April 13, 2017
Product Owner and Architect, agile tag-team
But wait a minute, are you really part of the team? Or are you external to the team, but do consider yourself heavily involved with the team? You might be the Product Owner or an architect.
Is the PO not part of the team? Maybe, maybe not. It's not that important actually. And what about the architect? Is the architect not part of the team? Well, the architect, I would think and this is just my very humble opinion, is not part of the team. The architect is concerned with the team, but not this team, but all the teams that are in the architect's domain. The architect is there to ensure that the products form a cohesive landscape that, by synergy, creates the most value for the organisation as is thinkable. Back to the PO. The PO might own many products in a portfolio...
Your picture. Did you picture yourself in this organisation as part of the team, of a team, or as somebody outside the team? It doesn't really matter too much. Really.
The interesting part of such an organisation, be it a for-profit or a not-for-profit or even something governmental, such an organisation is catering for its business, for the users of its products. And the products are there to generate value, pure and simple, life's better with every new version of the products the organisation releases. The product teams are there to work on these products, to make sure that the users are actually able to use these products and once they have those products at their disposal, they can continue to use them.
What about this tag-team, this agile tag-team?
The effectiveness of the PO-Architect team, this tag-team, is the greatest in this product oriented organisation. The more 'agile' is considered a business trait instead of just an IT trait or even solely a software development trait, the bigger the impact the tag-team can and will have on the bottomline of the organisation, in a positive way.
But there's also the second currency, which is time. Time taking to create the product, or a new value creating feature of an existing product. Time has no ROI. You have to invest time, knowing you'll never get it back. You might save time with your product, but the time you invest, you can only invest once. This is important because you want to invest as little of that time in something that generates the most value. Think about this for a second... what it means is that you want to create a new product (or feature) that will generate the maximum value in a minimum timeframe. The crude oil, your €'s are secondary to this, as a PO, because you have a product team available that you need to pay for anyway. Remember, you're working in a product oriented organisation not a project oriented organisation. Your teams are pre-funded! This is also important to note.
So the priority of the PO should be generating as much business value as possible. Therefore the PO needs to prioritise the various products and their features such that the most value creating features are worked on by the product team first. And this is extremely tough for the PO, especially when the PO is not a business person because the PO needs to know what's good for the gander as that is good for the goose.
And in many cases the PO will need to experiment in order to find out whether or not a feature is really needed. Whether it is really going to be used. Whether the form it will be delivered in is the most optimal form. Experiments cost time as well, so the balance between experimenting and applying is critical.
But there's more, obviously. The architect, and this is the 'secondly' belonging to the 'first of all' from above, is best equipped to define where what corners can be cut for most impact and what experiments to run in order to get the most out of new or specific capabilities. The architect will be the single one person that understands how to scale the organisation's technologies. How to move from a simple, crude yet effective archaic technology to a more complex, elegant and sophisticated version and when to do so. The architect therefore can and will save the most valuable currency of the PO, feature development time, at every step of the way.
Remember that PO and business value creation? Value should be created as quickly as possible, so short development times are important. As much as possible value should be created, so the most desired product features with the biggest impact on the bottomline should be worked on by the team. But which are these features? Well the architect doesn't know these answers, but is perfectly suited to limit the amount of time it takes to either develop a feature or to find out what feature should be developed by devising an experiment. The PO still needs to run the experiment though.
Ah, here comes the hardest part of the post. How to set the right priorities? Which is a question the PO will need to answer. The common way to do this, the wrong way indeed, is to work on the simplest feature to develop. Or the one that can be delivered the fastest. Often these are the same features by the way. This will only result in the PO and the team to feel really good about themselves because they added many features to the product. Something that will in most cases be far from adding the most business value to the product.
Again the architect is a great team member for the PO in this as architecture is not about simple to develop features or quickly realisable solutions. Architecture is about ensuring durability, sustainability. It's about creating a playing field in which complex solutions can be developed quickly, because the groundwork has been done already and therefore a solid foundation is present.
Leaves the PO with defining the top priority of all the features that need working on. And this is encoded in the metric used to measured progress and the reason for the change to be developed. From these a projected generated business value can be established.
And this is where the architect can shine again. Not with this little piece of math, but with the part about metrics and measurements. The architect will be the instigator of the existence of a set of architecture principles that allow for metrics and measurements. Principles that lead to the existence of comprehensive measurements, to profound standardisation of those aspects that need no specialisations, to extreme automation of setting up environments. This can be left with the product team, but when there are more than one team, there will be a need and at the least a benefit, of coherence across teams, which is where the architect is acting.
Concluding, the PO and the Architect make a wonderful team that jointly work on the best prioritisation of the feature backlog for the products of the PO. By doing so, they'll minimise the required investments in feature development time for the product team to develop a feature, all the while maximising the created business value. And as icing on the cake, they are in the process ensuring that the hypothesised improvements are validated. You want a cherry on top? With this awesome tag-team you have a perfect opportunity to define a ubiquitous language which is business domain specific and spoken across the whole of the organisation.
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