Product Ownership – Resources

I started out less than ten months ago as a Product Owner, with life made a little more interesting that I was working across 2 products and 4 (remote) teams. Over the course of the next few months, this expanded somehow to 3 products and 9 (remote) teams! I’m very very pleased to report that when I return to work next month, I will be down to one single (significant)¬†product and four teams – ok, still remote ūüė¶

The upshot of these challenges was that I had a lot to learn in my new role, and I would like to acknowledge the resources I used along my growth journey to help me. These helped my clarify my role, focus on the key things I needed to do, and most importantly, develop the right mindset to be a good Product Owner. These key people have been my ‘virtual mentors‘ and I’m super-grateful to them for the wonderful work they do sharing their knowledge and insights to everyone.

Roman Pichler:

A great overview, as well as lots of in-depth articles on Product Ownership

An equally informative view of Product Management, the framework and how it fits in with Product Ownership with Agile in large organizations.

Intercom – Des Traynor:

Great blogs on Product Strategy, some fantastic free books to download, and every re-read yields a new gem. When I grow up, I wanna be like Des Traynor. ūüôā

Medium:

One of my best finds of the year – a community of people writing about everything under the sun. Some great articles on Product Ownership, but you will need to find them under the general Product Management Category.

Product Talk – Teresa Torres

Teresa focuses on the hows and whys of building the right thing, and has inspired me to think about how to apply user-centred thinking and design when breaking down themes into Epics and Stories.

Jeff Patton

I held out for months so I could attend Jeff’s Passionate Product Owner Training, and it was worth it. Every minute was riveting, one of the best courses I have EVER been on, and I learned so, so much. I’m a finicky so and so but the ONLY thing I had to bitch about was the food (which was done by someone else). Life’s hard! ūüôā

As a starting point, read this massive, super-informative post packed with ideas, techniques and tips.

Other Resources:

While the above were my “Go-to” blogs, there have been a few other websites that have been great to dip into from time to time.

The Unbreakable PO¬†– hasn’t been updated for a while, but some good classic techniques and tips.

Crisp’s Blog – Henrik Kniberg’s blog – All things Agile, but some great PO focused posts.

Finally, a MUST-WATCH video that you can point people to when they ask what a Product Owner does – thanks to Spotify for this gem. I prefer reading over videos any day – but this one is a GEM!

Do you have any other awesome PO resources to share? I’d appreciate trying something new, I’m always learning!

BA to Product Owner

I’m shifting gears a little bit with this post. I’ve been a BA for a fair few years now. I’ve worked not just in development teams creating software, but also on projects controlling scope and quality, and with clients facilitating process analysis and future state planning. Today, I’m a senior BA in a fantastic company that is taking on the world in it’s industry, in markets across the world. It’s been an exciting, stimulating and challenging year getting up to speed in a new industry. And I’m extra excited today because tomorrow, I get to start a new role doing even more super exciting stuff.

Scaling Agile

A little bit of back ground, for context. The company I work with has some amazing product managers. They know their domain, they understand their markets and customers and work closely with sales and marketing to make things happen commercially. They are also expected to be providing input to the development team as Product Owners by creating and maintaining product backlogs, ensuring that stories are well written and understood by the team and generally being responsible for building the right thing. This may have been the ideal a few years ago, but since then, the company has grown. Development teams are located in 3 different cities for the same solution suite. Sales and Marketing demands have grown immensely. And as the scope of work has expanded, even super-awesome product managers are struggling to fulfill all aspects of their role.

We needed do find a way to let Product Managers do what they are great at, and what only they can do, and take the other stuff into another role.

The Plan for Product Ownership

While the Product Managers still own the Product Vision, Road-map, and all commercial and strategic decisions related to the product suites, the Product Owner role helps translate the vision and road-map into smaller, prioritised stories and features and keeps the development team building the right thing.

While the Product Manager is very much an outward facing role, the Product Owner role is far more inward facing. The goal of the role is to ensure that the Product Manager’s Road-map is translated into a DEEP backlog, and it is sufficiently well defined and articulated for Development teams to start work on. The role focuses on Building the Right Thing, so that the Development Team can Build the Thing Right.

What happens next?

As a senior BA, I’ve been doing a significant chunk of the ‘expected tasks’ in the Product Owner role, including keeping the backlog up to date, collaborating with Product Managers to do Release Planning, ensuring that the team understand the Business Value of features they are building and generally ensuring that we are building the right thing.

From here on I get to do a lot of these officially as a¬†Product Owner, not just for my team but rather for the entire product suite – currently about 4 products in active development. I get to work with our¬†Product Managers and Development Directors to figure out what our goals are, what success looks like and (once I have finished having a nervous breakdown), figure out how we’re going to get there.

