Product Owner Business Intelligence

Project facts:
Company: Carfax Europe GmbH
Company Size: ~100 employees
Domain: Data analytics and visualization
Team composition: 3x Business Intelligence Engineers
Techstack: AWS, SQL, Airflow, Python, Tableau, Jira, Confluence
Method of collaboration: Scrum

Key learning:
In an environment with many ad-hoc requests it is imperative to rigorously prioritize in order to reap long term benefits, even if it sometimes creates short term pain.

Main challenges:
Balancing the unique requirements and requests from a plethora of internal and external stakeholders.
Main successes:
Delivering three major reports to external customers while at the same time building a robust platform for internal stakeholders to get insights.

The Story:
From April 2021 until the end of January 2022, I was the product owner of the Business Intelligence (BI) team within Carfax. The team´s main responsibility was to generate various insights from all kinds of available data. This information was then commonly used in customer presentations, public relations, and to drive internal strategic decisions. Additionally, the BI team prepared and delivered data, reports, and dashboards directly to customers.

The team of three was working according to the Scrum framework. Identically to my work as the product owner Vehicle Data Service, we didn´t have a scrum master to support us. Thus, I had to continuously and consciously switch between the roles of scrum master and product owner. The set-up is surely not ideal but in the end it worked out really well.

The very broad set of responsibilities the team had meant that essentially every single employee in the company was a stakeholder of the team. Combined with the fact that we also had external customers and that the team consisted of three BI engineers, one can imagine what a challenge it was to make all stakeholders happy.

The key to managing this situation was very strict prioritization and transparent communication. Specifically, we were able to show that the long term benefits of building robust systems and user friendly dashboards, where many of the stakeholders could get the information they needed by themselves, far outweighed the costs of serving less individual requests during the development time. These discussions were not always easy and one of the main features of agile work really helped to move forward: making the work of the team visible. The discussion changes once one is able to actually see all the individual tickets the team worked on in an average sprint.

Of course, it also helped to work with a great team. The team didn´t have a product owner beforehand and was thus constantly bombarded with unfiltered requests. From the outside, it may seem obvious, but to many involved it was astonishing how quickly the output and team motivation increased as the team became shielded from these constant interruptions. The shielding and the fact that the team consisted of excellent engineers lead to some exceptional results even though “only” three people were part of the team.

After roughly 10 months, I handed over the responsibilities to a newly hired product owner. I am very proud of how far we had come in those months, from very unstructured and interrupted work without a clear roadmap to an extremely smooth workflow and a clearly defined backlog of deliverables. We managed to deliver three major reports to external customers and were still able to build the base of a robust platform for internal stakeholders to get insights by themselves.