Pain is temporary, failure lasts forever

Lean, agile living for the running mother of Peter

2007-12-28

Product owner proxy

Being the orderer of a complex system is a sweet hell: lots of responsibility and lots of power. It is very seldom I hear a software developer or project manager being satisfied with the orderer of the system. The difference in agile project seems that the term orderer has been switched to Product owner.

We are a small and closely knitted little team and the product owner sits just meters from us. But that is the problem: his chair sits there, but he seldom uses that chair. We have the right guy in one sense: he has the authority and power to make the decisions but he's not there to make them. And since he's not around on a regular basis, he's not involved in all the details and cannot make decisions in those instances.

Our solution is having two levels of product ownership: one almighty Product Owner who makes the big decisions on objectives and available resources. Then we have a product owner proxy, being responsible of translating the objectives to daily small decisions: is this what the Product owner decided.

Our biggest obstacles has been that we've combined this with the scrum master role and placed that combined hat on myself, and voilĂ : you have a traditional project manager. The product owner proxy should never get involved in resource issues. Then you just get a person who points and says what everyone should do and no one else feels responsible.

I will instead turn back to testing. Translating the objectives to test lists is an important task so we can discuss what is tested how and how manual test efforts should be focused.

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