Dear Product Owners, I have good news for you: there is a lot you can do to help your scrum team to improve the velocity.
Before getting into the actions, let us clarify what is the Product Owner’s interest when it comes to velocity. As a product owner, you are interested in:
- When will your product be ready for release to the users?
- How long will it take to do for specific functionality?
- How much does it cost the development of certain functionalities?
The velocity is the unit of measure the scrum team uses to measure the value delivered. The team targets to deliver constant business value at its best. It is called predictability. From an Agile perspective, the key to good estimations is predictability.
There are three stages each scrum team will undertake in finding the best constant speed of delivering business value:
- measure team velocity
- find the constant top velocity
- keep the team velocity
The tips from this article refer to finding and keeping the team velocity — becoming and resting predictable.
What can you do as a Product Owner to help the Scrum team to improve velocity?
- Slice the backlog vertically. In agile, any user story must deliver business value. Each slice the product backlog enables at the end of the sprint to have a potentially releasable product. But it also takes the team through all the stages of the development from design to the product release. In this way, the risk of redoing work is lower. Read about 10 techniques to split user stories and the Hamburger method to split user stories from dev team perspective.
- Clear requirements. Each user story should have a clear definition of the actor, actions, benefits, and acceptance criteria. Provide all the information the team needs, including data and examples. You can learn in this article How to write user stories that deliver value to the customer.
- Spike often. A spike is a timebox used to research on how to implement a user story or a feature. The result of a spike is estimated user stories. As a Product Owner, you should consistently add to the backlog spikes. They will help the team to better estimate the backlog and, in consequence, higher predictability. Learn more about spikes on How Spikes help to Improve your Agile Product Delivery.
- Enable ahead. Enablers are user stories or features that do no bring business value, but they build the technical capabilities to deliver, in the function, the business functionalities. For better visibility on the product backlog estimation, such enablers must be planned.
- Share the vision. It has a motivational effect on the team instead. When we know where we are ahead, we are more motivated to go there. On the other hand, it allows the team to make the right decision in foreseeing the flexibility of the system.
- Explain the big picture. It enables the team to understand the context of the user stories and to make the right decisions to deliver a solution that fits the purpose. Share as much as possible with your team the big picture.
- Be there with the team helps to answer their questions, to review the deliverables, to perform the PO acceptance. When the Product Owner is with the team daily, the team gets the habit of sharing the client’s knowledge and the technical details. Such kind of mix of information will increase the quality of the product and the minimization of the work redone or the number of bugs.
- Be an ambassador of your product. Sharing with the potential users and customers about the functionalities of the product helps them to learn how to use the product in the right way. It also means less support and a smaller number of bugs.
- Innovative. Encourage the scrum team to find solutions to meet the sprint goals by providing information about “what” is the requirement, but not “how” to do the work. This skill will help to deliver more often useful functionalities.
- Allow participation. Make the product backlog teamwork. Allow the team members to write user stories. It will create ownership and a higher motivation to be predictable.
- Participate in the retrospective and see how you can help your team with the things that slow them down but also to address the things you consider they don’t go as per your expectations. Working as a team will help you to know each other and learn what to improve for the next sprints.
- Automate. Automation testing will release your time as a Product Owner from testing and investing your time in being the ambassador of your product, in sharing the product vision, in researching new functionalities, and many other essential aspects of your product.
- Try to avoid changes in the sprint goals after the sprint planning. Changes will always happen. We never know it all. But the moment a sprint is clear for the team, it will be a smooth implementation. If the team has to replan or to analyze changes, it will be almost impossible to be predictable. As a Product Owner, you need to learn to say no to last-minute changes.
- Perform backlog refinement for user stories and features. Read more about it on 13 Alternative Workshops to Product Backlog Refinement meetings and Product Owner checklist for Product Backlog Refinement.
- Making the sprint review participatory. Receiving feedback on the team performance and deliverables from outside the scrum team are valuable to have a realistic view of the performance of the team. If the stakeholders are satisfied with the deliverables of the sprint, it is an indication to the scrum team they are doing a good job, and they have to keep the pace. But if the stakeholders aren’t satisfied, the scrum team learns they have to learn to improve their performance.
If you want to learn about the 15 things you can do as Scrum Master to improve the Scrum team velocity, I have written an article here.