https://mojdigital.blog.gov.uk/2016/05/26/owning-it-product-owners-and-technology/

Owning it: product owners and technology

We're appointing product owners to manage our computers, devices, networks and Wi-Fi, to keep our technology up to date.

Product owners in software teams

Product ownership is used all the time in software teams and is key to the success of a lot of applications.

The product owner sets the vision and roadmap for the application and manages the budget. It's down to them to deliver the software and get the best value for money.

Their work doesn't stop when the application goes live. They make sure the software still meets the needs of its customers after the launch.

IT infrastructure projects

It's a different story when it comes to IT infrastructure projects – for things like computers, printers, networks and Wi-Fi.

Think about a typical network rollout. This might take years to complete. Afterwards little is done to improve the network or keep it up to date. It's kept ticking over for years by skeleton staff, until it's well past its use-by date.

IT projects often start off with detailed plans long before much is known about the issues and what users need. And the project team is disbanded at the end – until the next big project kicks off, years later.

A product is for life

Your users won't care about your project plans. They care about what your service is offering them in the here and now.

This is why we treat our software products more like living things which grow and change over time.

We need to keep listening to customer feedback and making improvements for as long as the products are in service.

We think this is a better way to manage technology as well as software.

Projects v products: typical characteristics

IT project Software product
Start and end date Life cycle
Short-term project team Long-lived feature team
Temporary Permanent (until decommissioned)
Predictive planning Adaptive planning
One-off delivery Continual improvements
Project requirements Customer feedback

Infrastructure product owner and team

We're appointing new product owners for our IT infrastructure, starting with end-user computing – ie devices and software used by staff.

This product owner will constantly focus on improving employees’ computing experience. They’ll make sure that staff have the right devices, operating systems and collaboration tools to do their jobs.

The product owner will be backed up by a cross-functional feature team, including members with delivery, technical, commercial and supplier management skills.

Continual improvements

The product owner will have the budget and the remit to make continual improvements.

Small and frequent upgrades should be less risky, expensive and disruptive than big replacement programmes that come around once in a blue moon.

We know that much of our failure demand (extra work caused by letting down our users) is down to the lack of major and minor upgrades.

A joined-up view

Having a product owner will allow us to coordinate different programmes of work, especially where they have similar technical requirements.

This should cut down on duplication and overlap.

The product owner will have an overview of programmes going on across the organisation. They’ll prioritise changes based on what’s good value and best for our users.

Single point of contact

The product owner will be the single point of contact for staff who have ideas, feedback or requests.

This will make it easier for colleagues to ask for devices or applications.

It will also give the product owner an in-depth understanding of the business and allow them to fight for improvements.

Making it happen

We expect there will be some challenges.

There will have to be a lot of cooperation between product owners – for instance, to ensure that a request for video conferencing is supported by the network.

We’ll need to make sure that all new tech requests come through to the product owner. There will also be some difficult decisions when it comes to prioritising which programmes of work we can support.

Finally, we may be held back to some extent by old technology contracts.

However, the benefits of continual improvement, a joined-up view and a single point of contact should be well worth it.

After all, if product ownership works in software development then why can’t it work in technology infrastructure as well?

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