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Of the 3 artifacts (product backlog, sprint backlog and increment), I am not too sure about the ownership of the Increment.

Can you point me to a resource where it clearly states who the owner is? I am tempeted to say that the whole scrum team is the owner but I thought to ask anyway.

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This is that type of response where if a equals b and b equals c, then a must equal c. The Scrum Guide says that the Product Owner is responsible and accountable for managing the Product Backlog. The backlog in turn is how the Product Owner manages the value, the goals and the mission of the product. They make sure it reflects the next best thing on which the development team must work so that the value is maximized, goals are met, and everyone is moving towards fulfilling the mission of the product.

The Product Owner is also the owner of (duh!) the Product. And the product increment is part of the Product. As the Scrum Guide mentions:

The Increment is the sum of all the Product Backlog items completed during a Sprint and the value of the increments of all previous Sprints.

At the end of a sprint, the increment must be "Done" and it's the Product Owner that decides if it can be released or not. Even though everyone works to build the increment, it's the Product Owner that has the last word about it being the right thing or not. No one in the Scrum team can release an increment if the Product Owner does not agree to do so.

Going back to a = b, b = c, then a = c, it's the Product Owner that owns the increment. The entire team is responsible for it and the work done to build it, but final accountability is with the Product Owner.

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  • "No one in the Scrum team can release an increment if the Product Owner does not agree to do so." There is not a single word in the Scrum Guide to support this. While the PO is involved in crafting the Definition of Done, the PO role is not a gatekeeper or the arbiter of "done."
    – Todd A. Jacobs
    Jan 27 at 22:38
  • @ToddA.Jacobs: I'm not saying the PO should be a gatekeeper. The ScrumGuide says the PO is accountable. Also, for the PO to succeed, the entire organization must respect their decisions. If for example, someone else on the team decides to release an increment that the PO thinks should wait a while, then they are not respecting the PO and their decision by releasing it.
    – Bogdan
    Jan 28 at 8:35
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Interesting question. The PO decides what the increment ought to be; the whole team is responsible for delivering it. Both of those things suggest a degree of ownership.

In the Scrum Guide the only mention of an owner of anything is the Product Owner. If the product increment is understood to be a version of a tangible thing (like some software) then it seems that the increment is "owned" by the PO. I expect the answer depends on what you think ownership entails. Legally speaking, IP ownership is defined by laws and contracts but in Scrum we're usually more interested in accountability and commitment: the whole team is supposed to have skin in the game.

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I agree with you: I think the entire Scrum Team is (that is Product Owner+Scrum Team+Developers, with the new 2020 denomination). In fact in the last November 2020 Scrum Guide we can read

The entire Scrum Team is accountable for creating a valuable, useful Increment every Sprint.

In previous years, as Scrum Master, I was doubtful about the matter, but when updating and preparing to 2020 PSM1 certification of these weeks, I found it clearer. Sometimes I'm a bit bored about some philosophical question...when i think that the best part of goals are result of the collaboration of all: we all win or lose together, but I know the importance they could have in some cases. Especially during a test!

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Think Collective Ownership of the Process, Not Ownership of the Product or Increments

The 2020 Scrum Guide explicitly states that the whole Scrum Team is accountable for creating the Increment. Extracted from the Scrum Team section of the guide:

The entire Scrum Team is accountable for creating a valuable, useful Increment every Sprint.

While each team member has specific accountabilities, the entire team must collaborate to plan, create, and deliver the Increment. However, the notion of Increment "ownership" is undefined by the Scrum Guide because it is to a large extent an ephemeral thing. Each Increment is simply folded into the evolving product as a stepping stone towards a Product Goal. The 2020 Scrum Guide describes the Increment thus:

Each Increment is additive to all prior Increments and thoroughly verified, ensuring that all Increments work together. In order to provide value, the Increment must be usable.

Legally, this is a contractual question. Pragmatically, this means that the owner of the Increment is essentially the entity that owns the product; this is usually the parent organization of the Scrum Team or the customer. While the Scrum Guide has a lot to say about who is accountable for what in terms of the product development process, it is silent on who owns the product because that's a business question outside of the framework.

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The role of the Product Owner is, if you will, "the Almighty Customer.™" (S)He represents the organization for which the product is being developed and is the authority for "what, not how," each unit of progress is. Product Owners also often serve as a liaison between the team and the eventual user community.

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  • 3
    This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. - From Review May 24 '20 at 9:10
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    @DannySchoemann ...? Isn't it a direct answer? The Question asks whom owns the increment. The increment is part of the product. The product is owned by the Product Owner. Thus, the PO owns the increment. That being said, while I think this Answer is correct, it doesn't seem to add anything that the existing Answers don't already.
    – Sarov
    May 26 '20 at 13:18
  • "Okay – I'll repeat myself" ... If the "Product Owner's" role were nothing more than this, then how, exactly, is this so-called "Owner" anything other than yet-another member of the team? Obviously, she is not. The "Product Owner" role is: "the arbiter of the Impedance Mismatch." Jan 26 at 23:37
  • The Product Owner has a number of accountabilities, but while the PO role is responsible for the Product Backlog artifact, the PO does not own the product itself.
    – Todd A. Jacobs
    Jan 27 at 22:40

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