Scaling the Product Owner Role
Large Scrum Project consists of many small teams working together. Of course, one Product Owner cannot be the Product Owner for all the teams. Also rarely will a single Product Owner have all the knowledge about all business functions to be implemented or changed.
Generally, the following hierarchy is followed for large enterprise implementations.
Everyone asks me this question “But Product Owner is supposed to be ONE single person and not a committee, How can you have a hierarchy? Doesn’t it mean that you have a Product Owner committee?”
The answer to the question is that there is NO Product owner Committee that I am talking about. Each Product Owner is responsible for “The Product that he is responsible for”. Its not a group of people responsible for the Product.
In the above example there is a PO for Accounts. The Product Owners who handle Savings Accounts vs Current Accounts (Business Accounts) work with the Accounts Product Owner. That means the “Accounts PO” is accountable for the entire product “Accounts”. The “Savings PO” is accountable for the “Savings Account” as a whole functionality and “Current Account PO” is accountable for “Current Account” as a whole functionality.
The Chief Product Owner is a role who is in-charge of guiding the other Product Owners. This individual ensures that the needs and requirements are consistently communicated to the various teams and that the project-wide progress is optimized. This will also include facilitating collaborative discussion, decision making as well as having a final say if no consensus can be reached.
One Development Team has One PO Only
While the above is true, I am make it clear that One team will NEVER have to look upto multiple POs. One team will always have only one Product Owner to go to. If you have multiple Product Owners for the same team then the Development Team will get confused and will not know whom to listen to. If there are conflicting guidance given by multiple POs (and it WILL happen), the team will get de-motivated. Scrum makes it categorically clear that One team will always have One Product Owner Only.
One Product Backlog One Product Owner Only
Similar to above, for one Product Backlog, there should always be One Product Owner. Therefore, the ground rule is One Backlog and One Product Owner for Development Team to look up to. So how do you handle the needs of a massive Product Backlog which needs multiple POs to handle. The best way is group the product backlog items with the help of some similar attribute such as Themes
A Theme is a logical grouping of the Product Backlog Items such that a PO can take care of a Theme. Thus a Development Team may work on a Theme, the Theme will have a Single Product Owner and thus the Development Team has a single Product Backlog and Single Product Owner to look up to.