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Working with Customers, Users, and Other Stakeholders

The customer, who is the person purchasing the product, and the user, who is the individual using the product, determine the success or failure of the product. Only if enough customers buy the product and the users find it beneficial will the product be a success in the marketplace. Notice that the customer and the user may not be the same person. They may also not have the same needs. Take the example of an electronic spreadsheet. The needs of its users might include ease of use and high productivity. The company purchasing the product, on the other hand, might be concerned about the total cost of ownership and data security.

To create a winning product, the product owner, ScrumMaster, and team must develop an intimate understanding of customer and user needs, and how these needs can best be met. The best way to do this is to involve customers and users early and continuously in the development process. Asking customers to provide feedback on prototypes, inviting customer representatives to sprint review meetings, and releasing software early and frequently are great ways to learn from customers. Teams should bear in mind that the product is only a means to an end—to help the customer and to generate the desired benefits for the company developing it, not an end in itself. As Theodore Levitt famously put it, "People don't want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole." It is only when we focus on the customer that we develop the best possible solution.

In addition to customers and users, product owners should involve other stakeholders, such as representatives from marketing, sales, and service, early and regularly by asking them to attend the sprint review meetings. The meetings allow the representatives to see the product grow, to interact with the Scrum team, and to share questions, concerns, and ideas. Bryson (2004) provides an overview of helpful techniques to identify and analyze stakeholders.

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