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A Product Goal to drive focus, alignment and value

Wendy Stapper

In the last 8 years I have been part of several scrum teams of global companies in different industries working on ecommerce software products. On a regular base I consult the scrum guide, and blogs and articles on scrum to see how our scrum team can further improve the way of working and deliver more value to the customer.

In the 2020 scrum guide the ‘Product Goal’ was introduced. After reading about it, I felt it was indeed important for the scrum teams I worked in, to define a product goal for our ecommerce software product. Because often we were working with multiple teams on the same software product without a clear common goal, and we were working on many topics simultaneously with little focus. This resulted in delays, miscommunication and not always delivering the expected value. I learned that teams find it quite difficult to work with stakeholders to define an effective product goal and therefore easily skip to define it. I noticed the teams define a sprint goal and a ‘Definition of Done’ but the product goal was often missing. 

In this blog I will summarize what the product goal is, why the product goal was introduced, and what help is available for you to define a product goal for your (software) product. Which will drive focus and alignment for the teams to deliver more business value.

What is a Product Goal?

goal

According to the 2020 Scrum Guide: The Product Goal describes a future state of the product which can serve as a target for the Scrum Team to plan against. The Product Goal is in the Product Backlog. The rest of the Product Backlog emerges to define “what” will fulfil the Product Goal.

As this was not directly clear to me, I searched the internet for more details and found the blog ‘Scrum Guide 2020 Update – Introducing the Product Goal’ from Dave West, Product Owner and CEO at scrum.org, that clarifies further: In a nutshell, the Product Goal provides context to the Product Backlog. It can be thought of as the ‘why’ we are doing all this work. It can be used as the elevator pitch to ‘what is the Scrum Team working on?’.

The word Goal is intentional as it describes two things:

  1. It is something to strive for, and
  2. It is measurable when you have attained it.

The Scrum Guide does not prescribe what the details of a Product Goal are thereby allowing Scrum Teams to form the goal in the right way for their context. For instance, some Scrum Teams may work to a quarterly Product Goal that is very focused, another Scrum Team might have a Product Goal that is very aspirational and high level. Context is everything when determining the Product Goal. The Product Goal is part of the Product Backlog which the Product Owner is accountable for. The Product Owner is therefore accountable for the Product Goal in the same way they are accountable for the Product Backlog.

Why was the Product Goal introduced?

According to the scrum guide writers: The 2020 Scrum Guide introduces the concept of a Product Goal to provide focus for the Scrum Team toward a larger valuable objective. Each Sprint should bring the product closer to the overall Product Goal. Added because we wanted to introduce a higher level of focus and alignment. The Product Goal is a concrete step towards achieving the desired future state of the product. Each of the three Scrum Artifacts now has a corresponding ‘commitment’. They exist to bring transparency and focus against which progress can be measured. The commitment for the Product Backlog is the Product Goal, the Sprint Backlog has the Sprint Goal, and the Increment has the Definition of Done. Additionally, we’ve long known that teams that are focused on clear and specific goals do a much better job. 

scrumorg scrum framework 3000How to define a product goal?

Personally, I think the blog ‘Product Goals in Scrum’ from Roman Pichler is very helpful. Roman Pichler finds that “a product goal is best used to describe a specific and measurable benefit or outcome a product should create in the course of the next two to six months. A sample goal might be to acquire users, increase conversion, generate revenue, or reduce technical debt. Such a goal aligns the stakeholders and development teams, and it directs their work”.

product goal roman pichler

And Roman Pichler writes “he likes to ensure that product goals are connected to the product strategy and its user and business goals. This helps me choose the right product goals and it ensures that meeting a product goal is a step towards creating the desired value for the users and the business”. This is illustrated in the image above.

The Goal Oriented Product Roadmap from Roman Pichler can guide you defining a product goal on a product roadmap:

product roadmap roman pichler

For explanation of this GO Product roadmap see: https://youtu.be/NBNsnKPbah0

Also very helpful is the article ‘How to craft a Product Goal’ from Sjoerd Nijland. He lists the criteria an effective product goal should have:

  1. Product Goals in Scrum are strategic. The Product Goal is the long-term objective for the Scrum Team.
  2. Product Goals in Scrum are focused. Technically, there can be multiple Product Goals, but Scrum Teams should focus on only one at a time.
  3. Product Goals in Scrum are empirical. ‘Empirical process control’ builds on exploring the unknown and figuring out the best steps along the way. This works best in changing environments and complex challenges.
  4. Product Goals in Scrum achieve measurable outcomes. Outcomes are desirable things that a customer or user of a product experiences. They represent some new or improved capability that the customer or user was not able to achieve before.

Also the Product Goal Canvas from Ralph Jocham on effectiveagile.com and the explanation in his video https://youtu.be/Ls_HFYBkdeI can help you to define an effective product goal.product goal canvas ralph jocham

I hope this blog helps you to define the Product Goal to drive focus and alignment for your team to deliver more business value. If you like to know more contact me at www.acorel.nl/contact/

Wendy Stapper

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