Within current methodologies such as Scrum, Product Owner’s responsibilities include representing the interests of all those involved, defining product features and prioritizing Product Backlog items – an ordered list of features, requirements and everything that’s needed in a product.
The PO is one of the main professionals within a team, located at the heart of every development cycle. But what do they really do? While a Product Owner’s role can vary depending on the environment, they typically have a number of key roles and responsibilities that span everything from business strategy to product design.
Their main function is to maximize the value of the product being developed by the team, so that it reaches the peak of functionality for its users. For this to happen, they facilitate development in cycles known as sprints, which last from 1 to 2 weeks.
The Product Owner is usually a person with a solid knowledge of users, system types, the competition, the market and even future trends in the sector. They are considered the main participant in the Scrum project, and the only one with the power to mark the project as complete.
Because of this, this role is assigned to a person rather than a group. The PO can delegate operational tasks related to backlog management to other team members, but responsibility for this kind of management is always that of the Product Owner.
What is an Agile Product Owner?
An Agile Product Owner, or Scrum Product Owner, is the leader responsible for maximizing the value of products created by a Scrum development team.
To do so, an Agile PO has to take on multiple roles, including business strategist, product designer, market analyst, customer service and project manager. As a result, Agile POs are an integral part of any Scrum team.
What is a Scrum team?
Scrum is a project management framework, so a Scrum team simply consists of the group of employees and managers who work together on a project while adhering to Scrum processes and practices – agile techniques at scale that provides a way to connect multiple teams that need to work together to deliver complex solutions.
Scrum teams are not hierarchical. While there are team leaders, the structure of a Scrum team recognizes each member as equally important and essential. Combined, the team members have the skills, experience and knowledge needed to complete the project.
The essential skills of a Product Owner
In addition to ensuring a clear understanding of all the requester’s needs, the PO ensures the conceptual integrity of the functionalities and points out errors and improvements to be made. It is the Product Owner who authorizes the final delivery of the project or product, attesting its quality.
Important Product Owner skills include:
- Mastering the agile management of projects and products;
- Being availa, and committed to the team and establishing professional and personal goals throughout OKR templates.
- Knowing how to communicate and work in close collaboration;
- Knowing how to negotiate;
- Knowing how to help the development team throughout all phases of execution;
- An in-depth knowledge of business, customer and market analysis, since it is the PO who will make decisions about product features.
Why is the Product Owner important for Product Management?
A Product Owner is considered to be the voice of the customer. So anyone in this role needs to understand customers’ requirements, doubts and expectations.
This role is quite different from that of a Project Manager. Traditionally, Project Managers are responsible for the famous iron triangle of a project (scope, deadline and cost), in which success means balancing and fulfilling the plan across these three elements.
On the other hand, success in product management is all about solving customer problems while bringing measurable benefits to the business. In this sense, PO is a much more strategic role.
What are the Product Owner’s responsibilities?
Some of the daily responsibilities of a PO are:
- Generating value for customers and the business through the product, rather than simply delivering a list of features;
- Supporting planning. A PO actively participates in the various planning cycles proposed by so-called “agile planning”, which contain different scopes and planning cadences: portfolio, product, release and sprint. These different levels of planning are carried out with different stakeholders, according to the business and company in question;
- Organizing the Product Backlog (also known as Backlog Grooming). In practice, this involves activities like creating backlog items, refining these items, supporting estimates and prioritizing tasks with the team;
- Understanding and anticipating customer needs to more effectively manage the development process;
- Defining and verifying acceptance criteria for backlog items. These indicators are conditions that determine whether functional and non-functional requirements will be accepted;
- Determining the order in which activities will occur to promote product development, and prioritizing deliveries;
- Interacting with multiple audiences, including the development team, customers and other stakeholders inside and outside the company.
The Product Owner is responsible for each step of the development process and for the final product. They play a central role in inspecting and evaluating the progress of the product in each iteration. The PO has the final word on performance, and decides whether the team needs to rethink everything, or can move forward with the project.
POs have a lot of responsibilities, so they need tools and solutions that quickly adapt to their dynamic roles.
Visual resources can help their team through every step of the development process, easing the transition between describing the customer journey and sketching product designs to mapping product dependencies and sharing work with stakeholders.
The Product Owner’s responsibilities are part of a long journey and cover a wide range of activities, ranging from product discovery, policy and stakeholder management to systems thinking and maximizing return on investment for their team.
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