Especially in healthcare software development, where FDA compliance and HIPAA compliance require such attention to detail, it is crucial to have one person whose job it is to know the customer and guide the project. Often times companies will rely on third party software developers to maximize efficiency, but it is important for both parties to understand expectations. When approached the wrong way, it is easy for the relationship with a third party software developer to muddle a project rather than streamline it. The comprehensive book on B2B relationships could dwarf War and Peace, so I’ll focus on one key role in healthcare software development that can make or break a project: the Product Owner.
The Product Owner is an individual who takes ownership of a product on behalf of a company, and while that description may be straightforward, the expectations surrounding the position often are not. If you are an agile healthcare software developer, then you already know how important it is to not assume that you know your customers’ needs (my blog post), but this doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be someone involved in a project who understands and can speak on behalf of the customer or user. The Product Owner has the vision for a product and is responsible for guiding the project; he or she holds the roadmap. Understanding the market is a part of this responsibility. This individual will often be expected to bring in real users who can test and report on a product, but he or she also needs to understand the users’ personas. The Product Owner’s understanding of his or her role can make the difference between healthcare apps that engage users and those that gather dust.
Scrummethodology.com aptly calls the Product Owner “the one person responsible for a project’s success.” Although this may seem daunting, certain guidelines can ensure that this role increases productivity and efficiency like it’s meant to. Reid MacTavish, Sr. Project Manager at Pathfinder Software, has led healthcare software development projects for clients who have understood this role and some who have not. MacTavish describes the Product Owner as “Someone who has contact with the user; someone who understands the user and can work with the designers (to guide the project).” MacTavish describes the ideal Product Owner as one who:
-Prioritizes what the team works on
-Works with designers on defining requirements
-Is decisive and makes timely decisions
-Brings in actual users for demos
-Listens to user feedback and adapts to design
-Gets his or her hands dirty and plays with the software to measure its progress
-Engages in healthy debate (giving in too easily isn’t helpful, nor is fighting every step of the way)
MacTavish also feels that a healthcare Product Owner should have at least a basic understanding of software development. Other experts echo the belief that Product Owners should have some technical know-how. This is necessary in order to share the full vision of the project with the rest of the team.
Understanding the importance of a Product Owner can make all the difference when it comes to healthcare software development, especially when working with a third party developer. If you can’t identify an individual (emphasis on one single person) who fills this role within your organization, it would behoove you to take action. Help them understand the duties and responsibilities, empower them, and give them the road map!