Agile Mumbai 2008

Programmers are from Mars, Product Owners are from Venus - Proposal  

Programmers are from Mars, Product Owners are from Venus: A Practical Guide to Working With Product Owners on Agile Projects

Product Owners have one of the most complex and difficult roles on a project, yet XP and Scrum include very few practices that support the Product Owner in their role. Over the last five years, we have investigated many projects around the world to identify how Product Owners succeed in this complex and difficult task - discovering not what people think should have happened, but what really happened and what actually worked! By the end of this talk you will have gained:
  • A realistic understanding of the complexity and difficulty of the Product Owner role.
  • An understanding of the key roles required on Product Owner team, both what they are and why they matter.
  • An introduction to the practices that enable Product Owners to sustainably drive Agile projects to successful completion.


This tutorial is aimed at anyone - but most specifically programmers, customers, analysts, testers and project managers - who wants to improve the effectiveness of the Product Owner within Scrum or the Customer within XP. Participants should have a background in Scrum or XP.

Content Outline

1 Introductions. This section provides the opportunity to "break the ice" and allow fellow attendees to "get to know" each other and the presenters. 15 mins
2 The Product Owner Game. This game allows participants to explore the issues faced by a product owner on an agile project in a dynamic, light-hearted and fun way. The roles (e.g. product owner and programmer) and elements (e.g. product owner/programmer interactions, story writing and planning etc) of an agile project are explored using a non-software related task.

This section of the tutorial closes with a 15 minute reflection on the tutorial participant's experiences of the product owner role during the game. Previous participants have identified that walking a mile in the product owner's shoes in this manner has provided a "mini-revelation" concerning the product owner issues they have encountered on their projects.

75 mins
3 Product Owner Community. An informal team or community forms around a product owner; this section will outline the nine key roles found within successful product owner communities. The roles discussed will range from those typically associated with the product owner community such as "end-user" or "acceptance tester" through to those less recognised but absolutely critical roles such as "political advisor" and "super-secretary".

This section of the tutorial combines a lecture format with small group break-out sessions that will encourage reflective discussion of how these roles relate to attendees current and/or previous project experiences.

45 mins


Product Owner Practices. This section outlines a number of practices to support agile product owners, including:
  • Programmer On-Site
  • Product Owner's Apprentice
  • Product Owner Counselor
  • Product Owner Pairing
  • Road show
  • Programmer Holiday
  • Look Before You Leap
  • Three-month Calibration

Once again, this section of the tutorial combines a lecture format with small group break out sessions that encourage reflective discussion of how these practices might be applied on attendees' current projects.

30 mins
5 Next Steps. This section of the tutorial provides an opportunity for attendees to reflect on what they can implement on their current project when they return from the conference - that is, what they can do tomorrow to empower their product owner. 15 mins

Angela Martin, Martin IT Consulting Limited

Angela provides agile software development consultancy, training and coaching to teams and organizations. She specializes in "building the right thing" and works closely with organizational stakeholders, end-users, business analysts and software developers to bring agility into this space.

She has over thirteen years of software development experience and has been applying agile techniques since 2003. Angela also regularly presents at a number of well-known conferences, including Agile 200x, XP200x, XP Day 200x and OOPSLA 200x and teaches the Agile Methods course within the Software Engineering Programme at Oxford University. She has just completed serving a two-year term on the Agile Alliance Board of Directors.


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