Are Your Product Owners MVPs in the Insurance Game?

February 24, 2016
by Wipfli Insurance Team
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You’re working on a project and you have someone in the role of Product Owner.  You’re off to a good start! That single point of contact between the delivery team and the business community is critical to success.

But, if you were handing out a team “MVP award,” would your Product Owner get it based on team recognition of their engagement and contributions?  Not sure? Knowing the behaviors to look for will help you determine if you already have an MVP Product Owner, or one that may need some coaching to succeed.

Highly engaged Product Owners:

  1. Actively participate in the Sprint events. From daily Scrum to Sprint Planning to Retrospectives to Sprint Reviews, the engaged Product Owner attends without fail and routinely gives valuable input.
  2. Collaborate with the team to make sure that what they are building delivers value without excess.
  3. Clearly define the acceptance criteria as, “This will be done when the system can do that.”
  4. Explain the “why” behind each backlog item. The engaged Product Owner knows the business value and plainly communicates it to others.
  5. Prioritize the backlog according to business needs.
  6. Actively participate in strategic and end user discussions – the business side – even when they may not have all of the answers.
  7. Draw the line between "need it all" and "here's what we must have" and communicate expectations to the team, end users and organization leaders.
  8. Champion the project in every sense of the word.
  9. "Own" the business decisions.
  10. Regularly evaluate the ROI of backlog items at least one time per Sprint. The engaged Product Owner recognizes that business needs change and evaluates the backlog list as input to Sprint planning.

Product Owners who may need some coaching and encouragement to succeed may exhibit the following behaviors:

  1. Skip the Sprint events or attend but don’t participate. In some more extreme cases, a disengaged Product Owner may attend only to complain about what is/isn’t being delivered.
  2. Depend on the development team to know and keep track of the project requirements.
  3. Ask, “Will the system do ‘this or that’?” because they don’t understand their responsibility in defining system capabilities and, instead, expect the development team to “just come up with it.”
  4. Separate themselves from the development team because they perceive themselves as separate from team members when it comes to delivery.
  5. Allow the development team to make the business decisions.
  6. Don’t know what’s in the backlog.
  7. Avoid or disregards business strategic and end user discussions. 
  8. Expect the team to pick up his or her slack in delivery of tasks. The disengaged Product Owner may also cause the team to make independent business functionality decisions.

The Product Owner can make or break a project depending on how engaged they are. So if your Product Owner exhibits largely disengaged behaviors, NOW is the time for coaching! Help them understand the fundamentals of successfully “moving the ball” toward the engaged Product Owner end zone and how, with dedicated effort, they can earn MVP status.

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