Repeat this mantra every few days ‘When did I last meet my customer?’, especially when you as a product owner are struggling to prioritize features or finding it hard to define requirements. Trust me, the answer to this mantra will tell you the reason of your struggle.
Influenced by a story on web, a competitive analysis you undertook a few days back or pressurized by your friendly neighborhood departments (sales, operations, customer support etc) you decide to prioritize or define a feature. You put in your best thoughts, experience and analysis but still find yourself falling short of the need (who defines it?). So what do you do?– chant the Mantra, “When did I last meet my customer?”. chances are high that the answer to this mantra tells you that it’s high time you meet them now.
From my experience and due regards to all involved in organization, I often experience that needs (requirements) either gets diluted or are contemplated by the time it traverses from customers desk till a product owners desk. Now that’s a dangerous proposition, if I as product owner decide to act on requirement that’s diluted or contemplated. I am sure to lose my effectiveness and company its edge in the market. Result! Disaster.
It’s imperative for you as product owner to understand the customer requirement the way it is felt (not just conveyed) by the customer. In your role, you are expected to meet customer, use the product in the manner customer uses it (and not just ‘Eat your dog food’) and deliver what customer is expected to deliver using your product. You then speak with customer (or user of your product) on regular intervals (of course my mantra will help you in deciding the intervals) to listen and to understand (they are two different actions) the requirements (pain points, newer needs, evolving business etc). A requirement drafted post this effort is likely to be far more accurate and reliable than those you draft after a meeting with friendly neighborhood departments in your company. You will be in better control of your thoughts and will prioritize backlogs with confidence.
While in this post I refer ‘product owners’ as target audience, I suggest that this mantra should be practiced by all in product delivery ownership (this includes but not limited to project managers, Engineers, QAs, sales, operations, customer support) regularly to deliver effectively and to see a happy smiling customer on most occasions.