Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Product Owner role in SAFe

The Product Owner role in SAFe.  Many organizations that have experienced the benefits of implementing scrum at the ‘team level’ do not realize that Scrum scales too and that most well practiced Scrum teams would scale appropriately over time.  These organizations prefer to implement a prescriptive approach that allows an organization to map their current structure to something tangible with structure.  Personally, I think any movement toward agile is a good move so long as the organization keeps trying to do what is right for the business and the people.  This blog is about how to implement SAFe’s content authority roles when organizations have already scaled scrum.

Why did I decide to write this?  After years of being a very effective Product Owner and Agile Coach, I paid top dollar to get SPC certified by Dean Leffingwell in Boulder, CO on SAFe v3.0.  I learned that the product owner group was represented quite a bit different in SAFe.  Product Management and other management level roles own most of the content authority, which means they assign value and prioritize all work.  Product owners do not write features and they do not decide what features are developed.  Product owners take direction from Product Managers whom of which are part of product management.  The team gets to interact directly with the Product Managers and Business Owners every Program Increment.  The Product Managers interact and coordinate higher level decision makers consistently.   In short, the SAFe product owner does not need to have the technical, marketing or sales wherewithal to prioritize the team backlogs.

How does Scrum scale? In simple terms, scrum scales the product owner role and the product backlog enforces There is one roadmap and one product backlog.  (SAFe would call this the portfolio backlog).  Alignment and prioritization via a bi-weekly MetaScrum meeting with all stakeholders and management.  The product owner hierarchy may include feature or application product owners all the way up to the Chief Product Owner whom is an executive with fiduciary decision making capability.  This person is responsible for understanding the total cost of ownership and financial impacts.  All levels of product ownership team utilizes product management members as advisors to prioritizing the backlog.  The product ownership team interfaces with customers and stakeholders but must be available to the teams.

Let’s assume that all the content authority roles in SAFe need solving for the advanced Scrum practitioner.  The Content authority roles in SAFe include
  •         Program Portfolio Management and Epic Owners
  •         Product Management
  •         Product Owner

      Scrum to SAFe content authority roles
  •         Program Portfolio Management and Epic Owners > Chief Product Owner
  •         Product Management > Product Ownership team + Agile Product Management
    1. -  Product Ownership team (Includes the entire hierarchy from Chief to feature product owner)
    2. - Agile Product Management (Includes Product Marketer + Product Strategist + Product Technologist)
  •        Product Owner > Feature or Component Product Owner

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