June 17, 2013

The Product Owner (PO) Board - making PO workflow visible

The transparency brought about by the Product Owner Board brings to the PO team many of the benefits we see with development teams

One of the principles of agility is transparency - making the flow of work visible. It is common for the development team to use task boards and burndown charts, and we've found that extending this practice to the product management team is just as valuable. No surprise there.

We have found this to be especially valuable, as the PO Team tends to be less agile due to their background. Most accept that the dev team is doing something weird and that they are required to provide different “specifications” but if you manage to set up a board and make their work more transparent, it is a vital step towards true agility for the POs and therefore for the whole organization.

However, the PO Board itself has some subtleties that reflect the needs of the product management team. The PO Board provides the context for working on a specific product. In particular, by combining the product vision and the emerging requirements and features the PO Board allows incoming work to be simply and easily cross-checked with the product strategy, keeping a focus on the long-term aims of the product, rather than near-term distractions.

Starting with a clear description of the product vision, including the requirements identified to deliver on that vision, the PO Board always includes the contextual information required to decide whether a feature or work request should be included in the backlog and worked on by the product management team, let alone the development team.

The Product Owner board

Beneath the product vision and requirements, we capture all feature requests associated with the product. At this stage, no prioritization is used. This is simply our someday-maybe pile for consideration in the future.

As we begin release planning, the features in the someday-maybe pool are moved to the beginning of the task board in order of priority. Depending on the agreed process for integrating new ideas, the board will have a number of columns describing the stages a new idea goes through: investigation and sharing with the architects and technical leads, or the customers and stakeholders during the elicitation and definition process.

The result is a feature board that exposes the progress made on defining, grooming, developing and deploying product features (see diagram). Starting from the top left, the highest priority feature is defined, split into stories, discussed and groomed with the team, and eventually enters the team's backlog. As we move down the board, we can see when the next release will be complete and what it, and the one or two releases after that, will contain. As we move across the board, we can see where each feature is in the definition process.


Product Owner comment

Several things become clear when the PO Board is used.


- First, the team no longer considers the grooming and backlog definition process something that happens right before the team starts work. The depth of research, requirements definition and preparatory work becomes much more clear. In fact, in one client we worked with, the PO Board allowed the organization to see how poorly staffed the product management team was (queues forming long before stories hit the development team's backlog).
- Second, queues can be allowed where there are quality gates, traditionally defined by a form of Definition of Done, which helps clarify hand-off between columns (and in particular, between different teams/individuals): For stories ready to be groomed and sized, we use a Definition of Ready; For stories that are complete, but not fully integrated or acceptance tested, we use a Story Definition of Done; For stories accepted by the customer and ready for deployment, we use a Release Definition of Done. 

In conclusion, the transparency brought about by the PO Board brings to the PO team many of the benefits we see with development teams. It quickly exposes dysfunction, bottlenecks and inaccurate assumptions. It acts as a brake on starting urgent tasks over important tasks. It reinforces the need to focus on a small number of items at any one time. It encompasses the entire value chain, focussing on delivery to the customer rather than the development team. And of course, it introduces agile principles to teams outside core development.

 

Image of davesharrock

Dave Sharrock

Agile coach passionate about getting things done; helping teams exceed expectations, delivering organizational excellence, and all while having fun doing what they do.
blog comments powered by Disqus
Image of davesharrock

Dave Sharrock

Agile coach passionate about getting things done; helping teams exceed expectations, delivering organizational excellence, and all while having fun doing what they do.

Latest Posts

Food for your soul: the FOODBOOM story

Passion for food and great ideas drove FOODBOOM and when the time came to confront their strategy and build on the vision they asked agile42 for help

Image of apanagiotou

Anna Panagiotou

Dive deep into Cynefin™ for Agile

Advanced Cynefin™ for Agile Masterclass with Dave Snowden in Berlin on September 24 and 25, 2019

Image of apanagiotou

Anna Panagiotou

From Agile to Agility in Lisbon

Andrea Tomasini will talk about ORGANIC agility and the path from Agile to Agility at the eXperience Agile conference in Lisbon on Sep. 30, 2019

Image of andreat

Andrea Tomasini

I am an Agile Coach and Trainer and I am helping customers all around the world to become more Agile. I am more and more keen on adopting adaptive emergent approaches to improve people's quality of life. Through an holistic and pragmatic approach - I consider Lean and Agile very powerful frameworks - it is possible to improve results, performance and also personal satisfaction.

Advanced Agile Team Coaching Course in Berlin and Helsinki

Join agile42 coaches to learn a more structured approach to coaching teams
Image of pascal

Pascal Papathemelis

Pascal has worked as an agile project manager/scrum master/facilitator of various developments in size and type for almost two decades. His focus is on people and practical approaches in order to deliver value. Currently Pascal is working at agile42 as an agile coach on a journey to help organisations and individuals grow, improve and become more efficient in a sustainable way.
Image of javierperez

Javier Pérez

Javier invested his first years of career working as developer and business analyst in Madrid. When Javier moved to Berlin, he discovered his passion: to help teams and organizations in their cultural transformation towards agility working first as Scrum Master and later as Team Coach.
Image of simsab

Simon Sablowski

Simon has spent several years working as a software developer, ScrumMaster and CTO. He is dedicated to shortening feedback loops to accelerate learning and strengthening team collaboration to maximise synergies. At agile42, Simon enjoys coaching and training teams and organisations that desire to attain higher productivity, continuous innovation and extraordinary performance.

Cynefin, Wardley Maps and ORGANIC agility in Stockholm

Workshop by Dave Snowden and Simon Wardley “Navigate uncertainty: Strategy and innovation with Cynefin™ & Wardley Maps” is coming to Stockholm

Image of sofia.svanback

Sofia Svanbäck

I am the Business Relationship Manager of agile42 in Finland and Sweden. I started working at agile42 in May 2018 and haven’t done anything so interesting before. The decision to join agile42 is a decision I am proud of today. My days are filled with customer related things, like negotiations, offers, and training / coaching bookings to mention a few.