Surrogate Product Owner

… the Scrum Team needs direction so they can build the right thing. The Product Owner should provide this direction.

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The Scrum Team does not have a Product Owner.

Product Development is cooperation between the business side of the organization and the building side. The business side makes all the business related decisions, and the building side estimates and executes the building of the product.

There can be several reasons why the business side of an organization does not provide a Product Owner. Lack of understanding of Scrum is one reason. Also, the work that is involved in being a Product Owner challenges the organization, which as a consequence makes it hard to get a good Product Owner.

This creates a problem as the Product Owner have the accountability for the business decisions that have to be made, initially, as well as during the development of the product. Among the duties of the Product Owner is ordering the Product Backlog so the right set of features can be delivered at the right time, and clarifying requirements for the Scrum Team.


If a business person is not available get a previous project manager or product manager to take the role of the Product Owner.

If that is also not an option it rolls all the way back to the team, and the team must decide who in the team will be the Product Owner — the person accountable for business decisions and results.

The way this is executed is that the person responsible for the process, the ScrumMaster, is responsible for a job description being created. The ScrumMaster delivers the job description to the team.

When the surrogate Product Owner also keeps the role as a team member, the person has two roles, one of which can easily overshadow the other role. Therefore, in most cases this will be a temporary solution, where the person over time preferably will let go of one of the roles.

This pattern addresses the complete absence of a Product Owner. If a Product Owner is present but ineffective, other patterns apply, such as Product Owner Trainer and in extreme cases, ScrumMaster Gets Fired.

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Experience has shown that when engineering takes on the Product Owner role, they tend to get out of touch with the customer over time. Therefore, it is recommended that where possible, a Surrogate Product Owner be a temporary solution until a permanent Product Owner begins to work with the team.

This is parallel to the Organizational Pattern, Surrogate Customer [Coplien & Harrison], which deals with the problem of lack of access to a customer.

Photo credits: The Safari Park Zoological Park in Caney, Kansas,, Need permission.