Is it Time to Do Away with Scrum's Product Owner Role?


Understanding the Scrum framework

At the very core of the scrum framework processing lies the notion of teamwork which inculcates efficiency maximization. The Scrum process in the technical developments is based on the agile methodology which allows delivering the business requirements in the shortest possible span of time. It is continuous and iterative development to achieve the required objective taking into account the changes factored in from different variables.

The scrum process is open to changes, to say the least. The idea that every variable can be accounted for at the beginning of the development process is very absurd when we think about the frequency of changes taking place in the contemporary scenario.

Technology is ever-evolving and the software based on that technology changes as well. If you come to think of a product development that is technical in nature, from the time you conceptualized to the time you started building it there will be numerous upgrades already.  The point is there are always iterations that need to be facilitated based on the technological evolution and also the preferences of different stakeholders.

To better understand the scrum framework we need to dive deep into the basics of the agile methodology. The agile method is a broader concept that encompasses the scrum framework, technically agile is a practice wherein continuous iteration of development and testing is the norm.

The agile methodology breaks down the product development process into smaller chunks, unlike other software development techniques. It takes into account the feedbacks of all the stakeholders of the product development process and helps to build on that, advocating teamwork as one of the essentials to the process of this technological development.

Role of a product owner?

Product Owner, you can define the responsibilities by the name of it. The values of ownership and accountability are intrinsically embedded in the title. The product owner in the Scrum framework is the person responsible for the output value of the scrum development training in terms of efficiency and holistic development of the product.

The product owner in an agile methodology holds an array of responsibilities that include responsibilities like defining the vision for the product, managing product backlogs, overseeing the product development at various stages, anticipating client needs and acting as the primary mediator between the client and the product development team. If you have to summaries it briefly the product owner is responsible for the holistic development of the product. If you dig deeper there is no direct association with the creation of the particular product but more of a supervisory and management role.

Defining the vision is one of the crucial roles of the product owner, being the mediators between the various stakeholders to this development process the product owner has a lot of information to process and then come to a conclusion about the concrete plan for the development of the product.

Managing the product backlog is another important responsibility that the product owner holds and is accountable for. A product backlog includes a list of things that needs to be done in the whole process of product development. Creating the sequence of the ‘to-do list’ and prioritizing it on the basis of the stakeholder's requirement is done very strategically by the product owner.

The Team-Oriented approach

The roles in a scrum framework can be broadly divided into two categories, the specialists and the team members. The specialist roles are further divided into two as Scrum Master and Product Owner. If we peep into the job roles of the specialist in the scrum framework, neither of the roles is directly associated with the creation or formation of the products. It is a holistic approach towards the organization of deliverables and supervision of the entire product development process in general.

In recent developments, there are various instances of teams that have started experimenting with assigning and rotating the scrum master responsibilities among team members. However, the experiment with rotating specialist roles is limited to the scrum master responsibilities only.

If you think logically the product owner roles and responsibilities can also be shared among the team members and in the near future, this idea could be commonplace given the nature of the duties performed and the involvement of the team members in the core creation of the products. The testing responsibilities in an agile team is shared among all the team members, similarly, the responsibilities of the product owner can be shared going forward.

There is a possibility that the future might not hold specific job titles for the product owner role. Since all the team members have their specific services to provide and role to play in the creation of the product what matters to the ultimate consumer is the utility of the product. The collaborative decision making will replace the present product owner duties that include taking decisive action in the product development process.

What’s at the center of the idea of a future without product owner job title in the scrum framework is the diversity in the team and developers equipped with more than their conventional coding skill sets.

What’s the way forward?/ Conclusion

The future might not hold specific job titles for product owners but will include team members having diverse skillsets and collaborative decision-making abilities to facilitate the much needed final output of the product development process.

Digging a little deeper into the role of the product owner we can easily establish that there is no direct association with the creation of the particular product but more of a supervisory and management role in the development process.

The role and responsibilities associated with the job of product owner can easily be shared and divide between the developing team members, it might need some people with additional experience and expertise in the field but not a person with an exclusive job title.

In recent developments, there are various instances of teams that have started experimenting with assigning and rotating the scrum master responsibilities among team members the same concept can be easily applied to the product owner’s role.

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