Our team is facing an issue adopting Scrum. We are a team with 10 developers a dedicated Scrum Master and a Product Owner.

Our Product Owner is having issues with the Business Unit manager. He's a senior manager and he maintains the relationships with all their customers. In creating stories, sometimes there are missing points (for example, features that are taken for granted) and because the Business Unit manager maintains all the connections with customers, the Product Owner is not able to communicate directly with them to solve these problems.

In addition, the Product Owner has a junior seniority on the domain of the customers and he needs to rely on Business Unit responsible to get knowledge of the domain.

How it's possible to improve this situation, given that we cannot change our Business unit manager?

  • definitely you PO needs more knowledge. since the business unit manager has most domain knowledge can't you involve him at least reviewing the product owners stories?
    – truschival
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 10:24
  • 1
    You face another issue with adopting Scrum. Scrum states "Having more than nine members requires too much coordination. Large Development Teams generate too much complexity for an empirical process to manage.", so you need to slim down your team size to be called Scrum. Also I think 5 person team sizes are ideal, so split your team up into two groups as soon as possible. You can still use the same one Product Owner and Scrum Master though. I think they should be able to handle two teams, although one team is more ideal. Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 13:07

4 Answers 4


Ideally the Product Owner has full authority and domain knowledge about the product being built. This limits the number of people working with the development team to create a streamlined and efficient communication process. This isn't always the case. Some companies still operate hierarchical management structures and just because someone wants to adopt Scrum, doesn't mean the entire company will flatten their organization.

The product owner is going to have to work harder to get information from Business Unit Manager. Try to attend more meetings and phone calls. Get copied on client email. Since the product owner isn't the domain expert, there is going to be more back-and-forth to get clarification. If the dev team isn't sure about something, they need to understand this and ask the product owner to get some clarification.

Just because Scrum benefits from limiting documentation, doesn't mean you can get rid of it completely and in this case where the Product Owner is more of a delegate than true owner, you need to rely on more.

The Scrum Master should be working with the Product Owner and the Business Unit Manager so everyone understands their role in this process and how it affects the dev team. They need to find a way to make it work and improve the process or your company can forget about Scrum making your lives easier. It's not for everyone regardless how popular a panacea it could be.

  • Thanks for your answer. I think address the main "core" of the problem: information. The attend more meeting, get copy into email is a "fast" way to get informations, but I think PO will need more training on the domain and more time with the business unit responsible in order to get the "whole picture" of the domain and become the PO the team need
    – Vokail
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 9:05

Straight from the (unofficial) Scrum Checklist:

PO has direct contact with stakeholders

You should take this up with higher management, the team should be in direct contact with its users, period. Demand it. (Why this is necessary is another question :)

Also check the evolution of the product owner, maybe this helps you grow your P.O.

  • 4
    Totally agreed. Let ppl drink directly from the source. It's quite human to fail at communication by placing too much intermediaries in the process. The more ppl are, the higher is the message degradation
    – Laiv
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 13:21
  • Thank you for the link, very interesting. Because we are on the start for the scrum journey, I think there is need of such resources
    – Vokail
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 9:01

I think you already identified the biggest problem when you say:

the Product Owner has a junior seniority on the domain of the customers and he needs to rely on Business Unit responsible to get knowledge of the domain.

It is the responsibility of the Product Owner to have full knowledge of the domain (the Product) which they own.

Instead, when you say:

In creating stories, sometimes there are missing points

This might or might not be an actual problem, in abstract. Stories are, after all, supposed to be negotiable. If a story is incomplete, as long as its purpose is well specified, I would not worry, unless there are non-predictable, sizable errors in estimation induced by it.

It seems to me that in this case the Product Owner is writing down stories they don't understand, and this clearly can't work. You probably need someone with more direct domain knowledge as a PO.

  • I agree on the PO responsibility on the full domain knowledge, I think is something we have to improve on it! About the stories, I have to clarify the example: the story I'm referring to is related to a function that was well implemented by the team. On the "real world", unfortunately, there is a need for the "undo-function" and no one (Business Unit reponsible, Po, scrum master, team) think about it, so the problem was created
    – Vokail
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 9:02

Try to define the roles and responsibility for each member before the project kick started Get the signature in project acknowledge document from each project member for roles and responsibility finalisation

If you implement above, the Business Unit manager unable to interrupt the scrum production

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