Knowledge hub
Sep 21, 2021

“Combining Product Ownership with line management? Hold my beer.”

Agilists focus on program performance; line management focuses on functional excellence and control. Agilists preach a focus on product outcome, while line management tends to maximize output. Just two obvious stereotypes between the two groups. Sander Nienkemper looks forward to visiting Agile@Scale, because he combines both roles (as well as a third!) at insurance company Vivat.

Sander Nienkemper has come to fill three roles simultaneously at Vivat. Firstly, he’s the IT manager for Vivat’s Individual Life ART. Secondly, he’s also Product Owner for Vivat’s Lean-Agile Center of Excellence (LACE). Finally, he’s also a Business Owner for the Requirements-to-Deployment part of the company’s development regime. No shortage of interesting perspectives on Agility at Scale, in short.

Three roles? How?

“My first role is a line management role; the ‘Individual Life’ ART originates from our conventional IT department. The transformation is very much ongoing, in that sense. Then, secondly, when we started implementing SAFe I was part of the pioneering team, which eventually grew into the Lean-Agile Center of Excellence. When we discovered that name and how suitable it was for us, we decided I should become the Product Owner for the LACE.

Finally, I own the ‘requirements to deploy’ part of our development regime. This last role allows me to focus on guardrails throughout our development organization: from the first requirements in the Epic, to deployment in the iterative production cascade of plan & design, develop, test and deploy. I work closely with our Compliance and Audit department to ensure they understand and agree with our approach to quality management.

Conflicts and alignments

The combination of roles results in seemingly internal conflicts of interest. For my ART I want to secure a high level of autonomy, but as a business owner I also strive for organizationally universal practices. Requirements by design, data by design, security by design, that kind of coherence. It’s not always easy to cede autonomy to a higher goal, but ultimately our interests will align of course.

My talk at Agile@Scale will be about the juggling of roles and interests. It isn’t all conflict, mind you: sometimes the duality strengthens each role. As a PO for the LACE for example, I can also introduce the focus on built-in-quality that my involvement in requirements to deployment brings.

Upcoming Product Owner Courses

Filter 0 results
Learning Style
No results found, clear filters to show all options
Written by Gladwell Academy, but most of our content is created by trainers and partnering experts!