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I believe the Product Owner is an important member of the team and needs to be as accessible as any other.

I've recently been confronted by the idea that because the PO is part of 'the business' (i.e.: the client) they should not be considered as a member of The Team.

Put another way: They should attend important meetings and most stand-ups but be limited in their involvement to avoid trying to control the project (as has become bad practice for BAs or project management.)

Should they be kept at arm's length or fully indoctrinated into the agile process?

  • 1
    As Mitch Lacey puts it in his book using a car's analogy: the development team is the engine, the scrum master is the liquids needed to run the car smoothly, and the PO is the driver. Also, if you break down the traditional project manager role, PO actually takes on more tasks than even the SM. So without an able PO, you are shooting in the dark. – Muhammad Aug 24 '17 at 12:22
  • The Scrum Guide or it is Scrum In Name Only. – Alan Larimer Oct 3 '17 at 18:12
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The PO is an importand member of the agile team, but should remain strictly within its role definintion, which according to this article :

The product owner, called on-site customer in XP and active stakeholder in AM, represents the stakeholders. This is the one person responsible on a team (or sub-team for large projects) who is responsible for the prioritized work item list (called a product backlog in Scrum), for making decisions in a timely manner, and for providing information in a timely manner.

Due to the nature of their role and the culture they are coming from, there may be a tendency from them to control the team, but the scrum master must make sure the product owner does not cross the boundaries.

  • Agreed. "Keep the PO away" is the easiest way to keep them from acting outside their role, but it's not a very good way, unless all else fails. – Vicki Laidler Aug 25 '17 at 13:01
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The PO is not supposed to control the team but he IS the one who controls the project in the sense that he prioritizes the backlog.

I don't see why a PO would need to attend the stand-ups. He has nothing meaningful to contribute at that point. His inclusion is most likely just a convenient (for the SM) way to keep him up to date on the progress (which isn't the goal of the stand-ups). On the contrary I could see how this could lead to attempts of the PO to control the team...

They should definitely be in well tought about scrum and in close cooperation when it comes to fleshing out backlog items.

Whether you want to count him as part of the team is secondary. If he does the things he should and doesn't do the things he shouldn't...

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I would say it depends on the context, is the PO the only one that knows about the business requirements, or can developers make good decisions even without the PO.

"I believe the Product Owner is an important member of the team and needs to be as accessible as any other." If you feel she/he is important then they probably are.

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The real solution is to clearly define roles and responsibilities and having the right people fill them. Having a PO tell the developers how to do things is a big issue, but so is having a PO that feels isolated and not part of the execution.

So there is some art to building effective teams and attention must be given to allocating individuals with the correct skills and appropriate demeanor to key roles.

If you want effective execution everyone has to be part of the team with full transparency.

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I guess the Product Owner (PO), as important as s/he is, does not have to be within a specific team. S/he could manage a couple of teams/projects.

Actually, the PO can also be the project manager and even another role. It really depends on the size of the team, the project and the 'spirit' of the organization.

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If there is a gap in how the team understands the priorities and business needs, then the more PO is involved, the better.

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