Kanban Guide
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What Is a Kanban Product Owner?

If we compare Kanban and Scrum, you’ll notice that Kanban is more flexible and less prescriptive than Scrum.

As a result, it doesn’t have strictly defined work roles such as Scrum master, product owner, or ceremonies such as sprint retrospectives or backlog refinement.

In Scrum, planned deliveries are the norm and team members have clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Meanwhile, Kanban’s primary focus is to ensure that the work gets done smoothly and that any interruptions are managed proactively. 

What are the different roles in Kanban?

The Kanban methodology is evolving with wider implementations giving rise to a couple of key roles as outlined below:

Service delivery manager (SDM)

A service delivery manager role is quite similar to a Scrum master. It is an add-on role that can be given to a Kanban team member. It is not a distinctive position in itself.

A service delivery manager is tasked with ensuring that workflow is efficient and seamless. They are also responsible for facilitating continuous improvement and change management activities.

Service request manager (SRM) or Kanban product owner

The role of a service request manager is similar to that of the product owner in Scrum.

A Kanban product owner is a customer advocate and ensures that customer needs and expectations are incorporated into the product. 

The product owner is primarily focused on delivering value to their company’s customers while also representing the product’s stakeholders.

Further reading
blog post

Top Tips for Organizing Kanban Cards

blog post

How to Use Agile Teamwork to Optimize Collaboration

blog post

Tips for Agile Team Management When Working Remotely

blog post

Unlock All Your Team “Kan” Do With a Kanban Template

What are the primary responsibilities of a Kanban product owner?

David J. Anderson, author of the Kanban method, describes the Kanban product owner as a middleman.

A Kanban product owner is a team member who understands their team exceedingly well and is familiar with the value stream but does not directly create any customer value. Here is a brief snapshot of what they do:

  1. Outlines the product in simple terms for the customer, incorporates their feedback, and creates user stories.
  2. Organizes user stories, work items in the product backlog and identifies the order of the to-do list.
  3. Prioritizes user stories based on dependencies and importance while enhancing process efficiencies with continuous improvements. 

If you are debating which team member to choose for a product owner role, pick the person who knows the customer like the back of their hand. The team member who understands what the customer needs is likely to perform this role exceptionally well.