Empirical Software Engineering

, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 1525–1557 | Cite as

How product owner teams scale agile methods to large distributed enterprises



Software development teams in large scale offshore enterprise development programmes are often under intense pressure to deliver high quality software within challenging time contraints. Project failures can attract adverse publicity and damage corporate reputations. Agile methods have been advocated to reduce project risks, improving both productivity and product quality. This article uses practitioner descriptions of agile method tailoring to explore large scale offshore enterprise development programmes with a focus on product owner role tailoring, where the product owner identifies and prioritises customer requirements. In globalised projects, the product owner must reconcile competing business interests, whilst generating and then prioritising large numbers of requirements for numerous development teams. The study comprises eight international companies, based in London, Bangalore and Delhi. Interviews with 46 practitioners were conducted between February 2010 and May 2012. Grounded theory was used to identify that product owners form into teams. The main contribution of this research is to describe the nine product owner team functions identified: groom, prioritiser, release master, technical architect, governor, communicator, traveller, intermediary and risk assessor. These product owner functions arbitrate between conflicting customer requirements, approve release schedules, disseminate architectural design decisions, provide technical governance and propogate information across teams. The functions identified in this research are mapped to a scrum of scrums process, and a taxonomy of the functions shows how focusing on either decision-making or information dissemination in each helps to tailor agile methods to large scale offshore enterprise development programmes.


Agile software development Scrum Large scale offshore enterprise development programmes Product owner Product owner teams Grounded theory 



The anonymous reviewers are thanked for their detailed comments, which have substantially improved the clarity of the article. I am also grateful to all the companies and interviewees who were generous enough to contribute their time and resources to participate in this research. Thanks also go to the current and former students of the Executive MBA at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, who helped to identify target companies. The research benefited in part from travel funding from the UK Deputy High Commission, Bangalore, Science and Innovation Network; the Institute for Innovation, Design & Sustainability (IDEAS) at Robert Gordon University, UK; and accommodation and sustenance from Company H during the data collection visit to Delhi, India.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Computing Science and Digital MediaRobert Gordon UniversityAberdeenUK

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