But I have a secret weapon – I can depend on the solid, unwavering support of my Tribe Lead who is also undertaking this journey with me!

And I look forward to telling you all about my plans for PO domination (and what the heck is a Tribe anyway) soon!

Starting out

A complete shock

10 years ago, something ridiculous happened to me. I found out I was pregnant.

At this point, I’d been with my partner for 2 years, we were planning a wedding,¬†but¬†essentially living the party lifestyle. We both had jobs, a wide circle of friends and an active an varied life that just happened to involve lots of parties and catch-ups and barbecues. We were certainly not planning to have a baby, especially RIGHT NOW, and were a bit traumatized at the situation.

A changed life

To cut a long story short, having our son was the best thing we could have ever done. Having a baby forced us to do things wayyyy differently than we had planned.

Zain born

– We decided to get married right away rather than wait the year we had originally planned. We brought the date forward 6 months, booked the first venue we found (in the city that his parents lived in) and had a amazing, no-time-to-stress wedding.

– We decided to move to the city we got married in because we wanted to buy a house and have a family orientated lifestyle, which was a LOT harder in the huge city we were living in at the time

– David had to retrain in a different field because there was NO WORK AT ALL in his industry. His years of experience at being an awesome sound engineer in the best studio in the country didn’t count at all.

– I gave up my awesome job and prepared to be an at-home mom for the first year or 2 of our son’s life. That only lasted 6 months – when he turned 8 months, I went to work in yet another role in software support – something I had done for the last 7 years in various capacities.

Some of this was good, and some of it was not so good, but the sum total of all these changes meant that we went mentally from being good-time party animals to responsible parents in just over a year. And THAT was an amazing thing to happen.

IMG_0891

Learning to be a responsible adult

When I started work again, I resolved to focus on my work and career rather than treat it as a necessary evil that paid for my social life. I started actively figuring out how I could be a better employee, and what I needed if wanted to move to the next rung of the ladder. I researched tools and techniques and courses, and read stuff online. And incredibly, I struck lucky. Within a few months, I moved from my entry level position to a team leadish role.

But I wanted more. Now that I was reading stuff and learning new concepts and ideas, I wanted to do more. I put a little bit of thought into what someone with my skills and interests (and technical limitations!) could do. And at some point I decided – I’d make a kick-ass BA.

What I thought makes a good BA

РKnowing a little about the domain

РKnowing a little more about how our customers use the product

– Knowing a lot about the product

I’ll talk about how that ¬†worked out for me in a future post. Right now, I want to talk a bit more about what I did next.

How I got into the BA role

I was lucky to work in a company where there were loads of opportunities for staff to mingle, like end of month drinks or staff starting & leaving morning teas. I used this time to chat to people who were BAs to figure out what each of them did, what they liked about their role and what they thought would be useful skills for a new BA to have. I talked to the BA and development managers to understand what they would expect a BA to do and what they would look for if they were hiring someone for the role.

I went online and looked at similar jobs, and found books at the library that might help. This was a while ago and there weren’t quite as many resources online as there are today, and to be honest I didn’t have¬†enough context or knowledge to fully understand a lot of what I was reading.

Once I was confident enough that I was a decent match for some of this stuff, I made sure I expressed my interest in learning to be a BA to people in the area. I got a few tips on what to do next, and made sure I followed up on these.

– I started reading legislation and policy documents relevant to our domain which was a key component of the role.

– I learned how to do BPMN and workflow diagrams.

– As our BAs started working on requirements for new features, I volunteered to be the customer / support liaison to help them figure out which customers were stakeholders and what current processes looked like.

РI offered to review requirements documents from a support perspective Рwhich helped me learn heaps about how to write requirements. I was extra lucky because there were four BAs in the team with different styles, so I had different styles and perspectives  to learn from.

TL;DR – I learned what people wanted from the BA role, tried to learn those skills and made it visible that I was trying.

IT PAID OFF!

I’d done a decent amount of groundwork, and I was lucky that a BA role came up internally. I applied so fast for the role,¬†I probably broke the sound barrier. But another essential part of the process was buy-in from my manager and the heads of the 2 different areas, because internal moves mean figuring out back-filling roles. I was so lucky to have enormous support from everyone involved, including being able to start the BA role part time for the first couple of months.

Another thing to consider was salary. A junior BA role didn’t pay much more than a senior support role, and perhaps even less once you included performance bonuses. This one took a little negotiation and long term thinking, but it was sooo worth it for me. I do wonder what the situation would have been like if I’d been a developer moving sideways though – probably a lot harder.

Finally, I was super, super lucky to work for a company that believed in retaining and promoting staff internally. This is probably the single most important factor that allowed me to make the role change. So if this is a change you are intending to make, this is probably the first thing you want to think about when you are starting out!

Zain at Xmas