Product Ownership: The Next Level

A long, long time ago I started my career in IT with a basic course in software development and technical support. With a huge shortage of jobs in the field at that time, I ended up selling computers for a couple of years but since my heart was still on the technical side of things, eventually I went back to programming. The time in sales had changed my view on things though; interaction with the people buying computers had taught me that software does not stand on it's own; there's always someone using it and the software generally solves a problem they were having.

That all was about 20 years ago. I have learned much in that time and last years "Certification spree" (although the learning was more in the path to the certifications, not the certifications themselves) was probably the culmination of all those years. James and Julya took me a level deeper into the how and why of software development patterns, which made me understand so much more of the job of Coach/Leader (I *hate* the word manager ;)). They took me to the Psychology level of the job, supporting the patterns with empirical proof. And for a short time I was happy. I was happy that I was able to now support the people doing The Real Work(tm) in ways I was unable to before.

Last year also brought the insight that if we look at Software Development, the big challenge is not to get the software developed the right way, or at the right speed, or with the right specifications. The biggest challenge facing us right now is how to get the specifications to the software development team at the right time, with the right detail and, maybe even most importantly, at the right speed. When I look at the SCRUM projects I've seen over the past years, there's always a specifications issue, a Product Backlog issue. Which means that there really isn't a problem in software development; there's a problem in Product Ownership. And thus I made the leap into Product Ownership.

And now I get to see the problems that Product Ownership faces. As a product owner I find myself constantly asking the question "Is this thing, we're doing now, right?". And thus begins the next journey..... How do we, product owners, decide whether the PRODUCT we're building is right? How do we, product owners, decide whether the FEATURE we've defined is right? At what level does this need to be decided? Functional? Economical? Maybe even Moral? And do these all support each other: If a feature is morally right, will it automatically be economically right?

Some time ago I decided that my lack of "higher education" was holding me back. I could, however, never really find a decent study I could do (and afford :S) and so this never changed. With the event of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) I can now simply make up my own curriculum. It may not lead to an "official" degree but it will give me the parts of a "higher education" that I was missing. And so I started using Coursera to find the online courses I think will help me solve the questions of the previous paragraph. Starting out with Critical perspectives on Management and Moralities of Everyday Life and most likely following up with some Philosophy and more management I hope to get enough information to set up patterns in product ownership. One of the things I am direly missing in the MOOCs is interaction with fellow students. Forums and facebook groups are nice but never a good substitute for human interaction. If you're interested in the subjects I brought forth and live/work nearby, please let me know and we'll set up some sort of meeting.