On this post I’ll describe 3 approaches by 3 different consultancies to address the need a delivery team has on the Product Owner (PO).

Client Company – Consultancy Delivery Team
Please consider the following for this post:
  • Client Company – the company hiring aConsultancy Delivery Team to work on some digital product
  • Consultancy Delivery Team – the consultancy team delivering the work for the Client Company. For being more illustrative, consider the Client Company and theConsultancy Delivery Team are not colocated.

 

Disclaimer: this post do not cover distributed teams and client-consultancy relationship which are very important aspects on this situation.

 

According to VersionOne 13th State of Agile Report: 54% of agile projects uses Scrum (against 1% using XP and 5% using Kanban).

 

The fact, many companies hiring consultancies use Scrum: teams work in Sprints, team members have Daily Sprints to share about the work, teams do Sprint Retrospectives, teams align on the Sprint goals on the Sprint Planning meeting, and teams do review the accomplished work on the Sprint Review meeting.

 

The Scrum framework prescribes three roles: ScrumMaster (SM), Product Owner (PO) and team member.

 

SM is the facilitator, the person familiar with the Scrum framework that should help the Scrum team to reach their Sprint goals by fostering a great teamwork and by removing the blockers that might show up. The SM main goal is to deliver the thing right. The focus is on teamwork efficiency.

 

The PO’s main responsibilities are: (1) to manage the Product Backlog, (2) to maintain the communication with the business stakeholders and (3) to answer the team’s questions about the work related to the product features under creation. The PO main goal is to ensure the team delivers the right thing. The PO focus is on product results and efficacy.

 

Anyone else on the team is a Scrum team member: a person, either a specialised or a cross-functional type of professional, helping the team towards the Sprint goals. Typically, Scrum team members are dedicated to one and only Scrum team. The focus is teamwork for doing the right thing and doing it right.

 

Typically, the Consultancy Delivery Team will provide the majority of the team; in Scrum terms: the team members. SM is usually from the Consultancy Delivery Team as well.

 

The challenge comes for the person fulfilling the PO role. This is typically someone from the Client Company. The PO guides the product strategy, therefore it’s very common that such person belongs to the business side of the Client Company.

 

In many cases (as the illustrative scenario for this post), the PO is located at the Client Company while the Consultancy Delivery Team is located at the Consultancy Delivery location. Besides this colocation challenge, many POs are not experienced working in an agile-fashion, helping creating the User Stories, participating in all Scrum ceremonies and being readily-available to the Scrum team.

 

 
I work on a consultancy, helping many Consultancy Delivery Teams. And I have many friends on other consultancies. So, I realised the PO role challenge is common to theConsultancy Delivery Teams, and each consultancy has a different approach to it.
 
Here I share 3 different approaches by 3 big consultancies (I will not share the name of the consultancies, but you probably already know one of them).
 

1. Inception

 
Consultancy A makes sure that every project starts with a great inception. This way the team is very aligned about the work, reducing the risk of a mismatch between the business needs and expectations and the delivery work. Check out this Lean Inception article.
 

2. PO Coach

Consultancy B has a specific consultant named PO Coach. The PO coach basically knows how to be a great PO. This person is at all Scrum meetings at the Consultancy Delivery Team, but spend a good amount of time at the Client Company. The PO coach is supposed to pair with the Client Company PO to make sure the Consultancy Delivery Team needs is fulfilled. If/when the Client Company PO is/become amazing and gracefully fulfil the Consultancy Delivery Team needs for the PO role, the PO coach is released from the Consultancy Delivery Team. In case the Client Company don’t have a PO, the PO coach fulfil this open position while the Client Company hires/promote/finds a PO.
 

3. PO Team

Consultancy C follows a PO team strategy. On it, some of the Scrum team members collectively fulfil the PO responsibilities.  If the Client Company PO takes care of everything a PO is supposed to do for its Scrum team, then there is very little PO work for the PO team; on the outer hand, if the Client Company PO do not exist or is absent, the PO team fills the gap. Check the article on PO team.
 
I shared 3 approaches from 3 consultancies. Please note that they are not mutually exclusive, and many consultancies and teams mix things.  For example: start with a  Lean Inception and then work as a PO team.

 

You know of another approach? Please share about it here.