Habit #7: Our POs only focus on functionality

12 Jun, 2023
Xebia Background Header Wave

DevOps enables a more seamless and friction-free delivery of value to production, but getting there isn’t always easy. We’ve seen a lot of the mistakes companies make when it comes to doing DevOps, so in this 7-part series, we’ve been revealing the negatives behind some seemingly positive habits. In this final post of the series, we discuss why companies who say, “Our POs only focus on functionality,” might actually have a problem. 

Product owners have the responsibility of building a great product — and a great product contains great features. But there is much more to a great product than its features. A product also needs to be maintainable, and that’s why you also need to do updates. It’s kind of like building a house. It would be great if you built a new one with an extra bedroom, bath, and a sun porch. You can even add another floor on top in ten years. But in the meantime, you’ll need to paint the house and potentially replace the windows or update the electrical and plumbing. In other words, maintaining the house should take priority over investing in new additions. 

In the same way, many POs focus on delivering new features rather than on taking care of the upkeep. Sure, these new bells and whistles make the customers happy, but meanwhile, the product’s state of decay increases. Eventually, that decay will grow so large that it negatively impacts the speed at which you can build new features, as well as their quality. Everything slows down. Next thing you know, that PO is gone and another one comes in who cannot deliver any new features at all because they have to clean up the mess first. 

Fortunately, your POs can shift their focus to be more balanced, and that starts by bringing people from all the different teams together to solve all the problems.  


For example, most POs own the backlog of all the new features that should be added to the product and, coming from the business side, they understand the benefits of adding these. So, a lot of product owners only focus on new features, but "owning" an application also requires a lot more than that. 

Meanwhile, the engineering team is getting input from different directions and doesn’t know how to get all of it working — someone else insists on 99.999% availability while someone from the security department points out the requirements around security.  They should also be taking care of any technical debt, maybe they took a shortcut to get that app out in time, or used something that was still modern three years ago, but is outdated now and needs to be replaced. That’s not business functionality, but it needs to be done to create an application that is maintainable.  

The product owner should be thinking about all these areas — features, technical debt, bug fixes, etc. — and finding a way to prioritize them. They should decide on what the team should work on instead of putting that on the engineers. 

The product owner should own everything about the product, so they can make the decisions on whether to add this new business feature now or remove that technical debt instead or focus more on compliance features. There needs to be a balance between the new stuff and updating the old. 

Ultimately, this bad habit is not the product owner’s fault. Often, they are assigned to work on building business features and get a lot of credit for that. But if you change the role to something more holistic and give the PO responsibility for everything, you’ll get a better DevOps way of working, and a winning product that works. 

Contact us to learn more! 

If you want to know how you can make your product owners savvier and more responsible and how to start those conversations that can change this role for the better, get in touch. In the meantime, we hope you learned a lot from our 7-part series on doing DevOps the right way. If you missed a post or want to review any of the seven ineffective scenarios, here are the links: 

  1. We have a DevOps department.
  2. We make sure security and compliance are done at the end of every project. 
  3. We focus on 100% uptime for everything.
  4. We have a release manager.
  5. Failure is not an option.
  6. Our superheroes always fix production issues really fast.

Download our 7 Habits eBook


Get in touch with us to learn more about the subject and related solutions

Explore related posts