Jeroen Kraak

We are pulling the plug


Interesting day

Thursday morning, three weeks ago. “We are pulling the plug! This can’t go on like this. We are burning through money in those much-lauded agile sprints, but aren’t making any progress,” snorts the CEO, when I asked how the project was coming along. I will spare the reader the rest of what he said, though suffice it to say these words certainly reflected the mental state of this founder-director. After some more questions, I came to fully understand the emotions at play. My advice was to freeze everything temporarily, but not to pull the plug. We first need to understand what's going on.

That same day, four hours later. “No, we haven’t started yet. Though I want to, but right now we can’t free anyone up to leave the project and I do not want a big investment if we are not sure that we have the right person in charge of the project.” Another CEO, another case, another reason, but the same cause. Interesting day.

Why you need a really good PO

And what was the problem? Both projects lacked a good PO. A what? A pee-oh, a Product Owner. According to the Agile Scrum philosophy, that the person responsible for maximising the product value and the value of the development team. Together with the development team and the Scrum Master, the Product Owner forms the project team the builds the digital product in agile sprints.

In plain English: the PO is responsible ON BEHALF OF the customer for building the product, for example a website. That PO this part of the team, but not a developer nor a designer. Her or she knows the reason for the project and decides what will be built when. The development team then decides how the building is to take place.

An excellent PO exceeds all expectations

Challenging role and one of crucial importance for the success of the project development. A bad PO is a guarantee for failure. A PO delivers a good result and has a well-oiled team. An excellent PO exceeds all expectations! He or she is able to make a development team surpass themselves, creates an amazing user experience and a 10+ digital value creation for the customer. The PO understand the business case from a holistic perspective, is very at home with digital products and has the full support of the management board. Always with open and transparent lines of communication to all stakeholders and full of passion for the people in the development team. The latter is super important. Nowadays, development teams are more than mixed squads of techies, creatives, scientists, UXers, financials, business engineers, etc. Linking up those different people in a content team of strong individuals is an art in itself.

We have seen all possible types of POs come and go. And the conclusion is all the same: a great PO exceeds all expectations. Unfortunately, we sometimes have projects which, following a great start in our Connext Lab with a Design Sprint, falter in their development due to the lack of a great PO. Then it’s impossible to extract the full impact of your innovation.

Just obtaining your PO certificate is not enough

I understand. Not every organisation has a PO like that walking around. A senior person from the organisation is often appointed as PO. This person often begins with the best of intentions and gets quite far but has other things to do and therefore lacks the required focus. You also sometimes have juniors being appointed as they can be missed at the core of the organisation and serving as PO really is a time-consuming task. Not the best choice, because juniors lack experience and seniority. Just obtaining your PO certificate is not enough. Sometimes, they just decide to make the Senior Developer or Scrum Master the PO. Not a good idea! The PO always represents the interest of the customer. That interest is sometimes diametrically opposed to the development team’s interest.

That can and must be different. At Connext Lab, everything revolves around digital innovation with the impact. That goes beyond Design Sprints. It’s about the amazing user experience and a 10+ digital value creation for the customer mentioned earlier. It’s about the very best execution and implementation. It’s about excellent POs. That’s Next PO.

An elite team of PO's

In the past few weeks, Jochem Nuij has gathered a team of the very best POs with wide experience in a number of industries. Together they are Next PO. An elite team of POs that truly surpasses expectations. They have only just started and we are already seeing the amazing results.

We return for a moment to the two CEOs from the beginning. The first of them literally said: “We should have done this much sooner.” This was after the first two weeks of Next PO. The project was restarted and now surpasses all expectations. The second CEO has since sounded the starting shot with a Next PO Product Owner in charge. She is doing a great job and expects to go live within two months with the first version of a new corporate website. Excellent PO really make the difference.

More blogs