Tag Archives: product owner

The Rules of Scrum: Your Product Owner is allowed to communicate directly with any stakeholder of the team

The Product Owner needs to be in contact with all those that are invested in the work of the team (aka stakeholders). These stakeholders have information on the marketplace, the users’ needs, and the business needs. The Product Owner must be able to communicate with each of these individuals whenever the need arises. If this is possible, the entire Scrum Team will have the most up to date information that will aid them in their execution of the product. If not, the team will have to wait for information and/or guess which will cause confusion, blame, distrust, and unhappy customers.

To learn more about Product Owners, visit the Scrum Team Assessment.


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The Rules of Scrum: Your Product Owner refines the Product Backlog so it is ready for each Sprint Planning Meeting

The Product Owner is responsible for maintaining the Product Backlog. This includes its ordering in terms of value and effort, its clarity, and identification of what acceptance criteria apply to each Product Backlog Item. It is also very important for the Product Backlog to be ready for each Sprint Planning Meeting so that the team can select the Items for the current Sprint and break those down into tasks. If this is done, the team is able to create an effective Sprint Backlog where it can volunteer for tasks and achieve quick wins each day. If not, the team will likely take on the work of refining the Product Backlog during the Sprint Planning Meeting which is wasteful and not focused. Having a ready Product Backlog helps the team focus during its meetings and ask relevant questions to the Product Owner.

To learn more about Sprint Planning Meetings, visit the Scrum Team Assessment.


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The Rules of Scrum: Your Product Owner can veto the inclusion of an idea on the Product Backlog

The Product Owner is responsible for ensuring that the Product Backlog Items reflect and contribute to the vision of the product being built by the Scrum Team. Therefore, the Product Owner needs the authority to reject any suggestions for features, functionality or fit and finish that do not move the product towards that vision. This authority must be based on both the depth of knowledge of the Product Owner as well as formal responsibility granted by the organization. A Product Owner that does not have this authority to veto may nevertheless be able to accomplish the same thing by putting any unwelcome ideas at the very end of the Product Backlog based on authority to order the Product Backlog. The lack of this authority to veto can lead to a product with no integrity of vision, an erosion of the Product Owner’s authority to order the Product Backlog, and ultimately an erosion of the critical separation of powers between the Product Owner and the rest of the Scrum Team (the Product Owner with authority over “what to build” and the rest of the team with authority over “how to build it”).

To learn more about Product Owners, visit the Scrum Team Assessment.


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The Rules of Scrum: Your Product Owner is knowledgable about the product and the business

The Product Owner’s job is to be the customer or the customer proxy. He needs to know the most current information about the product and the business that the team is working in. If this is the case, then the Product Owner is able to make relevant choices about the product and will be able to answer the questions of the team. If this is not the case, then he will have to find someone else for the answers (which will cause waste), make up the answers (which will likely guide the team in the wrong direction), or fail to give the team what they need.

To learn more about your Product Owner, visit the Scrum Team Assessment.


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The Rules of Scrum: Your Product Owner has no duties outside the Product Owner duties

The Product Owner duties make up a full-time job on a Scrum Team. The Product Owner should not be a manager, a developer or have any other partial duties outside the role of Product Owner. This focus allows a Product Owner to complete their duties with complete focus and commitment to the success of the Product. Of course, in the creation of a Product and its vision, there are many things that need to be done with customers, users and other stakeholders, not just working with the Scrum Team directly. If the Product Owner has other duties outside of Product Owner duties, then one or more of the Product Owner duties are compromised, the Product Owner job is not being done and the team suffers. An individual who feels unable to serve as a full-time Product Owner should not accept this position or should work with their management to enable it to become a full-time position.

To learn more about a Product Owners duties, visit the Scrum Team Assessment.


