Product Owner is a demanding role. The care and skill with which this role is played is a major determinant of project success or failure. This simple truth, though, becomes amplified from a whisper to a shout: as projects become programs; as one stakeholder constituency becomes many; as products become product lines; as one or two releases become real release plans; and as changing market and resource conditions cause necessary shifts in priorities. Under these conditions, Product Owner develops from a role to a discipline, one of vital and urgent import for enterprises.
This talk outlines the role of Product Owner as a set of risks to be managed, outcomes to be achieved, and practices to be applied. We begin with an essential risk analysis: What risks is a Product Owner responsible for managing? What risks does a Product Owner introduce if the role is poorly played? Then, we ask: How does the role of Product Owner scale up? We contend that the role stretches and grows more complex in proportion to the number of constiuencies to manage and the scale of the product/project/program lifecycle? These two factors can be combined and represented in a network of backlogs. Examples are given of a real, highly complex and specialized backlog network as well as a couple common patterns of backlog network of moderate complexity. Planning and management activities are defined as interactions among and manipulations of these backlogs. We go on to discuss the idea of traceability among the levels of elements in these backlogs and show that traceability is a necessary complement to the concept of backlog network.