Distributed Product Owner Team for an Agile Medical Development

We are developing medical imaging and workflow software in an agile way with development teams distributed to several countries. One of the major challenges is how to set up and communicate within the Product Owner team. There we have to deal with the distribution, e.g., have the Product Owner either onsite with her peers or with her Scrum team, travelling, or with proxy. We need people who are good in two different fields of knowledge: medical and software development. As a third issues, the environment of the customers may be different in different countries.

We have ramped up local Product Owners in different countries, have found local collaboration customers, and have developed a set of communication channels and workshops how to synchronize Product Owners in the team, share a common vision and backlog with their Scrum teams, and collaborate with customers locally and globally.

 
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Outline/structure of the Session

I have built up the presentation as a pyramid:

  • It's base is the background, what our product is about and which situation we came from
  • Then I tell you how we have grown a distributed PO team finding the right people with the right balalnce of knowledge and skills
  • How they communicate in the team and with the development teams,
  • including the use of communication and collaboration tooling (will be added in new slide set)
  • And on top of that the manyfold ways how they do customer collaboration

Learning Outcome

Learn how to find people with the right knowledge and skills

Learn how to set up the Product Owner team internal communication

Learn how to use effectively communication and collaboration tooling between Product Owner Team and Scrum Teams

Get to know many ways how to involve customers

Target Audience

Product Owners, managers, agile coaches, members of agile transition teams

Requirements

Room with data projector and seats, tables nice but not required

no needs for the participants to prepare anything.

schedule Submitted 3 years ago

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comment Comment on this Proposal
  • Sudipta Lahiri
    By Sudipta Lahiri  ~  3 years ago
    reply Reply

    Hi Andrea,

     

    I liked the experience that you have shared... just a couple of observations:

    a) Can you give some data - how many local product owners were working with a module product owner? Was this a hierarchical relationship or a matrix relationship? 

    b) What was the scope of your Daily Sync meetings vs the Weekly Sync meeting? Were you sharing some system or template to log and track the same?

    c) Any particular reason that you did not use Video Conferencing? I suspect that many teams may not have so much travel budgets.

    d) In the Customer Collaboration part of your slide deck, I couldn't take a clear learning out of this part. Of course, a product owners would need to meet customers, attend conferences, etc. That is the source of information for the Product Owner. Not sure if the audience will learn something new from this part of the presenation. Once again, some data would help. 

     

    I hope this feedback helps... :-)

     

    Regards

    Sudipta.

     

    • Rahul Sawhney
      By Rahul Sawhney  ~  3 years ago
      reply Reply

      Hi Andrea,

      Thanks for submitting the proposal!

      I have similar question as Sudipta about travel. Given that there are many collaboration tools available today, I am wondering how the cost for frequent travel (every four weeks) for remote product owners was justified. I am not saying that traveling is a bad thing, I am just curious  about the costs of this solution, its practicality and the returns it has paid. Also curios if you have considered and used remote collaboration tools and if they helped you in addressing cost and other issues.

      Thanks,

      Rahul

       

      • Andrea Heck
        By Andrea Heck  ~  3 years ago
        reply Reply

        Hi Rahul,

        thank you for your valuable feedback.

        Yes, I definitely need to add some page about the tools we are using, and for which meetings and how often we do by web based conferencing tools. We have an internal installation of Microsoft NetMeeting and use it with sharing slides, video, audio, working together on texts, remote debugging, remote common review of documents etc. We also have Communities of Practice for all roles cross-site, maybe I should elaborate on this also?

        We have the whole backlog shared in TFS and have a lot of transparency on the progress for the teams as well as for the Product Owner team.

        About travel: We have teams in several different countries. Especially in the first year it is very important that the Product Owner travels often, but this depends of course also on the distance, the experience the PO has with the culture in the country and the team, and the trust that has been built up. Building trust without a time spent together is not easy. It will pay off after a time. - I would not say that the PO has to travel all the time to the team, but especially in the phase where the local PO is trained and starts to acts as such, there is also close collaboration needed with the module PO, so both have to travel. Of course, also they have a lot of virtual meetings by web conferencing additionally.

        Best Regards

        Andrea

         

        • Rahul Sawhney
          By Rahul Sawhney  ~  3 years ago
          reply Reply

          Hi Andrea,

          yes that would support the proposal.

          Thanks, Rahul

    • Andrea Heck
      By Andrea Heck  ~  3 years ago
      reply Reply

      Hi Sudipta,

       

      thank you for your valuable feedback. Regarding your questions:

      a) this is between one local PO and 5 local POs, depending on the module. The relation is hierachical, so the module PO finally decides on prioritzation and trade-off decisions, but the local POs with time and experience are able to decide much on their own.

      b) I can elaborate more on this. The weekly sync has a common meeting protocol that is distributed in the whole project organization. The other meetings are more informal, or reults are documented in the discussed product backlog items.

      c) Oh, we do. I just note that when I say "virtual meetings", not everybody will recognize this as web based video conferencing. Maybe I should add a page for taking about the setup we have for cross site meetings, as we are using them quite often?!

      d)  Can you please give examples what kind of data would you like to see here?