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The Rules of Scrum: Your Product Owner uses the Sprint Review to help the team continuously improve the product

The Sprint Review is a key meeting for the team to improve the product. There are three main purposes of the Sprint Review: inspect how the last Sprint went with regards to the product; identify the items that are complete and order any potential changes; and, integrate those changes into the Product Backlog. This meeting aids the team in inspecting and adapting the entire product increment and how the team is progressing towards any deadlines. The Sprint Review is a check point that helps the Scrum Team to know the product’s current state, compare to its desired state, identify gaps, and take the needed steps to improve. This meeting is also where the Product Owner challenges the Scrum Team to look at the product clearly (it’s not just for the stakeholders!). When a Scrum Team refrains from having and participating in this essential meeting, the is team is likely to become a Scrum Team in name only without any of the far reaching benefits that many other Scrum Teams have experienced. A demonstration of the Product Backlog Items completed in the Sprint is often a part of this meeting.

What is the main purpose of the Sprint Review? Bottom line: to get feedback on how well the work the team is doing will satisfy business needs.  If the team isn’t getting that feedback in a practical concrete form, then the Sprint Review needs to be improved.


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The Rules of Scrum: Your Product Owner is truthful about the condition of the product (its value scope and costs)

The Product Owner has the most recent and important information about the value and cost of the product being delivered. This information can greatly serve the team by allowing them to understand the product’s current state and how this affect where they will be going in terms of the vision of the product. If the Product Owner is able to carry this out then the team will have relevant information that will aid them in their decisions and execution of the product. If this is not carried out then the team will be in the dark – they will make poor decisions and struggle with the feedback given by the stakeholders since they have no transparency into the reality of the product.

For more information about Product Owners, visit the Scrum Team Assessment.


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The Rules of Scrum: I take direction for product vision and scope from my team’s Product Owner

As a Team Member, it is my job to figure out how to solve a problem or request that is stated by a Product Backlog Item (PBI), with the help of my team.  It is the responsibility of the Product Owner to give us the vision of the product and decide how much scope is to be done to satisfy the PBI.  One simple way to think about this concept is that the Product Owner is responsible for the “what” and “why” and the Scrum Team is responsible for the “how” and “who”.  If the Team Members decide on the product vision by themselves, they run the risk of misinterpreting features, moving down a path that is not valuable or even creating work disconnected from the needs of those who will be using the software.  If the Team Members choose their own scope they may do much less than is needed or much more than is required.  There is a balance in the Product Owner providing vision and scope, and the Scrum Team providing knowledge and experience in its execution.


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The Rules of Scrum: The Product Backlog is refined to ensure it is ready for every Sprint Planning meeting

Product Backlog Items closest to the top of the Product Backlog should be small enough for the team to be able to complete at least one potentially shippable slice of the product in the next Sprint.  As well, they should be ready for the Sprint Planning meeting so that the team can plan its work for the Sprint.  To be ready for the Sprint Planning Meeting, each PBI must be estimated.  Generally speaking, Product Backlog Items at the top of the Product Backlog are clearer and more detailed than lower ones. More precise estimates are made based on the greater clarity and increased detail; the lower the order, the less detail. Product Backlog items that will occupy the Development Team for the upcoming Sprint are fine-grained, having been decomposed so that at least one item can be “Done” within the Sprint time-box. Product Backlog items that can be “Done” by the Development Team within one Sprint are deemed “ready” or “actionable” for selection in a Sprint Planning Meeting.  Having too many items in the Product Backlog “ready” for the team is considered wasteful over-planning, although generally the top ten items should be in this “ready” state.  The value of having a refined Product Backlog before the Spring Planning Meeting is that it enables the Scrum team to focus on the purpose of the Sprint Planning Meeting which is to answer these questions: What will be delivered in the Increment resulting from the upcoming Sprint and how will the work needed to deliver the Increment be achieved? Essentially, what is the Spring goal and what are the tasks needed to complete the goal?  Without a ready Product Backlog, the purpose of the Sprint Planning Meeting is difficult to achieve.


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The Rules of Scrum: PBIs are invitations to conversations, not detailed specifications

Product Backlog Items are brief descriptions of a feature or function.  Usually they are short enough that they could be hand-written on a small note card.  This brevity is meant to be just enough information so that the Product Owner and the team can use the PBIs as invitations to conversations.  The resulting conversation (ongoing, evolving and involving the whole team and stakeholders) and the shared understanding that comes from that conversation is where the real value of the PBI resides.  Part of the conversation occurs when the Product Owner initially writes the PBI so that the team can estimate the effort of building it.  Part of the conversation is the actual work being done during a Sprint.  Another part of the conversation is during the Sprint Review when stakeholders see the results of the team building the PBIs.  If one creates PBIs as detailed specifications then we are essentially handcuffing the team into a set path and a prescriptive solution.  The reason we hire qualified people onto our Scrum Team is for their knowledge, experience, and problem solving abilities.  If we lock them into a set path, then we are literally turning them into cogs in a machine to spit out specific code.  PBIs that are invitations to conversations allow them the flexibility to figure out how to solve the problem by engaging in a conversation on what is needed.


