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How to challenge your product owner

Peter Hilton
September 10, 2019

How to challenge your product owner

As an agile software developer, you want to understand your product owner’s expertise, so you can work well together with mutual respect. This is harder than it should be, because everyone tends to assume that they know everything (that’s worth knowing), and that everyone else’s job is just some typing and a few meetings.

This presentation describes what happens when you don’t have a proper product owner, and introduces some challenging questions that product owners work on answering. In practice, the product owner role is often an impossible job, especially when it isn’t full-time, so you shouldn’t expect your product owner to be able to answer all of the questions straight away. You might enjoy working together on the challenge, though.

Peter Hilton

September 10, 2019
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  1. @PeterHilton
    http://hilton.org.uk/
    How to challenge your
    product owner
    10 things your PO should know that you don’t

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  2. A software development
    photo story…

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  3. HE’S GOING TO SAY EVERYTHING’S
    A ‘MUST HAVE’ ISN’T HE?
    PRODUCT BACKLOG PRIORITISATION…

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  4. LOL ?!
    IT’S ALL GOT TO BE
    DONE THIS YEAR
    Photo - Sebastian Herrmann

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  5. IT DEPENDS. WHAT COLOUR
    BLOCKCHAIN DO YOU WANT?
    OH, THIS SHOULD
    BE GOOD…
    Photo - Sebastian Herrmann

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  6. HOW HARD
    WOULD IT BE TO
    ADD A POP-UP
    SURVEY WIZARD?
    Photo - Sebastian Herrmann
    LATER, DURING ESTIMATION…

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  7. I’VE WORKED
    OUT EXACTLY
    HOW TO BUILD IT
    HAS HE STOPPED
    TALKING YET?
    Photo - Sebastian Herrmann

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  8. … THEN DOUBLE THE ESTIMATED
    DAYS, AND CHANGE IT TO WEEKS
    Photo - Sebastian Herrmann
    MEANWHILE…

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  9. JUST WORK
    FASTER!
    WE ESTIMATE 3 YEARS FOR
    ALL OF THE FEATURES
    Photo - Sebastian Herrmann

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  10. WHY ARE THEY
    BUILDING THIS?
    Photo - Sebastian Herrmann
    LATER…

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  11. IT’S SO HARD TO USE!
    Photo - Sebastian Herrmann

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  12. USABILITY IS SO BAD THAT
    NO-ONE’S GOING TO USE IT
    SO WHAT? THE PROJECT
    WILL BE OVER BY THEN!
    Photo - Sebastian Herrmann

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  13. WHY DOESN’T IT
    JUST WORK ON
    MOBILE?
    Photo - Sebastian Herrmann
    TESTING…

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  14. I’LL TELL THEM WE NEED
    A FEW MORE MONTHS
    Photo - Sebastian Herrmann

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  15. How many kinds of
    disfunction did you 

    spot on this team?
    !15
    @PeterHilton •

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  16. Asking better questions

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  17. IS THE PRODUCT BACKLOG
    IN PRIORITY ORDER?
    YES, ALTHOUGH IT WILL
    CHANGE FOR THE LATER
    STUFF AS WE LEARN MORE
    Photo - You X Ventures
    PRODUCT BACKLOG…

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  18. WHO IS THIS FOR?
    THIS SAVES ANNA
    THE ACCOUNTANT
    1 HOUR EACH DAY NOW I SEE THE
    BUSINESS VALUE

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  19. WHAT IF WE
    DON’T SOLVE
    THIS PROBLEM?
    THE COST OF DELAY
    IS €50K PER MONTH

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  20. HOW WILL WE
    KNOW IF THIS
    WORKS?
    THE PO SAID THAT THE
    KPI IS 20% FEWER
    SUPPORT REQUESTS
    FOR THIS USER FLOW
    MEANWHILE…

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  21. … AND WE CAN MONITOR HOW
    MANY PEOPLE USE THIS OPTION

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  22. CAN I JOIN NEXT WEEK’S
    CUSTOMER MEETING? YOU WENT THIS WEEK,
    SO I’LL TAKE ANOTHER
    DEVELOPER NEXT TIME
    LATER…

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  23. WHAT’S THE PROBLEM WE’RE
    TRYING TO SOLVE HERE?
    TAX COMPLIANCE
    Photo - You X Ventures
    SO WHAT’S THE PRODUCT VISION?

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  24. THE VALUE PROPOSITION IS
    ‘COMPLIANCE BY DESIGN’
    GOOD FOLLOW-
    UP QUESTION

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  25. SO WHO CAN DEFINE
    THE PRODUCT IN
    ONE SENTENCE?

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  26. HEY, THAT’S WHAT I WAS
    GOING TO ASK YOU TO DO!

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  27. What the PO should know
    (and you don’t)

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  28. Product definition
    1. What’s the problem we’re trying to solve here?
    2. Who is the product for?
    3. How do you define this product in one sentence?
    4. What’s the product vision?
    5. What’s the product’s value proposition?
    !28
    @PeterHilton •

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  29. Product backlog
    6. Is the product backlog in priority order?
    7. What is the business value?
    8. Which customers/users/personas care about this?
    9. What if we don’t build this?
    10. What is the cost of delay?
    !29
    @PeterHilton •

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  30. Bonus questions
    11. Can I join next week’s customer meeting?
    12. How will we know if anyone uses that?
    13. How will we know if it works?
    14. What is the balance between 

    strategic development and tactical enhancements?
    15. What is the balance between 

    technical maintenance and product development?
    !30
    @PeterHilton •

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  31. These are all 

    hard questions.
    Product owner is a
    difficult role.
    !31
    @PeterHilton •

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  32. ranh / CC BY 2.0

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  33. Neil Gaiman on product management
    ‘When people tell you somethings wrong or doesn’t work
    for them, they are almost always right.
    ‘When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and
    how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.’
    !33
    @PeterHilton •

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  34. @PeterHilton
    http://hilton.org.uk/

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