       

      Thnaks and regards

      Andrea

       

  • Srinath Chandrasekharan
    By Srinath Chandrasekharan  ~  3 years ago
    reply Reply

    Hi Andrea,

    I have gone through the deck at slide share. Some questions

    • The section "Customer Collaboration" is an achivement / end result of your experince . To me it looked more like the challenges you have faced and hence should come in the earlier sections . Let me know
    • I could not see some of the typical challenges in distributed Agile like time zone differences, cultural differences. If these were there, how did you over come them
    • While the focus is on PO role, wre there challenges with the Scrum delivery teams as well. 
    • Were these distributed ?
    • What were other challenges from a logistics perspective. You have mentioned travel. Were there others like cost of communication etc.
    • With so many teams, were there integration issues ?
    • Also, on a generic note, the session you have is slotted for 45 minutes and there are about 30 slides ? In my experience, about 25 slides would be ideal for such this duration. 

    Please let me know your thoughts

    Regards,

    Srinath

     

     

    • Andrea Heck
      By Andrea Heck  ~  3 years ago
      reply Reply

      Hi Srinath,

      thank you for your valuable feedback.

      The section "Customer Collaboration" is one of three sections where I talk about the experience of our Product Owner team. - But if this seems to you and Sudipta like something others will not learn from, I can shorten that and add a chapter where I focus more on the cross-site communication and cross cultural topics in general, as far as the communication between Product Owners and their teams is concerned.

      In previous talks in the first years of our agile transition, I have tried to present all topics and aspects in one talk, but I came to the opinion that it is much better to focus on a main topic, and not try to explain everything we have done, are doing and have learnt in one talk. Therefore, now my main focus is the product owner team and how it has been evolving over time.

      At ScanDev 2013 in Gothenburg/Sweden, I also had a 45 min slot for this talk and there was enough time for questions at the end. At XP2013 in Vienna, I had a 60 min time slot, and went into more discussion with the audience, and this also worked out fine. In this time frame also others contributed some experience and asked very detailed questions. - Therefore, i would say I am well prepared to make it fit into 45 min with Q&A, even if I do the topic adaptions as I have suggested above.

       

      Thanks and regards

      Andrea


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    There are, on a philosophical level, significant clashes between the agile paradigm and Quality Systems such as ISO 9000 or CMM/CMMi, this is already presented in the Agile Manifesto. Agile Development is based on what I would call post-modern paradigms when compared to the plan-driven and early iterative development methodologies which are based on a positivist paradigm.

    The underlying philosophical challenges cannot be easily mitigated. But a purist agile paradigm may tend to stress a positivist paradigm as well and this can be dangerous since then agile would not be agile any longer.

    While it may not be possible to completely remove the challenges between agile and quality systems, it is possible to learn to live with some tension between different paradigms. 

    There are some obvious areas of conflict, for examplethe Agile methodologies strongly discourages unnecessary documentation, and questions that it is possible to provide all requirements up-front. ISO 9000 on the other hand demands requirements up-front and documented evidence of almost anything, but such practical aspects can actually be mitigated with relative ease. Other aspects may demand much more effort. In particular the internal auditing process is problematic and other means of ensuring compliance may have to be considered.

    We have in my company systematically piloted a number of organisational changes in order to better support agile development. We have done this within the overall framework of our ISO 9000 system which is used a structure anda a gatekeeper. To do this we have used Action Research, which in it self is a kind of agile methodology, although of much older date than agile development.

    I will in my talk focus on the practical experiences we have had of building an organisational framework for agile development and while doing that suggesting a few means to mitigate the challenges mentioned initialy.

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    Capacity Planning for Dynamic Teams

    Sudipta Lahiri
    Sudipta Lahiri
    schedule 3 years ago
    Sold Out!
    20 mins
    Experience Report
    Intermediate

    Fixed price (and fixed scope) projects dominate the offshore industry. These projects have offshore/onsite teams. They often have large team size (over 100s of people in one team).

    Agile thinking uses team velocity/ throughput and uses that to project an end date (Kanban system) or how much scope can be accomplished in a given time duration (number of sprints in SCRUM). They assume a stable team. However, this is not applicable for projects. They experience resource and productivity ramp-up issues. Often, resources keep changing as new projects come in. Projects do not have past velocity or throughput data. Extrapolating historical data from other similar projects, though possible, is inaccurate for multiple reasons.

    This talk is based on our experience of working with such project teams. They want to adopt agile methods. We show how they can adopt the Kanban Method and yet do: A) Initial Capacity Planning B) Assess the impact of scope creep to the project end date.

    The session assumes a basic understanding of the Kanban method.