What knowledge should not have a Product Owner?

Original author: JB Rainsberger
Luxoft Training, as part of a series of master classes with famous speakers, invites you to familiarize yourself with the translation of Joe Reinsberger's article " No, a Product Owner doesn't need programming skill ".

Joe Reinsberger is a Canadian software development consultant who has authored numerous IT work. For his contribution to the development of flexible methodologies, he was awarded the highest award from the Agile community - the Gordon Pask Award in 2005 (in the first year of the creation of the award). He is the founder of XPDay (North America). Joe Reinsberger's book, JUnit Receipes: Practical Methods for Programmer Testing, has become world famous. Joe has been practicing agile methodologies since 2000, and during this time his articles on Agile development have been published in leading development magazines, including IBM DeveloperWorks and IEEE Software. In IEEE Software Magazine, Joe is the editor of the “Not Just Coding” column.

No, the product owner does not need programming skills.

What education should a product owner have?
I do not like the term “Product Owner”. I would like Brian Marick to use the term “product director” to become more popular.

One LinkedIn user said he saw a Product Owner job, where candidates were required to have knowledge of TDD, BDD, OO, programming skills, and an IT degree. (I suppose that a degree in computer science is suitable, otherwise I wouldn’t get such a job myself.) On the one hand, this does not surprise me, since the people who place these ads probably copy and paste requirements from a standard set of flexible techniques. On the other hand, I don’t quite understand why anyone intentionally requires programming skills from the product owner.

I expect Product Owner to have the information and authority to decide which features to create next and what it means to “use these features”. In other words, this person must either know these things, or be able to figure them out, and at the same time feel comfortable taking on this responsibility. He should also feel comfortable recognizing that he might not know something, gaining new knowledge or accepting help from other people. He cannot sit back and hope that all unknown factors will be resolved themselves.

Product Owner needs to understand the business and be prepared to study it more deeply. He must also understand how “important people” will decide on the success of the product, since on this basis, he will choose the functions. If he is lucky, he will need the basics of financial literacy to make such decisions based on profit, but more likely he will need to understand what can make the product a “personal victory” for interested parties. And this is based more on the psychology of sales. I mean the knowledge that can be gained by reading The New Strategic Selling.

I do not think that Product Owner should be a programmer. If he was a programmer 15 years ago and now pretends that his understanding of technical compromises remains relevant today, then this can lead to disastrous consequences. I worked with people who finished programming 15 years ago and couldn't understand why something that was easy to do on the green screen took longer to use Enterprise Java. In several cases, this has led to conflicts in valuation. A programming skill can help you know what is feasible and what is not. But if Product Owner works with programmers that he trusts, then this becomes less of a problem.

Product Owner must have testing skills, as with their help they can better find vulnerabilities in the product earlier. I have never collaborated with Product Owner, who has ever worked as a qualified tester, so this statement is purely hypothetical.

I just don’t know why Human Resources is expecting Product Owner to have TDD / OO skills. I can understand why they are looking for candidates with the BDD skill, but you can have a good BDD skill without programming experience. For any interviewer who thinks otherwise, I recommend recalling Liz Keogh's articles. Start with “Step Away From the Tools”.
For example, I would trust a candidate with a degree in economics who understands the basics of finance (distinguishes profit from revenue) and who shows willingness to cooperate and negotiate. I can teach him key techniques if necessary. No programming skills required.

Joe Reinsberger will conduct an online workshop on value-oriented software development. Details here .

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