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Agile Product Management with Scrum

08.17.2010
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Published by: Addison-Wesley Professional
ISBN: 0321605780

Reviewer Ratings

Relevance:
4

Readability:
4

Overall:
4

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One Minute Bottom Line

Overall an excellent and concise guide that will prove useful if you're involved in any activity around shaping a software product (from vision to standard activities in the Scrum process). Note that this is not a book about coding so don't expect to find any code snippets (it's mostly useful tips and guidance delivered in a concise way).

Review

Short but sweet, "Agile Product Management with Scrum" by Roman Pichler feels more like a tip guide to Product Owners (a critical role defined in "Scrum", a popular framework for agile software development) than a book. In its 133 pages you'll find six major sections:

Understanding the Product Owner Role:
this section depicts the importance of this role as opposed to product manager, project leader or just customer. The general approach here is that the product owner belongs in a "pig" role rather than "chicken" (this metaphor states that a pig puts its bacon on the line while a chicken puts just eggs, which could be translated to two different degrees of compromise with the project). The product owner role is critical because it encompasses all backlog organization activities which determine the product road-map.

Envisioning the Product: this section stresses how the product vision must be shared by all team members and how sometimes more is less. You should start with a minimum set of features that are of the essence to fulfill the product vision. If your vision statement does not pass the "elevator" test you're probably in trouble (it shouldn't take you more than the time of an elevator ride to describe the vision of your product with a basic set of distinguishing features). The section ends with a list of common mistakes that should be avoided while shaping the product's essence such as: development with complete lack of vision, prophecy vision (based on a future that might never come true), analysis paralysis and more.

Working with the Product Backlog: a beautifully simple Scrum artifact, the backlog represents a prioritized list of outstanding work necessary to bring the product to life. In this section you'll learn about the desired qualities of backlog items, you'll get tips to effectively groom the backlog as well as guidance on how to deal with non-functional requirements and how to scale it for large projects. The subsections about how to approach prioritization and sizing of backlog items are quite useful (though short). Again the section ends with a summary of common mistakes around backlog related activities.

Planning the Release: discusses essential release planning concepts and techniques. Even though this is a collaborative effort, the Product Owner has to make sure the necessary decisions are made. Key concepts are discussed here such as velocity, release burndown and plan, and release planning on large projects. As usual, in the end, common mistakes are discussed.

Collaborating in the Sprint Meetings: provides guidelines for organizing sprint (a one or two week development iteration/cycle on the Scrum framework) activities. One important factor here is to agree on a proper definition of "done" for backlog items. Common mistakes are discussed in the end such as what happens when the product owner is too passive.

Transitioning into the Product Owner Role: a guide that will help you to properly fit in this role. Deals with many aspects from training to political issues. The Product Owner must combine a proper level of empowerment and compromise (crucial for a role where one of the main tasks is to enable others).

The book gave me more insight into the Scrum process when considered form the product Owner perspective but left me wishing for more (i.e. deeper coverage. It's basically a pocket-sized book). In any case it's clear that the book's objective is not to serve as a general Scrum guide. I believe that the book's title is more ambitious than the book itself. If I were the author I would go deeper into each section to turn this into a full blown Scrum Product Management guide (with hard work it has the potential to become just that) and, while at it, add the following sections: on-line Scrum support applications (eg. how to replace the post-it notes with a web app), resolution of team conflicts and a detailed product owner life cycle guide for a project.

Overall an excellent and concise guide that will prove useful if you're involved in any activity around shaping a software product (from vision to standard activities in the Scrum process). Note that this is not a book about coding so don't expect to find any code snippets (it's mostly useful tips and guidance delivered in a concise way).

Published at DZone with permission of its author, German Viscuso.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)

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