What's the value of a product owner on an outsourced team? | Forte Group

How can outsourced product owners help scale your product?

How to utilize an outsourced product owner to best execute the product manager’s vision, ensuring software delivers true value to your users

A product owner’s job is — perhaps paradoxically not as much about owning the product (or solution) as it is in owning the problem. 

Yes, building a product as the solution to a problem is the ultimate deliverable. But too often, product owners and product managers overly focus on the solution, which can detract from the end goal of solving a user’s problem through software.

Successful product managers adopt a laser focus on solving users’ problems as the central tenant of managing the product. Suppose a product manager can understand and clearly articulate a user’s perspective to a Scrum team. In that case, successful products are ultimately jointly owned by the product team — in conjunction with the designers, architects, and engineers that build them.

Learn how product management can drive the effectiveness of your team

In our 21 years working with a variety of organizations, the most successful projects pair a client-side product manager with one or more Forte product owner(s). This partnership ensures a more effective and efficient translation of the product manager’s epic-level definition of value into a well-formed backlog by the product owner. The collaboration exists so that your software isn’t just “built the right way,” but also results in tangible value to your customers through delivered software. 

 

Ultimately, the benefit of an outsourced product owner is to assure that your software is not only delivered predictably and with high quality, but also realizes the value to end-users that the product manager envisioned.

3 benefits of an outsourced Product Owner on your team

That’s a high-level picture of how a product owner can add value to your software delivery partnership. Below, we’ve outlined a common three-step scenario where a PO can add value and clarity to a scaled product team.

1. The success paradox: The faster your product grows, the harder it is to maintain a high-value backlog 

Successful products nail product-market fit. These are products whose customers “just can’t live without” your software. This level of product advocacy doesn’t happen by accident. A solid product team has the experience, capacity, and tools to uncover, define, and prioritize value gaps. A value gap is the delta between your product’s existing utility versus its potential utility at a set point in the future. 

Read also: Metrics that matter: how you should be measuring agile

Organizations often look to outsourced development teams for help when they need to ramp up development capacity to meet demand. For organizations in this scaling stage, it’s vital to ramp up your product management capacity in concert.

Exponential growth is a good thing, but you’ll need to pivot your product strategy to maximize growth during this crucial phase of the product life-cycle. During this “hockey-stick growth” phase, a product manager’s role becomes even more critical to maintaining stability. 

This picture represents software development lifecycle and its phases. As the product grows and approaches “the chasm”, an outsourced PO can help a PM maintain release stability by identifying existing value and yet-to-be-realized value.

As a product grows, the demands on a product manager can become overwhelming. Product managers suddenly have more customers, users, internal stakeholders, and features to prioritize and build. Add in concerns about functionality with increased load — on top of core product deliverables. Then, there’s marketing and sales support. 

These added responsibilities can weigh on a product manager or product team, causing them to divert resources. In growth stages, product managers are forced to decide between tactical (maintaining a quality backlog) and strategic (managing growth). What often happens is product managers are compelled to focus on new growth-related responsibilities, and what suffers is the fundamental building block of high-value software: maintaining a quality backlog. When organizations in the “hockey stick” phase bolster their engineering capacity without a commensurate increase in product management capacity, they find that their backlog capacity is stretched razor-thin.

Sometimes the situation is reversed, where the product manager maintains a focus on backlog capacity and underperforms on the critical need to manage growth caused by the product’s success. Either way, she’s simply stretched too thin.

But, there’s a solution: Enter the outsourced product owner.

Are you empowering your product managers to their full potential?

Get in touch with John for a product management analysis, or to better understand how Forte can attach to your product team to empower them for more effective growth.

2. The dynamic duo: Pair your product manager with a product owner to scale faster

Now that we’ve outlined some pitfalls that can occur during accelerated growth phases, let’s talk about how an outsourced product owner can help uncover and define value to scale more efficiently.

On the left you have a messy board of ideas with the goal of achieving the product’s success. Working together, a PM and a PO are an ideal pair to organize priorities and identify value.

Let’s assume you’re the CTO at ABC company for this scenario. Consider Jane, your product manager. Jane knows your market inside and out. She has great working relationships with your engineers, designers, and other stakeholders. Jane empowers your sales and marketing team and maintains a pulse on the market by staying in tune with customers, competitors, and users. 

But with her product’s success, she’s stretched thin. Now Jane has another Scrum team to help manage growth, but they don’t have experience on the project. Now what? 

We’ve partnered with many organizations facing similar scenarios. What follows is how we’ve found success in helping product managers like Jane scale successfully and how we’ve approached similar challenges.

Given the importance of the product backlog in representing the yet-to-be-realized value, a product owner and product manager must be in lock-step alignment with frequent communication.

Read also: How to create a product vision that focuses on the customer

How does an outsourced Product Owner integrate into your team?

In this scenario, let’s assume Jane begins working with a Forte product owner — let’s call him Max. Max is the single point of contact who speaks Jane’s language. He is an agile expert trained specifically for rapid onboarding (ideally employing Forte’s three-week Discovery Sprint at the outset of the project). Jane owns the product vision, often writes epics, and owns the product roadmap. Max’s primary goal is to execute Jane’s vision. Max owns the backlog to deliver true end-user value as part of the outsourced Forte product team. 

With the help of a product owner managing your product team arm, you, Jane, and your colleagues at ABC Company are now empowered to focus on the bigger strategic picture. Max helps you define the product strategy and readjust it throughout the partnership. 

Here are several specific benefits of leveraging outsourced product owners to assure that value-in-the-backlog works hand-in-hand with both your product managers and the agile delivery teams: 

  • Rapid ramp:  for example, our goal at the outset of a project can be to clearly set expectations — to complete the Discovery Sprint within 30 days, and have a complete scrum team operating at full velocity in 90 days
  • More efficient translation of user problems into requirements
  • Assure that velocity of delivery is focused on software delivery value
  • Product owners act as a force multiplier to accelerate the realization of the product manager’s vision
  • Product owners and delivery team bring clarity to the project’s infrastructure 

As the result of offloading backlog management to your outsourced product team, a tight linkage begins to materialize between ABC Company’s definition of value and its software delivery.

3. Not one-size-fits-all: Successful outsourced product manager partnerships “meet you where you are”

When we work with clients in similar scenarios to those described above, our product owners begin with a philosophy of “meeting organizations where they are.” Our product owners attach to your existing processes while bringing a comprehensive Product Management Toolkit to improve your processes while achieving sprint goals. 

Instead of offering a prescriptive set of best practices for you to execute on your own, Forte’s Product Management Toolkit is a comprehensive and flexible set of tools for getting the job done right. We work with you to understand your business goals and existing processes to uncover the high-value needs of target user personas. Our product owners are hand-picked for their knowledge of agile, communication, and teamwork skills in working with clients and have the work ethic to get the job done. 

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A system from 25+ years of product management success and mistakes to discover, define and deliver must-have value to target personas

John Miniati

by John Miniati

As Director of Product Management, John defines a shared vision that is compelling, unambiguous, and measurable — and he sets our product teams up for success to realize this vision. He abides by the principle that with software, everything is possible. John strives to bring out the potential in individuals and teams so that the possible becomes real and the reality becomes better. He observes what individuals do and asks questions that challenge them to learn and deliver the highest-quality outcomes for the team and customers.

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