Nov 20th, 2019

Is Product Owner accountable for Return on Investment (ROI)

Naveen Kumar Singh
Naveen Kumar Singh

Naveen is a professional agile coach and has been working independently for a long time in the Asia... Read more

We often have this question- Is the Product Owner accountable for Return on Investment (ROI)? Well, YES, The Product Owner is accountable for ROI. The most frequent question I get whenever I am teaching, mentoring or coaching product owners is – how do I calculate ROI when I don’t even know the cost of a sprint?

As a product owner, if you do not know the investment for each sprint, and you are expecting profit/return, how do you prioritize backlog and engage stakeholders? This is even more difficult in the project environment with shared team members. Thus, as an initial step, think of building a team(s) around the product and not project to have better control over ROI.

I feel elated when Product Owners speak about numbers. For example,

  1. We grew at 24% when the industry was growing only at 7%
  2. Our bottom line also grew at 14%. However, we know what our customers like and we are making progress in the right direction.

Also, I would be extremely delighted when Product Owners do not talk about-

  1. What is the user story?
  2. The difference between stories and epics?
  3. How to write better user stories?

I wouldn’t say it is bad to talk about user stories and format of user stories, however, I feel this is not significant as long as you are able to articulate precisely the next step you want in your product and why would you want it.


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List Of Things I Have Seen Good Product Owners Do

  • 1They talk about product vision and work with the team to build alignment. Good vision statement and continuous focus help in setting boundaries for the self-organized team to experiment and stay focused.
  • 2They know the cost of each sprint and the expected outcome (either in terms of business value or customer satisfaction) that helps in setting priorities and dealing with challenging stakeholders. Also, they keep a close tab on the market trends and how are the products performing in the market.
  • 3They are aware of their responsibilities and cost optimization to lower bottom lines such as focusing on automation, reducing technical and design debt. They are aware that a good technical solution will reduce the total cost of ownership.
  • 4They are conscious of various ways to engage stakeholders and manage their expectations. Also, they have precise knowledge about whom to invite in sprint review, involve them in setting priorities and connect them to the team to shorten the communication gap.
  • 5Meanwhile, they exactly know what to release in the market/customer/business and when. They likewise understand that while each sprint work is important and are releasable, there is no compulsion to release unless it is plausible or at the right time.
  • 6They are better storytellers than story writers. They as well know how to communicate requirement in the form of stories that helps the team to have a progressive connect with customer/business needs.
  • 7This is what I teach and coach the product owners on. Thank you for reading. If you are a product owner or are coaching product owners then feel free to connect with me over mail, LinkedIn or WhatsApp. We can learn from each other, as well have some meaningful and interesting conversations.

Naveen Kumar Singh

Naveen is a professional agile coach and has been working independently for a long time in the Asia Pacific. He works with the software development team and product team to develop awesome products based on empirical processes.

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