Shifting my Quality Perspective: From a Quality to a Product Owner Role

Not having the word “quality” in my job description is something new for me. I went from “Quality Engineer”, to “Quality Product Accountable”, to “Quality Coach”, always being directly involved in the quality of the product or the process. Now as a product owner I am trying to figure out what is my role in supporting the quality of our product.  Here are some things I’ve noted down.

Not directly involved in the test strategy

In the team I am working in, we don’t have a dedicated tester or someone in a quality role. The developers decide on the test strategy. What to test, when and how is entirely up to them. I have a very high level idea of how it looks like, but I don’t have the time to deep dive and understand it properly. I can only experience the outcomes of the strategy in the form of increase of usage of our tool or bugs reported by our users. Even if  I would like to find out how testing is done, I don’t have the time to do so. The quality of the process is no longer my priority, which makes me feel a bit awkward.

Not involved in functional testing

Even if I am tempted to test the inside-outs of any new feature we want to release, I need to hold myself back and simply not do it. If by the time I have a look at new functionality the straightforward scenario paths are not working, we have all done something very wrong. My main testing efforts concern whether what we are building fits the user’s expectations, so mostly I spend my day talking to them to try to figure out what they need. Nevertheless, from time to time I do some exploration on our product, to identify gaps or possible improvements in the workflows.

Acceptance criteria – not as easy as I thought

As a tester I complained (a lot) about not well defined acceptance criteria. Now, as I am the one trying to identify them, I realise what a complicated task this is. Not all users have exactly the same process of doing things. Figuring out what a “correct” flow of actions should look like, especially for a new product, can be daunting at times. I have in mind techniques like example mapping that can help, but I have not figured out how to incorporate it in our Scrum process. Another aspect that confuses me, is how to improve the acceptance criteria during development, as sometimes our original assumptions might be wrong. I try to be involved as much as I can in development, but it doesn’t always work out.  This part is really work in progress for me.

Providing vs receiving information

As a tester within a development team I would test, collect my findings and provide this information to whoever needed it to make a decision. Now, I find myself on the other side, making the decisions based on the input from the team. This is the most complicated aspect for me, as it boils down to me a tester, trusting the information provided by the team, aka the developers. This is definitely a steep learning curve. The instinct of questioning the quality of the information is alive and kicking. But I find that slowly, as we work longer together as a team this gets better. I am positive that a fair amount of scepticism from my side will always be there, but at least it will be directed to the correct things to question and not everything.

I find myself wondering why in Scrum, the PO is not a member of the development team. Wouldn’t be more efficient, from a quality point of view, if POs were more involved in the development process? I try to participate as much as I can in all development discussions, but in the end it might be just a time availability constraint.

Identifying shifts in my perspective of quality, helps me use my testing skills to serve my needs as a PO. I try to focus on that rather than become a PO whose main concern is testing. But it seems that the road is long and bumpy.

2 thoughts on “Shifting my Quality Perspective: From a Quality to a Product Owner Role

  1. This is such an informative article. I think that because you were a tester you have the best of both worlds and can make better decisions. It would be detrimental if someone with no knowledge of testing assumes your role.

    Liked by 1 person

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