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Developing a Product Owner Crash Course

Hye-Jin illustrates the product owner role at Publicis Sapient, shares how we create great products for our clients, and why she developed - in collaboration with others - her own training course that is available throughout Europe.

Hye-Jin Park
Hye-Jin Park

You might be thinking - yet another Product Owner (PO) training? Can't I just open YouTube and quickly get trained within a couple of hours? Well, you could! And yet we felt the need to create our PO Crash Course. Here is why… 

The PO role is not as well defined as you’d expect. Definitions vary among product managers based on their experiences, organizational cultures, or the nature of their products under development. In addition, different ways of working influence how the PO role is defined. Agile in particular, can be quite specific and leaves little room for interpretation. However, theory and reality usually diverge significantly. 

At Publicis Sapient, we develop products with our clients to support their digital business transformation. We either support and coach client POs, often as Proxy POs, or we install our product managers for PO roles in large product development projects. In other words, we usually help clients develop their products. In that particular context, we not only require a clear definition of our product managers' roles, but we also need a set of tools to support our clients in the best possible way. Providing a clear image of what PO roles at Publicis Sapient clients look like and introducing a basic "PO toolbox" is what our PO crash course is all about. 

Those who are new to the PO role or work in an agile team with a client PO new to their role often seek to understand what a PO is like in terms of personality, experience, and understanding. Interestingly, POs come from various disciplines and have different personalities. It depends on the product and environment they are dealing with. On one end, there are the pioneers who are great with entirely new greenfield products. Here, a creative mindset and a passion for cutting-edge technology will be helpful. On the other end, especially in the enterprise context, some POs own products that have been around for a long time but can be improved through process optimization, scale, or ecosystem integration. In that case, a structured mindset and a strong charisma to defend required, but sometimes painful progress in front of stakeholders and management proves beneficial.

"Providing a clear image of what PO roles at Publicis Sapient clients look like and introducing a basic "PO toolbox" is what our PO crash course is all about."

What we aim to accomplish together with our clients is to clear the clouds of wrong expectations towards agile product development with the POs they have installed. At first, we always clearly define the product and create a product vision that defines the product's purpose and specifies a few cornerstones such as target customers and their needs, business value and revenue streams, investment and recurring costs, and competition. What is in scope, what is out of scope? Which problems of our product's users are worth solving? What are the dependencies that come with the product's maturity, the PO's personality, and the organization? The product team is not operating in a vacuum, so how can the organization provide a better environment? Once these questions have been answered, we collaboratively define the project setup required to achieve the best possible outcome and communicate realistic expectations. From there, we define customer personas and journeys to identify relevant product features. From a given journey, we derive features that we need to implement sooner and those that come later. Starting with the actual product development, we try to collect user feedback as quickly and often as possible by frequently releasing small product increments, allowing us to adjust our product based on end-user input. Customer satisfaction is what ultimately defines successful products. It is the PO's responsibility to prioritize the feature and user story backlog accordingly.  

One of our five core values is a Learning Mindset. At Publicis Sapient, peer-to-peer learning is part of our culture and comes in the form of crash courses, lunch and learn sessions, mentor-mentee relationships, and much more. Within our relatively young product management capability, there is a lot on our roadmap. Internally, we plan to continue spreading a common understanding of the PO role across capabilities, strengthen the international exchange with product teams from other countries, and establish focus areas such as AI product management. Externally, we will continue to foster our positioning in response to increasing demand for product development expertise, empower our clients to improve their product management maturity and support them in establishing successful agile product teams. 

Hye-Jin Park
Hye-Jin Park
Senior Product Manager
Hye-Jin is based in our Cologne office. She has a long history and experience in developing products in different contexts, from enterprise to start-ups. Outside the office she loves to work out, cook, eat, and travel.

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