• Nnenna

Product Ownership & Value Stream Maps

When you think of Product Owners, you think of product delivery using the Agile Scrum framework, which includes the facilitation of scrum ceremonies and the observation (depending on the maturity of the scrum team) of the daily stand-ups (the facilitation is for the scrum master). One of the joys of being a Product Owner is that you can decide on the capabilities a product must contain and refine the backlog to reflect a priority for the scrum team. The role greatly differs from that of an IT BA who must rely on consensus from the stakeholders, on what capabilities the product must comprise.

However, to whom much is given, much is expected. The last thing you want as a PO (who has creative autonomy), is to have no Return on Investment or low satisfaction/acceptance/adoption of your product from your consumers.

So, how do you ensure that you gain a Return on Investment on your product in less than 4 sprints?

Simple: Focus on identifying user/customer value, eliminating waste and reducing development cost; this is where Value Stream Maps come in.

What is a Value Stream Map (VSM)?

The Open Group describes a Value Stream Map as a way of providing valuable stakeholder context into why an organisation (Enterprise) needs a business capability- OK, that’s wordy!

It is simply a reflection of capabilities of a system/product, that would be valuable to its consumers, in other to get buy-in from stakeholders and acceptance from consumers. The key point is to focus on capabilities that would give the consumer VALUE. The below is an example of a VSM for XYZ Bank (I'll explain what it means in a future post).

Due to the benefits of creating products that give value, The Open Group recently included Value Stream Maps as one of the artifacts that should be produced in the Vision Phase, during the development of an Enterprise Architecture.

How does this apply to POs?

Say you plan to build a web application that will contain 10 capabilities. Each capability has been estimated by your scrum team to be 5 days (where the cost of your scrum team’s effort is £100 daily).

Spread out these 10 capabilities and ask yourself (or your customer, if possible), to pick out the capabilities that they need and are willing to pay for (no, they won’t pay for it, but asking them in this manner will make them more objective). I assure you, they may pick about 3 of the 10 capabilities.

The selected capabilities are what is called Value-Adding (VA), and these should be the focus on your delivery. Any capability that is not selected is called non Value-Adding (NVA), and are classed as Waste (according to Six-Sigma). Yes, there will be some capabilities that are allowable waste, due to inter-dependencies (such as a secure login capability). However, I doubt all 7 of the non-Value-Adding capabilities will be classed as allowable—and this is where you eliminate the waste to reduce productivity cost.

A final reason why a VSM is important to a PO, other than waste elimination, is value identification. Now that you are aware of the capabilities that your consumers desire, you can refine the backlog in a strategic way that would allow the scrum team to develop and release the most important, value-creating, capabilities first.


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