Self-Managing Agile Teams and Agile Release Trains are essential to success with SAFe®. This means there should be a significant change in the traditional management mindset. Instead of directly supervising work by assigning tasks and activities, managers lead by establishing a mission and vision. To facilitate this goal, SAFe® defines the role of the Business Owner as the key manager who guides the ART to successful outcomes.

Who are Business Owners?

Business Owners are key stakeholders and are primarily responsible for governance, fitness for use, and ROI for solutions the art is developing. Typically, a small group of four to six individual, Business Owners can be identified by considering these questions.

  • Who was ultimately responsible for business outcomes?
  • Who can steer this ART to develop the right solution?
  • Who can speak to the technical competence of the solution?
  • Who should participate in planning to help eliminate impediments and speak on behalf of the customer and the business?
  • Who can approve and defend a set of PI plans?

What do Business Owners do?

An effective Business Owner is active and involved, shouldering the responsibilities of SAFe® every day.

  • Business Owners play a crucial role in preparing for the PI Planning. They need to provide input to the backlog refinement activities.
  • Ensure that key art stakeholders including Product Management understand and are aligned with Business objectives.
  • Prepare the business context that typically includes milestones and significant external dependencies.
  • During PI planning business owners
    • Present the business context and make themselves available for questions from the teams
    • Play a primary role in the draft plan reviews, understanding the bigger picture, asking clarifying questions and ensuring plans aligned with the business context
    • Participate in the management review and problem solving meeting to review and adjust scope, resolve problems and make compromises where necessary.
    • Work with each Agile Teams to assign Business value to the Team PI Objectives and approve the ART’s Final PI plan.
  • After PI planning, Business Owners stay involved to ensure the success of the PI by actively participating in maintaining business and development alignment as priorities and scope inevitably change.
  • They attend system demos to view progress and provide feedback.
  • Address impediments and help drive investments in continuous improvement activities.
  • Contribute to the release-on-demand strategy to help teams release value at the right time.
  • Serve as a critical guardrail to ensure that allocated funding goes to the right things.
  • Participating in Release Management, and focusing on scope, quality, deployment options, release, and market considerations are other responsibilities of Business Owners.
  • Finally, at the end of the PI, during the Inspection & Adapt event, the Business Owners assess the actual value delivered by each team and participate in the Problem Solving workshop.

In a further complex environment where the enterprises operate with large solution SAFe® the Business Owners may have some added responsibilities like participating in Pre and Post-PI Planning for the Solution Train and assist in adjusting the ART’s PI plans as needed. They also participate in the Solution Demo and provide feedback regarding the Capabilities and subsystems being built by the ART.
When enterprises operate with LPM competency, the Business Owners might participate in Lean Portfolio Management, Product Management and System Architecture.

Business Owners could also be the Epic Owners to guide major enterprise initiatives. To summarize, Business Owners always play a key role in ART’s success. Their primary responsibility is to lead by establishing mission, vision and guiding the ART to the appropriate outcomes.

References: scaledagileframework.com and SAFe® Business Owner video

Author's Bio
Satyajit Gantayat

Satyajit Gantayat

Satyajit Gantayat is an Agile Coach and a SAFe Program Consultant with more than 20 years of experience in Agile Transformation, Agile & DevOps Implementation, Digital Transformation, Delivery Program Management, Automation, Cloud Migration, and Mobile App Development in Product as well as Service Organizations across domains like E-commerce, Banking & Financial Services, Health Care, Public Sector, and Consulting. As a continuous learner, Satyajit has certifications in Scaling Agile, Scrum Mastery, Agile Coaching, and Project Management.