3 Fears that Hold Product Owners Back

By: Nikki Dent

Being a successful Product Owner on a Scrum team is more than just showing up. In this role, you’ll be guiding the vision and the priorities for all development as well as making decisive decisions along the way about the scope, timeline, and budget of the software project. But as anyone who’s worked in software development for any length of time can tell you, projects always hit bumps in the road and to be the best Product Owner you can be means you’ll have to stay the course whenever tricky moments come up. We’ve found that there are three common fears that tend to trip up Product Owners and keep projects from reaching their full potential.

The Fear of Releasing Too Little

Woman Product Owner worrying at her desk with laptop

With Scrum, there will be times when the increment at the end of a sprint is only a very small feature—occasionally as small a just a working button. This often happens when the feature required a lot of less visible, but important, work behind the scenes to get just right. As your small increments start to add up, they shape into the product you’ve envisioned. Part of the methodology behind agile development is that once you have releasable software you put it out and see how it performs. Often Product Owners get nervous about releasing software that doesn’t fully meet their vision or thinking that they don’t have enough to release. This fear can hold you back.

 

There are times when you may, truly, have too little to release, but those times are very rare. As a general rule of thumb, if there is enough to get feedback on, then it is worth releasing. Waiting too long to release software will inhibit your ability to gather important user feedback, which, in turn, will diminish your ability to learn from users and improve your software. Holding on to releasable software could also lead you to continue development on features that don’t resonate with your users, effectively sinking resources into a feature that wasn’t worth it. In the long run, it’s better to release and gain feedback, even when it feels uncomfortable.

 

Another way to help assuage your fear of releasing too little is to set expectations appropriately with your users. Let them know that new releases will be coming out in small, testable pieces for feedback and not all at once in a large, polished release. This can help take the pressure off you to deliver a big update every time and no one will feel disappointed.

The Fear of Releasing the Wrong Thing

Similar to the fear of releasing too little, many Product Owners get hung up over worries about releasing the wrong thing. This fear is completely understandable. You probably have a lot riding on continuously releasing valuable features to your market . Luckily, Scrum has your back on this and ingrained in the process is the idea of failing fast. If you release increments for feedback, you’ll quickly know if your app is falling flat or if you’ve designed something that resonates with your users. If you find that your software isn’t connecting with users the way you had hoped, you’ll have plenty of real-world feedback to use to pivot your goals.

 

Think of it this way, the sooner you get negative feedback, the more room you have to course correct. In the end, you could turn your market feedback into a bigger victory than you could have hoped for with a big, blind release without user input.

Woman Product Owner sitting at her laptop looking at her watch

The Fear of Moving Too Slowly

As an iterative process, Scrum projects can sometimes feel like they’re moving slowly, but it’s important to trust the process. There will be sprints where many unexpected issues arise and the pace of development drops. When it feels like work has slowed, it can be tempting to take matters into your own hands. However, taking over and dictating development your way will only further derail the project. Every time you take over an aspect of development, you’re just ensuring that your team won’t be able to work without you in the future. Effectively, you’ll add yourself as a bottleneck to the process, limiting releases to the pace of your ongoing approval.

 

Another issue that can arise from the fear of moving too slowly is that you might start to push the dev team to work at an unsustainable pace. They might speed up to meet your current need and requests, but eventually the pace will catch up to them. This could lead to a complete breakdown in your ability to release anything to your end users.

Trust the Process

Product Owners are often under a large amount of pressure from Stakeholders and have a large responsibility to impart their vision and priorities onto the dev team. To be the most effective Product Owner you can be, you’ll need to keep a level head and remember to trust the Scrum process—it’s a proven methodology for releasing effective software. Hopefully with these common traps top of mind, you’ll be able to resist them and keep your project on track for success. If you want to learn more about being a Product Owner or running Scrum on your next development project, start a conversation with us. We’re dedicated to making Product Owners successful by pairing them with development teams that take the time to understand their vision.
Nikki Dent headshot

About Nikki Dent

Nikki is a technical copywriter for Aptera. With a bachelor’s degree in writing from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Ind., she has been honing her craft of marketing copywriting for the past six years. In her role at Aptera, Nikki enjoys learning and writing about the technology and strategy at work across the company.