Agile Methodology in the Public and Private Sectors: The Crucial Relationship Between Product Owners and Development Teams

Published On: June 21st, 20235 min read

Picture this: You’ve got a solid team of developers building out a new application for the organization. The product manager has delivered requirements in painstaking detail. With an Agile development roadmap in place, you have everything you need…right?

On paper, this project sounds promising — your ace is on the mound; reliable hitters are strategically placed across your lineup. But is everyone — every day — in sync with the organization’s shared vision? In baseball, and in Agile development, a shared vision is crucial. Too often, projects can be rocked with friction and uncertainty if the development team and the product owner do not view themselves as equals on the same team pursuing a shared vision.

In the private sector, and in government, the success of a project often hinges on whether the project ownership and management are engaged and have bought into the Agile approach of the development team. reports that 70 percent of organizations that have either implemented or expanded their integration of Agile have experienced an enhanced ability to manage changing priorities. You can have the best development team in the world, and a deeply experienced project manager, but without true team collaboration and communication, your project’s success will be in doubt.

Variables that Can Strain Relationships Between Product Owners and Developers

Over the course of a project, a wide range of variables can strain relations between product owners and developers who are not regularly engaging and adhering to Agile principles:

  • An organization’s vision can change — even just subtly — and sow confusion among team members;
  • Leaders can step out of or into roles and trigger changes to the project’s culture;
  • Within the time of a project lifecycle, technology can significantly change. Consider, as an example, the speed with which AI is being leveraged across sectors, both public and private.

Understanding the Role of Product Owners and Development Teams

In an Agile environment, product owners are responsible for defining the product vision, managing the backlog, and ensuring that the development team is working on the right priorities. Development teams, on the other hand, are responsible for delivering high-quality software in incremental steps.

To achieve project success, it is vital for both parties (1) to understand each other’s roles and responsibilities. And then, based on this understanding, (2) to collaborate, communicate and share accountability — aligning their efforts towards a common goal.

When the relationship between product owners and development teams is out of sync, the project can encounter friction. A lack of clarity in requirements, conflicting priorities, and communication gaps can hinder progress, increase rework, and compromise the quality of the final product. A strained relationship can also impact team morale, leading to decreased motivation and productivity.

In the public sector, friction often surfaces when the product owner expects an approach that perfectly matches requirements documents written months or even years before. If both sides are not in transparent, daily communication about the project roadmap, conflicts are almost certain to gum up progress.

The Three Pillars of Empiricism

Irrespective of an organization’s Agile framework, adhering to the three pillars of empiricism — transparency, inspection, and adaptation — best positions product owners and development teams to nurture a healthy, equal and collaborative environment for the project to thrive.

Pillar 1: Transparency

Transparency is the foundation for effective collaboration between product owners and development teams and involves open communication, shared information, and visibility into project progress. Product owners should provide clear and concise requirements, priorities, and expectations to the development team. Similarly, the development team should openly communicate progress, challenges, and any potential issues they encounter. Regular meetings, such as daily stand-ups and sprint reviews, provide opportunities for transparent communication and alignment.

DMI insight: Both the work and the process need to be visible to everyone. Be transparent with each other. Be brave, be courageous, and make sure team members are always up front with each other.

Pillar 2: Inspection

Inspection involves regular review meetings, sprint retrospectives, and feedback loops. By involving both product owners and development teams in the inspection process, different perspectives can be heard. Inspection helps teams identify areas of improvement, celebrate successes, and make necessary adjustments to deliver value more effectively.

DMI insight: Inspection is not just limited to product demos. Every day and every meeting offer a chance for inspection. For example, in such a project environment, someone can say, “I’ve been working on this for a couple of hours and I don’t know that I’m getting it. Can somebody take a look and help me out?”

Pillar 3: Adaptation

Agile projects thrive on adaptation to changing requirements and priorities. This pillar can be leveraged to address friction that might emerge between product owners and development teams. True Agile adaptation requires a mindset of continuous improvement, iteration, and flexibility. All parties should be open to revisiting and refining requirements, adjusting priorities, and embracing change.

DMI insight: A team’s ability to adapt successfully is informed by its ability to leverage transparency and inspection. Adaption builds on those skills and moves the team even closer to achieving the vision and business value of the project.

Continuous Improvement

Collaboration between product owners and development teams is something that often requires continuous improvement — even within the best of Agile teams. Teams should strive to learn from past experiences and leverage insights gained to enhance collaboration and optimize the Agile process.

Ultimately, embracing a culture of collaboration will not only yield better project outcomes but also create a foundation for long-term success in Agile endeavors. Through open communication, shared accountability, and continuous improvement, product owners and development teams can work together to deliver value that trickles down through the organization to each of its individual customers.

At DMI, we’ve mastered the art of Agile product development, delivering successful products faster and with less risk. We invite you to connect with us today. Let’s explore how our Agile product development services can drive your digital transformation and help your enterprise deliver successful products with less risk and more speed. Don’t just build an application; build a future with DMI.