Senior design teams working on predominately software related projects use the Scrum methodology. The product owner of a senior design team is responsible for working with the senior design team to prioritize Product Backlog Items (PBIs).
The product owner is responsible for ensuring that the development team is focusing its efforts on the things that will provide the most value. In any significant software effort, it is not always obvious what should be done first. The product owner can help the team determine how to prioritize based on a number of competing demands including:
- Reducing risks by exploring approaches to components of the product that are not well understood.
- Validating the project concept by creating a minimally viable product ASAP.
- Implementing functionality that is most important from a business perspective.
- Determining how best to respond to changes in the understanding of the product as new information becomes available.
- Fixing defects verses developing new functionality.
In particular, the product owner must:
- Evaluate PBIs created by the team
- Does the acceptance criteria make it clear what work is to be accomplished?
- Are there any missing PBIs, i.e., is there desired functionality that is not capture by the current list of PBIs?
- Prioritize PBIs.
- At the end of each sprint, assess whether or not the PBIs marked as completed by the team are completed to the product owner's satisfaction.
Senior design teams generally work in three week sprints. At the beginning of each sprint, the team must commit to completing a set of PBIs. At the end of each sprint, the team conducts a sprint review in which the PBIs completed during the sprint are demonstrated.
A product owner must commit to the following:
- Remaining product owner for an entire academic year (September - May).
- At least once a sprint, evaluate the priority of the PBIs remaining on the backlog, and communicating conclusions back to the team.
- Attend the sprint review at the end of each sprint. Ideally in person, although arrangements for a video conference may be possible.
- Provide an assessment of the team's progress to both the team and team's advisor.
Who Should be a Product Owner?
For sponsored projects, a product owner should be provided by the sponsor. Teams working on projects of their own choosing, a product owner will be assigned.
Product owners may be project sponsors, MSOE alumni, or engineers from industry partners interested in mentoring the next generation of software engineers. An ability to develop a vision for the product produced by the project and serve as the business owner is critical. Previous experience with scrum is an advantage.
A successful product owner does not need to be familiar with the project technology or even the project itself. A product owner may be effective by asking leading questions to help assess the appropriateness PBIs and their priorities.
How to Become a Product Owner
If you are interested in becoming a product owner or have questions about becoming one, please contact Dr. Chris Taylor at npǝ˙ǝosɯ@ɹolʎɐʇ.