Scrum has become the industry standard in software companies, as the framework scores with high flexibility, effectiveness and transparency in IT projects. But an agile mindset, the basis of every scrum framework, can also enrich project work outside the IT industry, finds Anna-Karoline Abraham, Product Management Lead at Spread Group. As a certified Product Owner, Anna-Karoline Abraham has been working on digital products from initial vision to realization for over six years.
“My job is to understand the ‘why?’ behind the user problem and act as a mediator between IT, business and the user to derive the ‘what’ from it. Our developers, on the other hand, are responsible for the ‘how?’. A good product owner should have an agile mindset, be empathetic and structured, and be able to communicate well. And they should have no problem saying “no” clearly,” says Anna-Karoline Abraham. According to her, there is no perfect career path to becoming a product owner: Spread Group’s product owners have very different degrees – from business administration to computer science to mechanical engineering. Anna-Karoline Abraham herself studied media production, took computer science modules and already worked as a student trainee at Spreadshirt in product management.
1. Find your scrum variant
If you are dealing with scrum for the first time, you will quickly come across the official “Scrum Guide,” in which the most important elements are summarized. However, it is also mentioned there that these can be adapted, but then it is no longer scrum. “I think it should be possible to be agile here as well. It’s about trying something out, evaluating it and adapting it if necessary. The team should be able to work together productively – that’s more important than formalities. For example, we work without a Scrum Master, but for us, collaboration still works well. We regularly reflect on our processes, often simply try out a different approach and see what works for us and what doesn’t,” says Anna-Karoline Abraham.
2. Pay attention to effective team sizes
The maximum team size in scrum is often stated as eight people in order to work together effectively within the framework. Anna-Karoline Abraham, on the other hand, has learned to appreciate even smaller teams: “I have had the best experiences with teams of four to five developers and me as the product owner. The advantage here is clearly the short communication channels: Coordination loops among five people run much faster.”
3. Create a common understanding
When introducing scrum, which is often driven by management, it is important to talk about expectations and goals. “Employees should be given the chance to understand and internalize what scrum is actually about. Likewise, it should be communicated what is hoped for from the introduction, how to get there and how to determine afterwards whether you were successful with the project. When introducing new processes, it is equally important to understand that the process itself should live and not simply exist overnight,” says Anna-Karoline Abraham.
4. Test out new tools
Two whiteboards still hang in her office, but in the wake of increased remote working, her team has switched entirely to digital tools. “We’ve discovered Miro over that time, and we use the application frequently for workshops or to record ideas, diagrams and workflows. Even though some of us are slowly moving back to the office, Miro will certainly stay with us for these tasks.”
5. Accept unpredictability
For us, the focus is on results, not hard deadlines. We are absolutely aware that it is impossible to name a deadline for completion in advance. Since you plan continuously in scrum, unexpected delays become visible more quickly and planning becomes more realistic, as Anna-Karoline Abraham describes: “We set ourselves shorter planning cycles in the form of two-week sprints, which has the advantage that we can react more quickly if we need to correct our course. In addition, scrum enables good communication. The daily exchange that takes place in the form of a short stand-up in the teams is incredibly important and good for making progress as well as for trust and transparency in the projects.”