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Getting Your Priorities in Order: An Agile Product Owner Overview

Last December, my coworker Zach Chandler wrote a great blog post on the core principles of Agile Project Management and how to think about them in relation to web development at Stanford. In Zach's "Be Careful What You Ask For" section he briefly outlines the challenges for the Product Owner (primary decision maker) in Agile projects: balancing the power to change project direction with budget and time constraints. In this post, I'd like to go into the role of the Product Owner in a bit more depth.

Your Friendly Product Owner

One of the key players in Agile Project Management is the Product Owner. The Product Owner holds the vision of the product on behalf of the client and represents the interests of the client to the development team. The Product Owner is tasked with prioritizing the backlog (to-do items) for the project to make sure that the stakeholders are getting the most value for their dollar. For Web Services, I often wear the Product Owner hat, working closely with stakeholders to build great websites.

Prioritizing Features to Get the Most Value for Your Money

I like to think of it this way: at the start of a project, we often have some sense for what we'd like from a new website. Then, as the project moves along, we think of other features that would be really valuable as well. However, we start to have a list that is no longer achievable within our budget and timeline. For the most part, every new feature that is added mid-stream will likely bump some other feature we had initially planned off the list of features that will be completed by the end of the project.

So, the idea is to maximize the value of your dollar. Is that new feature going to serve way more people or be way more useful than something else you were planning on? Then move it to the top of the backlog! If not, move it lower in the backlog and consider it for a Version 2 of your project.

Agile Product Ownership in a Nutshell

Check out this great video by Henrik Kniberg.