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The Rules of Scrum: The Scrum Team includes the Product Owner, ScrumMaster and the Team Members

There are three roles on a Scrum Team, no more and no less. These roles are: ScrumMaster, Product Owner, and the Team Members. It is critical to have all three roles present on the Scrum Team to get all needed responsibilities taken care of in an effective way. The Product Owner is responsible for the product and how the team connects with that product. The ScrumMaster is responsible for improving the use of Scrum in the organization and team, as well as removing any obstacles that slow the team down. The Team Members are responsible for getting the work done by self-organizing and finding ways to improve their own process and work. Without one of these key roles, the team would be missing a key focus and job.  As well, Scrum specifically disallows any other roles on the Scrum Team.  A person who has an official role of Tester cannot be on a Scrum Team.  However, the same person, if given the official role of Team Member can be on a Scrum Team.  If people have their official titles, performance evaluations etc. done in their traditional roles, it hinders self-organizing and causes conflicts of interest.  A team is not a Scrum Team until those old roles are eliminated.


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24 Common Scrum Pitfalls Summarized

Scrum is the most popular agile method… if you count all of the teams doing “Scrum Butt”.  Doing Scrum really well is much harder and much rarer.  Here is a list of 24 common Scrum pitfalls or bad behaviours of Scrum teams:

