, the end user will have different notions of how the product would work.
The Product Owner would have to coordinate between the various teams, clearing the confusion, determining what that specific feature is actually intended for, and take corrective actions – instead of grooming the Product Backlog. Clearly, a lot of work.
The simplest way to fix this is to simply spend more time grooming the Product Backlog, right from the start.
4) Making Priority Changes During an Ongoing Sprint
One of the core Agile principles is to welcome change, even late in the developmental process. However, if it is handled haphazardly, it could be detrimental to the team’s ability to deliver what has been promised to the consumer.
Changes during a Sprint can cause interruptions that negatively impact the team’s velocity and potentially, the quality of the deliverables too – due to context switching.
To avoid this issue, shortening the sprint span helps a lot, especially if the sprint team works in an environment where changes come frequently,.
Overcome These Challenges to Become a Successful Product Owner
Keeping these challenges in mind would definitely help you and your team in becoming more efficient, and keeping steady progress. Your overarching goal should be to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of quality products, and all of the above challenges serve to further that cause if resolved the right way.