The role of Delegate Product Owner can deliver success in digital transformation.
The digital transformation of services provided by the Federal Government must align to the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) Digital Service Standard. The Digital Service Standard relies on both user centred design and iterative delivery through the use of Agile methodology, and according to the DTA:”designing public services in user-centred and iterative ways helps teams to start small, learn fast, and deliver services quickly”.
Central to Agile is the role of the product owner, which would preferably be a representative from the business stakeholder group. This role involves actively participate in the Agile team, attending regular cadence-based Agile ‘ceremonies’ including Program increments and scrum team activities to ensure that agreed design features are being developed correctly to meet prioritised business requirements.
On smaller projects, or projects that are being delivered within smaller organisations, this approach can work successfully. However, in our experience with larger organisations that are undertaking broad and complex digital transformation programs (such as Government agencies), the product owner struggles to perform this role successfully.
In organisations that are undertaking large digital transformation programs, the role of product owner most often sits with the executive team, who have ultimate responsibility for the project and the vision across all internal and external users impacted by the transformation. We have found that the executive team does not typically have capacity to participate in the Agile team, nor do their staff have the capacity to perform the role of product owner, as well as delivering the organisation’s digital transformation vision across all impacted user groups.
Projects Assured has had consistent success in providing a business analysis consultant to assist with the product owner’s lack of capacity to perform their expected role in a Scrum team. As a ‘delegate product owner’, this business analyst can represent the product owner and be trusted to participate in the Agile team on their behalf. Because of their integration within the regular Scrum team, they can act as the true agent for business and technological change. In this role, the business analyst can also:
We mentioned earlier that the Digital Service Standard requires user-centred design of public services. We have found that the delegate product owner, is best placed to manage user-centred design and co-design of the service.
In user-centred design, the user is not only central in the way that the digital transformation is designed (user experience), but they are also central to the process of designing the solution (referred to as co-design). The delegate product owner supports the user-centred design approach by capturing user feedback at every step of the process, from discovery through to the live production release.
They will engage representatives from all impacted user groups throughout the co-design phases (discovery, alpha/prototype, beta and live)and support users while they are co-designing the solution, while at the same time participating in and driving their own change journey.
This is an approach that works, as it combines business analysis with change management aimed at delivering digital benefits to all Australians now and into the future.
User-centred design and user research done well results in the users being better prepared to start using the enhanced system features by the go-live date, minimising surprises as well as reducing the need to undertake formalised change management activities.
The constant feedback loop built into the user-centred design approach aligns well with the Agile methodology. As the delegate product owner is also driving the user-centred design, feedback received from users can quickly be analysed, prioritised, and fed into the Agile team. This improves the speed of development with users being able to see their feedback quickly reflected in and the system, increasing their overall level of confidence with the development process.
When performing the role of delegate product owner, skills across all business analysis disciplines, such as service design, user experience design, user interface design, business process mapping and user research are critical. However, particularly on large projects and programs, we have seen the delegate product owner engage with a team of supporting business analysts with more specialised skills where required.
The role of delegate product owner within an Agile team can often also provide informal change and communications support. In our experience, digital transformation projects within an organisation that utilise agile development techniques require minimal involvement from formal change and communications managers. We have shown that delegate product owners can bring impacted users along on the journey from Discovery through to Beta, because of their close involvement with the agile development team and the users. This then enables users to commence using the system, as soon as it is released.
The delegate product owner role allows Agile digital transformation to be successful in Federal government. In our opinion, with the trust of the product owner, the delegate product owner model would be successful in any large organisation, government or private sector, where there are similar issues with the availability of product owners to participate in the digital service standard. Business analysts are well placed to perform the role of delegate product owner, bringing a strong combination of skills in user centred design, strategy and business process reengineering.
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