  1. Excessive Preparation/Planning: Regular big up-front planning is not necessary with Scrum.  Instead, a team can just get started and use constant feedback in the Sprint Review to adjust it’s plans.  Even the Product Backlog can be created after the first Sprint has started.  Read more about the Excessive Preparation  Scrum Pitfall here.
  2. Focus On Tools: Many organizations try to find an electronic tool to help them manage the Scrum Process… before they even know how to do Scrum well!  Use manual and paper-based tracking for early Scrum use since it is easiest to get started.  Finding a tool is usually just an obstacle to getting started.  (And besides, check out what the Agile Manifesto says about tools.)  Read more about the Focus On Tools Scrum Pitfall here.
  3. Problem-Solving in the Daily Scrum: The Daily Scrum should not be used to find solutions to problems (obstacles, impediments) raised.  Instead, keep the meeting very short and have those problem-solving conversations afterwards with only those who are interested.  The ScrumMaster facilitates this meeting to keep it on track.  Read more about the Problem-Solving in the Daily Scrum pitfall here.
  4. Assigning Tasks: Even though the concept of self-organizing teams has been around for a long time, still some people think that a project manager or team lead should assign tasks to team members.  It is better to wait for someone to step up than to “take over” and assign a task.  Read more about the Assigning Tasks pitfall here.
  5. Failed Sprint Restart: Although cancelling a Sprint is rare, it can be tempting to try and wait until everything is “perfect” or “ready” before re-starting.  Teams should immediately re-start after cancelling a Sprint.  Read more about failing to re-start a cancelled Sprint here.
  6. ScrumMaster As Contributor: The ScrumMaster is like a fire-fighter: it’s okay for them to be idle – just watching the team – waiting for an emergency obstacle.  Taking on tasks tends to distract the ScrumMaster from the job of helping the team follow the rules of Scrum, from the job of vigorously removing obstacles, and from the job of protecting the team from interruptions.  Read more about the problems of having a ScrumMaster as contributor here.
  7. Product Owner Doesn’t Show: The Product Owner is a full member of the team and should be present at all Scrum meetings (Planning, Review and Daily Scrums).  As well, the Product Owner should also be available during work time.  Of course, the PO also needs to work with stakeholders and might be away during that time, but these discussions should be scheduled outside of the team’s meeting times.  Read more about the pitfall of the Product Owner not showing up.
  8. Stretch Goals: The team decides on how much work it will do in a Sprint.  No one should bring pressure on the team to over-commit.  This simply builds resentment, distrust and encourages low-quality work.  That said, of course teams can be inspired by challenging overall project or product goals.  Read more about the pitfall of setting stretch goals for Scrum teams.
  9. Individual Heroics: Individuals on a Scrum team should not do excessive individual overtime, or in any other way try to be the “hero” of the team.  Scrum helps us build great teams of people, not teams of great people (quote from Barry Turner).
  10. Team Organizes Product Backlog: The team does not have proper insight into the needs of users and instead should be focused on solving technical problems.  The Product Owner needs to be accountable for ROI and therefore should resist any pressure from the team to do things in a particular order for “technical” reasons.
  11. Product Owner Specifies Solutions: The Product Owner must allow the team full freedom to come up with solutions to the problems presented in the Product Backlog.  PBIs should be free of technical specifications unless they can be tied directly to a customer or end-user request.
  12. Urgent Interruptions: Urgent interruptions should not be allowed in a Sprint… instead, if it is urgent enough, the team should cancel the Sprint.  Otherwise, the interruption should be put on the Product Backlog and deferred until the start of the next Sprint.
  13. Making Assumptions: Often team members will fail to ask the Product Owner about details of the work they are doing.  A team member solves problems, but it is critical to know about constraints.  The feedback between PO and Team Member should be ongoing throughout every day of the Sprint.
  14. Not Getting Done: This is hard to prevent from happening from time to time, but it can become a habit for a team to over-commit.  Make sure that a team that is doing this is using burndown charts effectively and is holding demos even when they have not completed all their work.
  15. Demo Not Ready: Sometimes a team forgets that it will take time to prepare for a demo: cleaning the team space, setting up a demonstration environment, getting scripts ready, and ensuring that critical stakeholders are prepped.  These activities can be part of the tasks in the Sprint Backlog.
  16. Prototype Not Shippable: A Scrum team should attempt to produce production-quality, “potentially shippable” software right from the very first Sprint.  Building prototype code just delays the inevitable need to write production code.  Similarly, wireframes, detailed designs and other similar tools should also be avoided.
  17. Distributed Team: Although Scrum does not officially require team members to be collocated in a “war room”, the reality is that any distribution of team members (even just into separate cubicles) has a huge negative impact on transparency and communication, which in turn has a huge impact on productivity and quality.  Here is a YouTube video on distributed Scrum teams.
  18. Directive ScrumMaster: The ScrumMaster needs to be a facilitator who supports the team in learning self-organization, and the Scrum rules.  The ScrumMaster should never succumb to the temptation to suggest how a team member does his or her work, nor what task next to work on.
  19. Changing Team Membership: Scrum is a framework for creating high-performance product development teams.  If the membership of a Scrum team changes, it forces that team to re-start the Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing sequence.  If the team is in Norming or Performing, then changing team membership for any reason is a waste of quite an investment.  Here is a YouTube video on changing Team Membership.
  20. Non-Scrum Roles on the Scrum Team: It is very common for an organization to create a Scrum team without changing the official title and duties of the people who are members of that team.  For example, a person who is a Project Manager might be given the responsibilities of the Product Owner without an official change of title.  Scrum teams should only have a ScrumMaster, a Product Owner, and Team Members.  Our video about the roles on a Scrum team explains why!
  21. Giving Up On Quality: Scrum has very high demands on teams regarding the quality of their results: “potentially shippable software”.  It is easy for a team or organization to fall back on the crutch of defect tracking software instead of maintaining extremely high levels of quality at all times (due to pressure to release features).
  22. Imposed Deadline Scope And Resources: Scrum is reality-based.  If an external stakeholder wants to impose a minimum scope, a deadline and constrain the resources available to the team then they must allow that quality will slip… which in turn is against the principles of Scrum.  The reality is that no-one can predict the future so any such imposition is simply a fantasy.
  23. Definition of “Done” Imposed:  There is confusion between the concept of the definition of “done” and “standards”.  Managers and other stakeholders often incorrectly impose standards on a team as its definition of “done”.
  24. ScrumMaster Not Present: I once saw an organization that had created a room for a “team” of ScrumMasters.  They worked there together most of the time!  The only time the ScrumMaster should be away from the team is when he/she is working on removing an impediment that is outside the team.  Otherwise, the ScrumMaster should be in the team’s room.

