Product owner is an integral part of every scrum team. This specialist is responsible for maximising the quality of the products created within projects. He/she oversees for the entire process of products’ development – from business strategy to product design. This expert’s role is to find a balance between business and technology.
Key competences of product owner:
- knowledge about the product (both substantive and technical);
- familiarity with business, customers and the market (trends and competition);
- excellent communication skills;
- ability to make independent decisions and take responsibility for them.
A product owner is someone who:
- understands and anticipates customer needs to manage the product development process effectively;
- has multiple roles: business strategist, product designer, market analyst, customer liaison and project manager;
- sets a product vision, its strategy, and priorities;
- is responsible for every stage of the development process and the final product;
- appears to be a key person for any event: planning, improvement, review or iteration;
- is a guarantee that the team maintains a coherent vision of the product, despite the flexible and rapid nature of its development;
- has the support of stakeholders in all significant decisions and action strategies, as well as clear instructions to developers.
Product owner’s tasks:
- Full responsibility for “why” and “what” (while the development team cares about “how”).
- Defining goals and vision of product development. The in-depth market knowledge and communication skills allow them to anticipate problems or needs and respond to them.
- Managing a product backlog. It contains e.g. a list of tasks to be performed by the team. The specialist creates a list of items and prioritises them based on the overall strategy and business goals. They must continuously update it based on a project changing needs during development. They also make it available to all interested groups (especially programmers) in order to ensure optimal project performance and results.
- Prioritising needs. They are framed by scope, budget, and time; (e.g., if the product is to be launched within six months, this limits the scope of the project).
- Supervising and evaluating the actual product progress in each iteration. The specialist assesses the results deciding if the team go back to the previous stage or move on to the next one.
- Communicating with stakeholders, including customers, business managers, and a development team. Ensures that objectives are clear and vision is aligned with business goals.
- Creating a visualisations of:
- customers journey map (product owner always stands in front a customer);
- product roadmap (a strategic guide for stakeholders as well as an execution plan for the team).
The maps can support your team at every stage of the development process. They facilitate the transition from outlining a customer’s journey and creating product designs mockups to mapping product dependencies. Maps help motivate and engage a team and convince them to a product vision.
Communication and interaction
Product owner’s work is a constant interpersonal relationship with people with various interests. As people have different perspectives, conflicts become inevitable. The above-average communication skills, as well as open and courageous expression of opinions, are crucial for the specialist.
Communicativeness facilitates effective work with the team and stakeholders at any moment and towards different people; both inside and outside the organisation. The big challenge is understanding how to convey the message to a specific audience at the right time and in the proper format. Assertiveness is essential at this point. It focuses mainly on protecting the team from changing requirements flowing directly from the environment to the scrum team.
Product owner’s interactions:
- Sponsor – there should be a crystal clear link between a product owner and a sponsor in terms of goals and budget; otherwise, critical misunderstandings may arise.
- Customer – they determine what their wishes and expectations are and how to help them ultimately enjoy the product.
- Scrum master – together they are “servants” of the team. They work together to make sure Scrum will bring benefits.
- UX and UI – understanding customers and their problems requires deep cooperation between the two groups. Otherwise, not a good enough product will ever be created. However, whether a product is excellent or just good enough, UX, UI, or Dev Team may have different opinions. The key is to see everyone’s point of view and make the best decision for the product.
- Scrum team – with this team, they must define a sprint goal, which then agrees to a sprint commitment.
- Managing (c-level) – there is no room for doubts in conversations with the company’s top board. The product owner’s role is to find a balance between business and technology.
Product owner’s operation techniques:
- Meetings. They probably take place every day. The product owner must have a clear priority in which to participate. When organising them, this specialist has to make sure that the right people are there, not wasting each other’s time.
- Polemics. For example, technical leaders demand preferences for technical topics. The product owner must be able to assess if something is essential at this point; or what will happen if it becomes a priority.
- Brainstorming. It is great for gathering as many ideas as possible from others and using them. People often have different and repeatedly contradictory perspectives, but without them, hidden possibilities cannot be discovered.
- Asking questions. Doing so, presents an excellent opportunity for a product owner to listen more than talk. Especially by asking difficult questions, it’s possible to get to the bottom of the matter.
- Negotiations. These do not mean that they need to convince others of their idea. The goal is always to create the best product. Certainly, more than once, the product owner will have to negotiate with both the development team and the stakeholders.
Are you fit for a product owner role?
- Do you enjoy talking to many people in different contexts every day?
- Are you ready for frequent conflicts?
- Do you like conducting meetings?
- Are you a good listener?
- Do you find yourself good at negotiating?
- Are you ready to make decisions at any time?
The product owner’s role can certainly be described as not easy, because it requires making many decisions at every step. The development team, as well as the company, expect the specialist to define the entire product release process.
The product owner must prioritise, set performance indicators, and gather requirements. There will be countless questions and alternatives in the product development process. Programmers will find many options for a feature or let you know that it is ready to use. It is the person who decides what is optimal for the product and when it will be prepared for release. The entire team must be managed in a way to maximise the company’s value.