Are you struggling to align your software product roadmap and delivery with the marketplace demand? Maybe you’ve asked, “We have a talented software development team, so why are we constantly behind our competitors to get working software that is valuable to our customers out the door?” Or, as I often hear, “Why can’t my team respond quicker to changes dictated by the market?” And the all-too familiar, “What should we change since what we are doing is not working?” These are questions many business leaders are asking today as they compete to bring timely, valuable, market-driven software to their customers.
Everyone is going Agile these days, or so it seems. Should you? Companies today are adopting Agile methodologies into their software development life cycle to ensure their products are continually delivering timely value to their customers.
The traditional Waterfall method dictates a set of rigid processes that are executed serially, usually requiring many months before the final product is released to the customer. This often results in software that is out-of-date before it is released, since the features are defined so far in advance of the time customers get to engage with them.
In contrast, Agile places great emphasis on an adaptive software delivery model that encourages teams to release software incrementally. Instead of defining the entire product up front, the team builds features and releases them incrementally, so that customer feedback can be incorporated early and often in future iterations.
See how value is delivered to the customer over time in Waterfall vs Agile methodologies.
The Scrum Product Owner
A commonly-used Agile framework in today’s market is Scrum, and along with Scrum comes a new role in the organization: the product owner. An effective product owner is the key to aligning the company’s vision and roadmap with the software it builds. This new role is the linchpin that connects the customer to the developers writing the code.
The product owner is “the voice of the customer” who establishes the vision and roadmap for the product. This role keeps the team focused on that vision, and ensures maximum value is delivered by collecting all stakeholder input and prioritizing features (based on value, size and risk) in the form of a product backlog. The product owner creates release plans to deliver these product features in alignment with the roadmap, while constantly adapting and re-aligning as the customer demands.
The five levels of planning in Agile and the product owner activities at each level.
Finding the Right Product Owner
In my experience as a consultant helping clients adopt new processes, best practices and tools as they transition to Scrum, I find organizations often struggle to identify the right folks to fill the product owner role. It is common for organizations to fill this new role with a traditional product manager who understands the marketplace, but has not yet adapted to Agile/Scrum and has little experience working directly with a development team. Or, they might call on an analyst (the person that defines/documents requirements) that already works regularly with developers, but does not have enough knowledge of the market to effectively prioritize work.
An experienced and effective product owner has both the skills of a traditional product manager combined with those of an analyst – someone who understands the market and customer intimately, and who can also collaborate closely with the software developers building the software to ensure the team’s efforts are continually aligned with the vision.
Do you need assistance to help your organization align its product roadmap to its customer? Let one of Axian’s Certified Scrum Product Owners come to the rescue and help turn your vision into an executable roadmap and software release plan, working with your business community to adopt new processes, best practices and tools to ensure successful project delivery. For more details about Axian, Inc. and the Product & Project Management practice, contact us to setup a meeting.