When I explored the different product ownership models, I gently sidestepped the questions of how do you define and delineate your products? and What do you do when you need multiple teams working on the same product?
Those are important questions to answer.
They are also difficult questions to answer, which is probably why I didn’t address them at the time.
This week, I’m starting to fill in those gaps by exploring how you might go about defining your product for the purposes of figuring out what teams and product people should work on it. The main thing I found out in my early explorations? There is no one right answer.
But there are a lot of thoughts on how you can try to do this. Read on to find out more about some of those perspectives.
How do you identify your product
A recent conversation on the Agile Iowa slack group inspired the post for this week. The question basically came down to how do you identify your product for the purposes of which team will own it and who the product owner should be. There is no right answer.
Marty Cagan points out that it’s fairly easy to define product in the consumer packaged goods industry. “You can hold the bar of soap or the razor in your hand. However, in the Internet world, when we refer to ‘product’ it is much less clear. First of all, most of the time we’re not even referring to a physical item but rather to software. Second, most of the time the software isn’t even installed on your computer but rather it’s running on a some remote server, or even more abstract, it’s running ‘in the cloud.’
Add to this the fact that for most Internet businesses, the site itself is so big that we break it up artificially into many smaller “products.” Big Internet companies break their site up into many (typically dozens) of smaller “products” even though this is primarily a construct to suit our internal organizational needs and not something visible to the user.”
In this post, Marty talks about what he really means when he refers to “product.” – whether the granularity is the entire site or just one area.
What is a product?
“An organization cannot identify appropriate product owners, teams and roles without first knowing what its products are. And if there is to be one product backlog per product, we need to know what our products are before creating a product backlog for each.”
Mike Cohn defines a product as something (physical or not) that is created through a process and that provides benefits to a market. He then proceeds to provide some examples to help you apply that definition to your own situation.
Define your product with this simple exercise
“Whether you’re a lean startup or a mature business, having a clearly articulated product vision, which includes your target customer, problem / solution, and why you’re different, is key to success.”
Aaron Severs shared a framework he often uses when working with clients to develop a product vision. Even though it’s intended to help you craft a product vision, it has the added benefit of defining your product.
What is a product
“Many people have tried to define what a product is. Most of the time the debate centers on whether it includes service as well as a tangible object, what it means on the internet or if it needs to have a defined customer experience. As Gartner says, it is hard to come up with a pithy, all-inclusive sentence that defines all there is around a product and all the different variations of what it encompasses.”
Phillip Black references a variety of sources to explore how to define a product and what it means for product management.