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(Digital) product owners, beware of the iceberg!

2 min read

The mind map below was posted on Twitter months ago. However Twitter's limitation to 140 characters didn't allow further words about my motivation. This is the addendum.

Building digital web products from scratch the agile way including continuous delivery or even continuous deployment requires "operations thinking" right up from start. A common mistake (IMHO) I have seen several times is that many product owners almost exclusively care about user interaction - the visible part of the product - and most effort is spent on UX. This is an important aspect, of course. However, this is just the top of the iceberg. I guess nobody wants to ship a product which breaks on increasing traffic, which is not prepared for handling data loss or which misses a proven backup and recovery process. I.e. - from an operations perspective - I guess nobody wants to ship just a prototype while the company expects stable software up running. 

But isn't this the team's job? Well, let's sharpen the role of a product owner. In this case this is perfectly illustrated by the difference between responsabilty and accountability as defined in RACI. The team is responsible writing and shipping and maybe even running the software while the product owner is accountable for the whole product. Therefore a product owner has to care about performance, backup and recovery, monitoring, SLAs, security, etc., etc. A product owner is responsible (!) to create, refine and prioritize backlog items which cover the operations aspects of his product (the what). It is a native product owner task. It is not expected that a product owner has the know how to answer all these questions and presenting perfect user stories of operations epics passing the backlog refinements without any question. Providing the how is in the team's realm. Of course, any input from the team on the what is appreciated. But managing the discussion, asking the right questions, asking for yet another load test, etc. is in the product owner's task portfolio. He's got the active role here.

The following mind map helps me to remember all facets of a digital web product. It serves as a boilerplate for the collection of epics especially when I have to create the initial backlog. It is a life saver.

Mind map creating digital product

If you think something is missing please drop me a line. Any input is welcome.