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Tattoo Artist — The Product Owner?

When someone thinks of a Product Owner or Product Manager, they typically think of work done in a software development space. But, like many professions, they can be tied to other industries. A recent experience of mine shed some light on how this can be the case.

Tattoo experience

I walked into the tattoo shop, looking to get a coverup of an old tattoo done on one of my shoulders. After talking with the artist for 30 minutes, it was determined that a coverup was not the right choice. Doing so would require laser removal. It would require healing. In the end, the coverup would cost quite a bit. I decided to go with a tattoo on the other shoulder to save some money. From there, we discussed a design that would be fun and have meaning. At last, the meeting was done, and I set up an appointment.

Fast forward 2 months.

I go into my appointment. I received further bad news. The tattoo I had requested would not fit nicely on my shoulder. We talked through some new ideas. Inspiration struck, and a new idea was born. Unfortunately, the cost was too much for my budget.

After additional conversation, a more straightforward design was conceived. The design was smaller and would fit on my forearm. It was within my budget. The artist and I were happy with the design. Finally, my new tattoo came to be.

The Scope Triangle

This convoluted story is one that closely relates to the world of development. Throughout the experience, three factors were in flux. Quality, time, and cost were constantly changing. With the development of software, these factors are rarely set in stone. This relationship is known as the Scope Triangle.

As time increases for the development of a product, so does the cost. If a team wants to cut down the time, the scope of the work may need to decrease to avoid the risk of diminished quality and higher costs. Most products have a sweet spot, like a smaller, simpler tattoo that fits my budget.

When working as a Product Owner, these factors are always in your mind. Even if you may not directly be thinking of it, your decisions will affect the Scope Triangle.

Engineering and Product Relationship

Another aspect of the story that relates closely to software development is the relationship between the artist (engineer and Product Owner) and me (the customer). Having a close connection between the two allows for a more transparent conversation where the wants and needs of the customer can be more easily understood. Too much time with a middle person can cause the desired outcome to become fuzzy.

First, a product owner/manager should know as much about the customer as they do about the product. This knowledge helps them be the best possible voice of the customer that they can be. The tattoo artist from the story not only asked what I wanted in a tattoo but why. They wanted to know what the meaning behind the tattoo was. They also were not afraid to give me bad news. A customer does not want the bad news sugar-coated all the time. Sometimes, a product owner needs to give bad news.

Like the tattoo artist, the product owner needs to know more than the “what” behind the product. They need to understand the “why” as well. When the tattoo artist gave me recommendations around cost, I was able to make a choice that better suited my budget. Had they not talked to me about it, I could have spent significantly more than I had planned. That would have made me an unhappy customer. I would have been pleased with the resulting tattoo, but the cost would have caused me stress.

Although a company likes to make money, that is not the desired outcome of development. The customer’s needs are what should be addressed. The money comes later.

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