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Scrum: Remote product owner and local product owner – effectiveness

I have been reading a lot of discussions in the offshore model of software development where the product owner can be in the remote location (or rather, the location where the customers typically are) vs. the case where there is a product owner in the location where the development team is located and who works with the product owner located in the customers location. There is no conclusive answer to which is the correct method to follow, and what seems to work best with a team is the correct solution for them – this was the typical answer I got from many colleagues who were working in Scrum teams. However, this was really inconclusive, especially when my team asked me about which was the better alternative to follow. I did not really have a good answer in terms of black and white to give them, instead I went with the approach of asking the team to try alternatives as they emerged and figure out which was the correct solution that worked for us.
We had a mixed approach that was not of our own making, having been driven by discussions at senior management levels across geographies, with a lot of discussion about resourcing and costing happening, with inputs not really being taken from the team. The brief to us was simple, we had 2 Scrum teams that were working on the project, and 2 project managers – one based in our geographic location and one based in New York, representing the customers. It was not easy really working out a solution that would work; the simple solution was to set 1 product owner with 1 scrum team and the other with the other team. However, this was not really useful. The local product owner was very responsive, but did not have the level of customer interaction that was desired and would often need to make some responses that were not based on customer interaction. Further, the local product owner ended up spending around 10% of time traveling to New York, and this travel time ended up costing the team a fair amount in terms of responsiveness. The other product owner faced a time zone type of issue, and as a result, meeting arrangement and frequent discussion with the team was turning out to be a problem and causing stresses all around.
We spent some time trying to figure out a solution, a solution which also had to try to ensure that we did not trample on the egos of these folks (and this can be very important when you start to worry about morale); finally the solution that we came up with was evolved after including these product owners and the Scrum teams (although not senior management, since they did not want to get involved with trying to solve such problems; they had provided resources and it was expected that we work out a solution). We set out the role of the remote product owner to be the one who would work with customers for aspects for both scrum teams, and the local product owner would act as the one who spent far more time with the team, and these product owners would in turn interact with each other multiple times a week for discussions and others. This solution had some initial teething troubles, both in terms of the interactions of each product owner with the other, and also with the team not sure about whether they should believe whatever the local proxy product owner would tell me. However, these were improved (not fully resolved) and the only problem that remained was that the local product owner started believing that we had a lower opinion of him, and this was something that took a lot of support from his manager to resolve.

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