Proxy Product Owner

The question “Who is a Proxy Product Owner?” is not as simple as it seems. To fully answer it we need to cut it to three questions:

  • Who is a Product Owner?
  • What is a Proxy?
  • So, who is that Proxy Product Owner?

In this article you are going to find very simple answers to this not so simple questions.

Who is a Product Owner?

Who people think he or she is, depends on what definition are they using 😜 There are two widely known definitions of that role. One was populated by a Scrum Guide, and the other one was populated by Marty Cagan in his INSPIRED book.

PO as defined in a Scrum Guide

In The Scrum Guide, we read that “the Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the Development Team”. Personally, I think that role of a Scrum Product Owner can be defined in two statements.

  1. The Product Owner is one person.
  2. The Product Owner is the only person who defines priorities for the development team.

There are multiple more guidelines on what he/she should do and how it should be done. I didn’t mention working on the Backlog or optimizing value on purpose. The reason is simple. In Scrum we value them but we value two underlined things more. Basically, if you fulfill that two-point, you might be a terrible PO but you are PO 👏

PO as defined by “business”

The best definition can be found in INSPIRED (a book by Marty Cagan). The Product Owner is there defined as a Backlog administrator when the Product Manager is a role with wider responsibilities. However, it is said very strongly, that: “In product companies, it is critical that the product manager also be the product owner.”.

Nevertheless, the core responsibility for the Product Owner is managing backlog and not being independent. Similar to Scrum, but devil lies in details – businesswise PO might not have any power to decide over anything. He might just put other people’s decisions in the backlog.

Now when we know more-less who is a PO, we can move to the second question.

What is a proxy?

This term’s origins are strictly technical. It is best understood in the case of the internet as a server that is between you and the things you are accessing.

Proxy in relation to Product Owner
What is proxy?

Let’s translate this technical terms to relations between people. Imagine that you would like to download a file, but instead of directly downloading it through a web browser, you call your subordinate and tell him to send you this file via email. He will be your proxy in this case.

Who is a Proxy Product Owner?

If you read this article carefully you probably already knows the answer.

From Scrum and Scrum Guide perspective Proxy PO is a short term for Proxy between the Development team and the real Product Owner. So this is probably a person who has little or no impact on roadmaps and decisions and is simply implementing real Product Owner decisions. You can read more about that in forums. If you feel that you are a Proxy and would like to change it, make sure to check this out:

From a “business” perspective there is no such thing as Proxy PO because the Product Owner itself is only Backlog administrator and by the definition have almost no impact at all.

It is extremely crucial to understand that term Proxy PO makes a lot of sense or no sense at all 🤷‍♂️ it depends on what definition of Product Owner you are using.