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Agile Jobs in Beautiful Saskatoon!

From time to time I am happy to list positions that are available in organizations that are becoming agile or already are agile. For what it’s worth, this position was described verbally to me as being much like a Scrum Product Owner. Here is the position information:

Project Manager at zu
Closing date: Monday, May 30, 2011

Our new Agile PM will manage full life cycle website/application development projects using the Agile methodology, work closely with our strategists, designers and development team and other stakeholders to manage requirements, scope, milestones, timelines and budget.

As an Agile Project Manager at zu, you enjoy working with other talented people and succeed when we deliver a project worthy of being called “zu-made” to a client. You live to under promise and over deliver.

You have a passion for Agile Software Development. You are eager to work with and share your experiences with a team transitioning to Agile. The thought of finding new ways to adapt Agile to an existing team excites you.

As a team leader, you inject enthusiasm into the combined zu-client team, adding transparency and candidness to communication in all directions. Using your natural ability to develop rapport with all types of people, you liaise regularly with the client and team, keeping progress on track and delivering on expectations.

You are excited by the idea of creating things that have never existed before, that learning and teaching are everyday occurrences, you don’t mind dressing funny from time to time, or bringing a dish to the potluck.

If you have the required experience, pride yourself on being extremely well organized, have a magnetic personality, sense of humor and are eager to be a part of an evolving company, then what are you waiting for? Drop us a line!

Background

Post secondary education in business or technical field
Minimum three years related work experience
Knowledge and experience with Agile software development, processes and methodology
Ability to work effectively on concurrent, multiple tasks and projects
Ability to effectively manage priorities in an ever-changing environment
Outstanding leadership and teamwork skills
Clear and concise documentation skills; you can write mean user story
Strong verbal and written communication skills

Responsibilities

Document, learn and support all aspects of projects: scope, risk, schedule, budget, quality and communication
Manage client expectations and co-ordinate and deliver progress updates to ensure the successful delivery of projects on time and on budget
Manage all project related requests with the client
Ability to guide and direct production teams to keep them on budget and schedule while continually inspiring them to innovate and provide the best solutions for our clients
Work with development teams on a daily basis to clarify requirements and to provide feedback
Facilitate developing user stories based on requirements
Prioritize and prepare product backlog and facilitate estimation meetings for strategists, designers and developers
Communicate project status with stakeholders and gather feedback for review and implementation

For more information about zu, head to our website: www.zu.com/live/careers.


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New Certified Scrum Product Owner training in Toronto added to calendar

Due to popular demand, we have added another Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) training to our listing of courses.  There is an overwhelming need for well trained Product Owners, and we’re happy to take up the challenge. The next CSPO will happen on January 14 & 15 at our office in Newmarket, just north of Toronto.

During this seminar, our Certified Scrum Trainer will teach participants how to do the fundamental tasks of the Product Owner in the Scrum environment.  The attendees will learn:

  • how to develop a comprehensive Product Backlog
  • competently add value to the Scrum team during the Sprint
  • fully understand how Scrum works and their role within the agile environment

With a maximum class size of five people, this seminar is designed to allow participants to dig deep into the role of the Certified Scrum Product Owner. After completing this course, attendees of this seminar will be able to create and manage a Product Backlog, work with a Scrum Team to create high-quality software, and use the Scrum framework to build and deliver the right software.  Please refer to our website for a course description and to reserve space for yourself or others on your team. http://www.berteigconsulting.com/CSPOCourseDescription

We look forward to adding value to your team!

If you would like more information contact us at sales@berteigconsulting.com


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Growth Facilitator role on an OpenAgile team

This is my first post on the Agile Advice blog.  In fact, it’s my first blog post ever.  Before joining the Berteig Consulting team, I had never even heard the words Agile, Scrum, Lean, or OpenAgile.  After all, my background is marketing, community relations, and sustainability!  Needless to say, I’ve gone through some intense learning about the role of the Growth Facilitator.

