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I'm Technical Leader for a software project dedicated to manage the "VIP people"-yearOfWork of a big company.

Basically, to make it simple for this post, the project is a mix of a social network (between those VIP people) and a meeting network, where any one of them could be aware and participate to their respective yearly meetings.

My Product Owner is, oddly, not one of those VIP people but one who remotely manages them (creating meetings etc, establishing their profile etc.).
He's part of the Secretariat Team.
He argues that he knows their jobs and therefore thinks mastering their needs.

The project is supposed to evolve through agile principles, to receive feedbacks early, but:

  • Product Owner puts focus on features that is viewable, usable and focus on the management team, HIS team.
  • Product Owner argues that his team (secretariat) should benefit of this product to spent less times on redundant tasks like creating meeting for VIP people.

Problem is:

  • The backlog is full of Secretariat-oriented features and I can't see any VIP people-oriented features.
  • No workshop with customers to study deeply THEIR needs.

We got some feedback that VIP people find the software very light but interesting, but the product owner can't bear of the word "light".

Customers are not aware of the amount of tasks under the hood dealing dedicated to the Secretariat Team; I'm sensitive to their "appointment".

Product Owner thinks wrongly that the sofware is for HIS team more than VIP people and he's wrong.

How to make the Product Owner realize that he doesn't put focus on the right customer and that it is a huge risk regarding the project's lifetime since whole project budget is almost fully spent?

How to make the Product Owner realize that receiving a feedback like "pretty good project; but lacks some promised features after 5 months of work" is not like "Wow amazing!" feedback?

I was very disappointed as a technical leader when the customer said: "5 months for that ?!"; indeed they just see a very very short number of features they can "play" with.
Rest is hidden from them.

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    Who put the PO in charge? That would be the person checking whether the PO does his job well. Who knows, maybe he does. Who says that the PO's team is not the main customer? Stakeholders do not gget a democratic vote. If the PO is happy to build an app for a few people only, the only person he has to justify it to is his boss. – nvoigt Mar 23 '18 at 11:24
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I will assume what the "VIP" want fall somewhere between what you think and what the PO believes. I'll add some facts to that assumption: the VIP do not truly know what they want - not granulary anyway. Also, they will surely change the minds about some of the details?

In Scrum and other iterative approaches, the feedback from Sprint Review will make it transparent what the VIP want. How often do you demo the work done in one increment and iteration to the VIP? Why is it that 5 months have passed and the PO is allowed to make these decisions if he is so wrong?

If you have objective evidence that PO is wrong, speak to her or escalate it. Else, you may want to question the process manager (aka Scrum Master, PM) about effectiveness of the sprint review meetings.

I used to hand over quick happy face, neutral face and sad face survey to attendees of the sprint review meeting. It provided a neutral and objective base for proposing change.

Good luck and be wary of predispositions and cognitive biases :)

  • "How often do you demo the work done in one increment and iteration to the VIP" > One time. There is 200 VIP. We met 100 at the same time once. Other times, we met only 3 VIP two times in 5 months and it was not to brainstorm features... – Mik378 Mar 23 '18 at 8:29
  • "Why is it that 5 months have passed and the PO is allowed to make these decisions if he is so wrong" > Because there's no such frequent interaction with customers so quiproquo and imagination happens. – Mik378 Mar 23 '18 at 8:38
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I would try to use the instruments Scrum provides out of the box: Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective.

How Sprint Review can help:

Since VIP People are the stakeholders of the software you develop, they should participate in Iteration Demo. Having those people on Demo you can ask them for the immediate feedback on whether the consider the delivered feature valuable or assess the value in some scale. You also can give them a view on which features in a backlog currently and which they think are the best candidates to include in the next release.

How Sprint Retrospective can help:

You can operate with the numbers. Gather the statistics of the story points or other measure of the effort you use in your team for the tasks which deliver the value for "Secretariat-oriented features" and for "VIP-oriented features". Each iteration ask your Product Owner to justify the values.

I would also open the question against the stakeholders to consider splitting the team into two sub-teams which would have each its own Product Owner. As the justification I would provide the fact that tending to deliver "Secretariat-oriented" code and ignoring "VIP-oriented" code makes the latter gain the technical debt which makes the delivery more expensive with the time.

  • The Scrum Guide No such events. Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective. – Alan Larimer Mar 23 '18 at 15:11
  • Whether there is a difference in meaning between say Iteration and Sprint or you'd like to say that it is better to use the "official terms"? – Alexey R. Mar 23 '18 at 15:34
  • Sprint versus iteration is an important basis for other differences in terminology. More importantly, "demo" misses many of the important aspects of the Review event. – Alan Larimer Mar 23 '18 at 16:25
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The right customers are the customers who are going to buy your products at the price you set for them. Making a research on the right potential customers to target in a market is a part of marketing. In the old days, companies were making phone call surveys to ask questions to a list of people taking them in the phone book or buying a list. Larger than a customer survey is the business plan. You use a business plan to get the financing from a bank for example. All of that must be done at the beginning of the process: establishing your "niche" (a smaller part) of the market and assuring the financing. Project management arrives when you have to deliver the products to the client and the project management tools are a support to help you do that efficiently: at the lowest cost possible respecting your deadlines. If you don't have a marketing survey and a business plan, it is more difficult to convince a product owner that he or she is targeting the wrong market, the wrong "niche" of the market. Many entrepreneurs avoid costly market surveys listening to their "gut feeling". In that case too it is difficult to make change the mind of a product owner. Many successes a du to luck: the right product at the right timing. But you can get a promotion in your company if you are able to do a market survey in a quick and efficient way. The losses or profit along the months following the launch of the product will show who was right and who was wrong. Accounting is the tool to use at that moment.

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