The Product Owner Chooses Business Value
As the “single wring-able neck,” the Product Owner is tasked with maximizing business value and setting the direction for a new or existing product. She shares the guiding view into the future and collaborates with customers, stakeholders, technical teams, and supporting roles to steer the product to the desired end-state. In this article, I would like to share my favorite two value areas that effective Product Owners understand.
- Customer Service
- Operational Efficiency
1. Customer Service
An organization is nothing without it’s customers — they are either external or internal customers. Customers are the people who use the product to fulfill a specific need. A product that is easy to use and accurately fulfills a customer’s needs is valuable to the organization. Design considerations like User Interface and User Experience need to be considered when crafting user stories, however, the main consideration is, “how are we best serving our customer with this feature?”
External Customers look to “exploit artefacts[sic] produced by the organization with specific requirements and specifications” (Hobbs, 2016). External customers are essential to the success of the organization as it operates to produce the artifacts specified by external customers.
Internal customers are all members of the organization who rely on assistance from each other to fulfill their duties in the production of artifacts specified by the external customers.
“If you build a great experience customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.”
— Jeff Bezos, Amazon
2. Operational Efficiency
An organization is unable to best serve it’s customers if it’s inefficient. While running the air conditioning in the middle of winter is wasteful, Product Owners go beyond the obvious to make operations more efficient. Below is a list of operational efficiencies in a ‘lean’ context that Product Owners should consider in their user stories. Product Owners should start with, “how does this feature improve our operations or reduce waste?”
- Reducing defects – features aimed at reducing defects strive to reduce errors, mistakes, rework, and preserve data integrity of internal and external customers.
- Reducing motion – features directed at reducing motion strive to automate a formerly paper-driven process. This helps improve efficiency and standardizes the quality of those processes. Additionally, frees up resource capacity so internal customers can engage in more technical work.
- Creating a common language – features sighted on centralizing information in a common place creates a lexicon synonymous with the organization. It simplifies the way information is shared and understood throughout the organization. Internal customers are all speaking and sharing the same meanings and when extended to client-facing applications, external customers speak the language too.
- Improving decision making – features trained on increasing transparency allow internal customer to make decisions quickly — ultimately helping organizations exercise business agility and ‘pivot’ when the internal or external environment prompts for it.
Leave your thoughts on Product Ownership or Business Value in a comment below. If you’d like to have a discussion, please contact me or connect with me on social media!
Photo Credit: Pixabay
Hobbs, B. &. (2016). Projects with internal vs. external customers: An empirical investigation of variation in practice. International Journal of Project Management Volume 34, Issue 4, 675 – 687.
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Thanks for the enlightening article. I’m not very familiar with the product owner position, so I appreciate hearing about what they do. I interested in your advice about operational efficiency–for example, is creating a common language just done through a company wiki or Sharepoint or is it more involved?
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Adrienne, thanks for your comments. I’d say that starting on the company wiki or SharePoint is a great place, however, it’s almost like adopting a form of “company jargon” and standardizing it as a common element in the products we are developing Think, “tweet” on twitter, “friends” on Facebook, “connections” on LinkedIn. These are all terms and functions we are familiar with.