The responsibility of the Growth Facilitator is about more than simply prioritizing New Work goals and tasks. I see the role as contributing to the organizational culture, and helping to build the business in a sustainable way. “Sustainability” is an important concept at BCI. It means that we are committed to conducting business in a way that is respectful of the environment, society, and the economy. At the same time, it means that the BCI team operates at a sustainable pace, finding ways to balance our work and life so that we don’t burn out.

As Growth Facilitator, I am also responsible for guiding the team toward delivering greater value for our stakeholders. At Berteig Consulting, our stakeholders don’t just include the company’s owners. Our stakeholders include a wide range of groups, including customers, suppliers, employees, and our families, all without whose support nothing we do would be possible. Delivering value to our stakeholders requires that we keep them in mind when we commit to our tasks each week.

One of the important lessons I learned was to give the team S.M.A.R.T. – Simple, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound – goals and give them space to come up with the tasks to meet the goal. When I first started, I made goals that were broad, saying for example “to take care of our clients” or “to work at a sustainable pace.” Rather than stating goals, I realized that I was making statements of the team’s shared values. And while the team integrated these thoughts into our behavior, it was nonetheless challenging to spin off specific tasks that we could work on. Now, I try to ensure the goals I create conform to a user story format and meet S.M.A.R.T. criteria. For example “Berteig Consulting can update the Certified ScrumMaster course content so that all CSM course participants receive the best value in the market.” As soon as I made the direction clear, the team self-organized and generated tasks required to achieve each goal.

Another key lesson of developing the direction for the team was allowing the Team Members time to review the next Cycle’s goals in advance of the Cycle Planning Meeting so that they could provide feedback and seek clarification. This became particularly important when one team member jumped on a business opportunity that created a significant amount of New Work. We simply could not overlook this great opportunity, and we moved it to the top of the New Work priority list and put it in the next Cycle Plan.

Last, I learned that the Growth Facilitator and Process Facilitator have a complimentary relationship that requires frequent consultation. As the Process Facilitator goes about helping the team overcome obstacles, it can become clear that the team needs to address a systemic challenge during one of the upcoming Cycles. The Growth Facilitator then states the need as a Cycle goal in a S.M.A.R.T. format, allows the team time to give feedback, and prioritizes the goal in the New Work list. When the goal is brought to a future Cycle Planning Meeting, the team breaks the goal into tasks and solves the systemic obstacle that the Process Facilitator identified.

These lessons have helped me understand how the Growth Facilitator role extends beyond prioritizing New Work and guiding the team’s value delivery. The role also fosters the culture in which the work gets done – working at a sustainable pace, taking care of our customers, and maintaining unity of vision.

I would love to hear your thoughts about anything I’ve expressed here. Berteig Consulting is a deep-learning environment, and your feedback is invaluable.

David D. Parker
VP Marketing and Sustainability
Growth Facilitator


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2022
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Kanban for Product Owners [MicroLearning™]
Online
C$149.00
Jul 22
2022
Details
Kanban for Scrum Masters (ML-KSM)
Online
C$149.00
Jul 28
2022
Details
Win as a Manager (ML-WAAM)
Online
C$895.00
Aug 10
2022
Details
Product Owner Bootcamp with CSPO® (Certified Scrum Product Owner®) [Virtual Learning]
Online
C$1525.75
Aug 11
2022
Details
Scrum Master Bootcamp with CSM® (Certified Scrum Master®) [Virtual Learning] (SMBC)
Online
C$1525.75
Aug 23
2022
Details
Win as a Manager (ML-WAAM)
Online
C$895.00
Sep 8
2022
Details
Product Owner Bootcamp with CSPO® (Certified Scrum Product Owner®) [Virtual Learning] (POBC)
Online
C$1525.75
Sep 14
2022
Details
Scrum Master Bootcamp with CSM® (Certified Scrum Master®) [Virtual Learning]
Online
C$1525.75
Sep 21
2022
Details
Product Owner Bootcamp with CSPO® (Certified Scrum Product Owner®) [Virtual Learning]
Online
C$1525.75
Sep 27
2022
Details
Win as a Manager (ML-WAAM)
Online
C$895.00
Oct 6
2022
Details
Win as a Manager (ML-WAAM)
Online
C$895.00
Oct 14
2022
Details