I thought I’d take a look at the variety of ways that you can learn about what it takes to be a product person, specifically ways to learn about product ownership.
I’ll admit right now that a couple of the resources I point out are mine, but I also mention other places that you can go for information.
The suggestions include the usual suspects, but also some unique avenues for picking up the knowledge you need to practice effective product ownership.
After you peruse the list, I encourage you to leave your thoughts on how you learned about product ownership in the comments.
The nature of this topic seems to lend itself to suggesting specific courses, books or other resources. I am partial to my own, which I do derive some benefit from their mention. The books are all affiliate links with Amazon. Other than that I do not have any affiliate arrangements with the other items.
Regardless of what else you do, you must absolutely watch the video Agile Product Ownership in A Nutshell. The good news is that it’s free and it’s only 15 minutes long. The bad news… there is none. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it.
Learn Product Ownership By Doing It…
A common way to learn product ownership is to start doing it. This certainly isn’t the easiest route to take, but it seems like several people do it. In fact part of the aim of this newsletter is to suggest ways to supplement the experience of just doing it.
That said, there is certainly some value you can get by learning on the job. Pete Cohen and Chris Bignoux discussed Chris’ experience becoming a product owner and learning about product ownership on the job.
…Or by Helping Others Learn It
In order to make sure you truly know something and not just the name of something, you may want to try the Feynman Technique for learning things. The gist of the technique is in order to learn something teach it to someone else who doesn’t know anything about the topic.
They Wrote the Book On…
If you decide to try the Feynman Technique, you’ll want some reference materials. Here’s a list of books you’ll find handy. I didn’t necessarily include books explicitly about Product Owner on the list, rather those books that I found helpful on various aspects of product ownership.
Certification: CSPO, PSPO, E-I-E-I-O
Ask most people in the Scrum community what you should do to learn about being a product owner, and they will most likely suggest that the only true course is to get a certification! The good news is you have your choice. The two most recognizable are the Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) from the Scrum Alliance and the Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO) from Scrum.org.
The bad news is that the certifications do not indicate if you’re any good at product ownership. The CSPO is tied to taking a two day class and passing a test, so what it really certifies is that you took a class passed the test. The PSPO doesn’t even require you to take a class. It’s possible to test out for both the PSPO I and PSPO II by taking a test for each. So this one certifies that you understand the concepts behind product ownership, but again, does not certify how good you are at.
In both cases, the value is not in the certifications themselves, it’s in what you learned while taking the class, or preparing to take the exam. As long as you remember why you’re getting the certification and are comfortable with this route, you should be ok. I’d personally recommend that if you are going to take either of these classes, take it from Jeff Patton. He’ll cover more than the Scrum basics, and go into meaningful product development related stuff.
Virtually what you need to know
If you don’t want to attend an in person class, or certifications aren’t that important to you, there are a couple of online courses I’d recommend.
The Product Management course from Product Institute provides great coverage of product management. Product Ownership is a subset of product management, so you take this class and you’re going to find out what you need to know to improve your effectiveness. It’s roughly the same price as a CSPO class, but you get access to 10 weeks worth of videos, posts, and templates, plus mentoring sessions and connections with other product people. Definitely a great deal. I
took am taking this class and have got loads of value out of it.
If you’re looking for ways to help build and maintain shared understanding with your team, I suggest you check out my Analysis Techniques for Product Owners video course. The classes describe the techniques that I find most helpful for understanding your stakeholders, your context, the problem you are trying to solve, and possible solutions.