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I'm trying to understand better how scrum teams fit into actual organizations.

I understand that Scrum is only concerned with the structure of the scrum team - I'm just looking for some examples here as to who a project owner of a scrum team might actually report to. A director of engineering? Someone on the product side? Is there any convention here? I've heard the phrase "manager" thrown vaguely around with reference to scrum, does this refer to the person that the PO reports to? Thanks!

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    BTW, the terms "product owner" and "project owner" are not synonymous. A project is something you do (that typically results in a new or improved product), a product is something you use (or create for others to use). – Foo Bar Mar 2 at 15:30
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    Aphorism #2: A good project will always end; a good product often won't. – Foo Bar Mar 2 at 15:38
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The Product Owner is the person who is directly accountable to business stakeholders for the product and ideally is herself a senior business stakeholder or a nominated representative of a department or management team. It's often the case that they are also a business unit manager, perhaps reporting to a sales, marketing or operations director. Typically, being a product owner will not be the PO's main or only responsibility, although in recent years there has been a trend of appointing full-time Product Owners, reporting up to a product manager, director or "change" team.

The PO is not and should not be a project manager because their focus should be on business needs and never on management of a project team.

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  • Or himself..... – spikey_richie Mar 3 at 10:53
  • or themselves ? – Pac0 Mar 3 at 12:41
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The product owner reports to stakeholders.

The scrum.org page about product owners describes how this person is the interface between the scrum team and the rest of the world. Scrum doesn't mention managers, project leads, etc. - those are all subsumed under the term "stakeholder". There can be many stakeholders, but only one product owner.

In practice, I've seen two variants:

  • The product owner coming from the domain (no real IT background, definitely not a developer, and not part of the IT org structure) who through constant exposure to the team, gets ever deeper into the matter at hand, and at the end has some quite formidable know-how about the application and the application process.

    In my cases, the person they reported to were just their vertical management with no real interest or tie to the software being developed. The stakeholders (i.e., the source of money) were people further up the management line with a general interest in things running smoothly (thinking more in boxes than details), with sporadic contacts.

  • The "proxy PO", or "IT PO", where a company would pull in some consultant with IT background and scrum experience, who would manage the backlog (often including handling budget and time aspects when embedded in a more classical organization). They were mostly like a classical project lead.

Note that frameworks like SaFE or LESS can give you a lot of further ideas about this (how it should be, instead of how it often is in practice).

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In many large organizations that follow Scrum, product owners are very much part of the engineering department rather than the product department. They may be called "product owners" but it might be more accurate to describe them as "product backlog owners" or "product backlog keepers". They ultimately roll-up under the CIO's organization and may report to an engineering manager or VP/director of engineering, etc. depending on the size of the organization.

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    Do you have some references or examples showing this? Becuase while I can believe many organizations are doing Scrum or other agile techniques that wrongly, I still find it surprising. At least in XP, "customer" or product owner is very clearly a non-engineering role. – cjs Mar 2 at 4:06
  • I've consulted for many such orgs: transnational auto-majors, banks & other financial services, apparel majors, etc. These orgs have global and regional CIOs but all Scrum roles invariably roll-up under some or the other CIO. Team structures aren't usually public info, so they aren't referenceable. – ottodidakt Mar 2 at 8:16
  • Here's one reference. It doesn't talk about reporting but the product owner duties it describes may help explain why product owners are often part of engineering or delivery teams while product managers are part of the product or business org. atlassian.com/agile/product-management/product-manager – ottodidakt Mar 2 at 8:43
  • The Atlassian example only applies to software developing companies that sell the product that the software developers are creating. I.e. there are mainly external users of the product. In that case, the role of the product manager can get too big, but basically what Sherif describes is splitting the role into 2 people. If you only have internal stakeholders that you can speak with directly and discuss their needs and priorities, then the role is much more concrete and doesn't need to be split. – Erwin Bolwidt Mar 2 at 13:07
  • That split between "product manager" and "product owner" sounds to me just as bad an idea as a split between "technical managers" and "developers," and a throwback to non-agile workplaces. One of the things agile promotes is having the people doing the actual work (such as developing and prioritizing stories) understand the larger context in which they work, rather than being told what to do by managers who supposedly understand the larger context but almost invariably do not understand the details of the work. – cjs Mar 2 at 13:24
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There is no direct answer for this question as per scrum methodology.

It depends on how many products your organization building.

Most of the first time readers on Agile Scrum website can think/imagine building a small and simple product with a team of 9 and a product owner who reports to stakeholders/CEO

In reality its completely different

I work in largest U.S bank with thousands of projects running inside, imagine how many product owners we have here? whom they are reporting? do they all report to CEO then he will die, if they all report to one stake holder its impossible.

When we have more than 1000 products(leads product owners) - what happens who can make sure all these POs are in right direction?

That is the reason enterprises choose this model

Managing Directors -> then Directors -> Then Senior Vice Presidents -> Then Vice Presidents ->

Then Asst Vice President or product owners - exactly will do what Agile methodology describes about product owners will have full control on their product, above management won't question him on his own decisions about product

Imagine a situation, if this crazy product owner left organization in between before product delivered, how to handle?(large banks have thousand of projects and many PO's and any one can resign any time or something unexpected happen any day)

How to recruit new product owner , Is the newly recruited product owner will have all caliber to deliver what ever road map created by previous Product Owner? it will take some time at least 2-3 months for new person to be fully operational.

Ideally in real Enterprise level its not easy to answer to various stake holders that our great product owner left that is why my project is delayed.

This is where most of the organizations started new role "Product Managers" or "Chief Product Owner" even this is not part of scrum.

So for most of the enterprises, scrum starts only after VP level.

Product Manager will be taking decisions and acting as key stake holder for a larger product which is split and will be dealing multiple product owners in large products - mostly we can find such products in banks ( I am not sure about other organizations)

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By analogy, if we think of a scrum team as a team responsible for making a movie, then the Product Owner (PO) is like the 'Producer / Finance provider' for the movie.

Product Owner (PO) usually reports to the person or the team within the organization who is responsible for releasing the budget needed for developing the solution.

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In my experience, the Product Owner role represents the customer but it's rarely actually part of that organization. Instead, the PO is part of the [Scrum] team or teams.

The Product Owner is, indeed, role-playing. If you will, "the PO's role is to proxy The Customer™ to the team." The PO is indeed a member of the team or teams, and therefore does understand the technicalities of the work that is being done – which the actual Customer undoubtedly would not. But the PO proxies and champions an outsider's point-of-view: that of the ultimate stakeholder, who does not build software for a living.

"If the PO says it," therefore, then (IMHO) "The Customer™ Is Always Right."

However – that's really being too simplistic. The PO has the sometimes very difficult task of expressing (and sometimes, brokering) "customer requirements and perspectives" to the team, "in a to-the-team actionable way."

The PO usually has a liaison within the actual [internal] customer group or the [external] customer-facing team, who "really does" have a point-of-view that is not that of the project. These two individuals usually have a very close working relationship.

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As per the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), a Product Owner reports to a Product Manager.

Essentially, the PM is the person who interacts directly with Business, creates the Product Roadmap and drives the PI level objectives. However, the PO interacts directly with only the PM, works directly with the Scrum Teams, and drives sprint level objectives. These are the main differences. If you are interested, you can also check out my additional thoughts on this topic.

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