A Proxy Product Owner’s Sanity Check!

When your product owner is not your end user…

Product Owner

This week a proxy product owner came to me to ask me questions about scrum.  This individual described the team as the Developers, QA, Scrum master,  Proxy PO, and the Product Owner.   He mentioned the Product Owner represented the architect team.  He needed to know whether some of the team’s practices were correct.

Is the product owner part of the scrum team?

“You see, I need to know if I am wrong.  Is the product owner and the proxy product owner part of the scrum team”  the proxy asked adjusting himself in his seat.  He seemed rather agitated.   Absolutely, I replied. The scrum team as per the scrum guide, consists of development, quality, scrum master, and product owner.  As a proxy product owner, you represent the product owner in the team.  With a look of relief, he replied “my team insists the product owner and I are not part of the team”.

Can the product owner ask how work is done?

A little less frustrated, he asked me the second question. Can the product owner ask how work is done?  To make sure I understood where he was coming from I asked him to describe what he meant by how work is done.  He explained that the architects need to know the solution applied by the team.  My first thought was this is obviously not an ideal situation. The second was, this is the first time I encountered this.  My reply was, if this were an end user or subject matter expert, I say no.  However, I need to understand more.  Is the architect directing how the work is done or is he simply trying to understand the direction the team took, I asked.  He just needs to know the direction, he replied.  (As a side note for you readers. Don’t ever place your architect as a product owner.) ” If he wants to understand the direction the team took, I don’t see any harm in that.  But, with that said it is important that you understand the how is the responsibility of the team”, I replied.

Excited with my reply he said, “the team has insisted I am not allowed to ask these questions. They think the product owner and I should not get involved, and should just identify the what”.  Well, this is a tricky situation and perhaps that is why the team has taken that stance, I replied.  A product owner would not normally be an architect.

Can the Product Owner set business rules?

So, his third question was “can the product owner set business rules?” Of course, I replied.  In fact, the product owner should keep business rules in mind while splitting user stories.  Why would your team say you can’t set these, I asked.  Because they feel it is up to them as part of the “how”, he replied.  Well, it does not work this way, I replied.

At the end of our conversation, he looked content with the answers.  I asked him, what he wanted me to do, if anything.  He replied, “nothing, I now know I am not wrong”.  It will be interesting what will come out of this.

Ok guys,  you know the drill.  What do you think of an architect as the product owner? Please opine.

“It is not a bolt to be tightened into place, but a seed to be planted and to bear more seed toward the hope of greening the landscape of idea.”

John Ciardi