Scrum has simplified software development by only using three important roles: Product Owner, Team, and Scrum Master. The Team and Scrum Master are vital members of Scrum but the responsibilities of a Product Owner decide the success or failure of the product.
Product Owners are expected to be experienced in issue tracking and project management platforms such as JIRA and Confluence. They also must me have knowledge in product management practices and agile methodologies. Highly sought after Product Owners have extensive experience in software development as a team member before they become owners.
Six Core Responsibilities of a Product Owner
While Product Owners have many responsibilities, below is a description of the six core ones.
Build Relations With Stakeholders, Internal and external
Product Owners are considered to be the voice of the customer and must be able to build and maintain a relationship with key stakeholders. They acquire detailed requirements from stakeholders and customers. The Product Owner is the Ambassador for the product internally and externally and has the ability to influence others to buy into the vision.
Lead Highly Complex Product Teams
The Product Owner works with project managers and technical leads to determine the scope and priorities for product development cycles. They must also collaborate with the product architect and product marketing teams. The Product Owner must continuously work with the development teams to ensure they understand the vision for the product.
Strategic Problem Solver
The Product Owner will suggest and investigate new problems to solve and then validate the business value of products and features. They must be a strategic thinker with a strong customer focus. The Product Owner should be comfortable performing ad hoc analysis to provide management with the required business metrics and reports. This will help with financial and sales forecasting.
Write Well-Defined User Stories
The Product Owner is responsible for writing high-level definitions of product requirements so that the developers can implement it on time, within budget. The user stories will help the team think about the requirements from the user’s perspective and track everything that they need to do throughout the development cycle. These stories are usually written on cards in this format: As a [user role], I want to [goal], so I can [reason].
Own, Create and Prioritize the Team Backlog and Implementation
Once the Product Owner creates the user stories for the project requirements, they will prioritize the features based on business value. The Product Owner will recognize and prioritize the most important work for product teams while considering the short-term and long-term effects. The Product Owner needs to ensure that the features offer a strong value proposition to the users and that it creates the desired business benefits.
Sprint Planning and Review
The Product Owner regularly collaborates with the Scrum Master to organize sprint planning and review meetings. In this role, the Product Owner will work with the Scrum Master to identify and resolve blockers. This key weekly meeting will keep the product team on track through completion.
A Product Owner Attends Daily Standup
While not technically a responsibility of a Product Owner, it’s very helpful for them to attend daily scrums or standups for a number of reasons. It helps team members resolve problems blocking their work, or at least makes the Product Owner aware of them. It helps the Product Owner stay current on the progress of tasks. And lastly, it builds comradery and respect in both directions among team members.
More information about daily standups can be found in this article: The Daily Standup and Scrum Communication
Two Common Mistakes to Avoid When Assigning Responsibilities to a P.O.s
Assigning multiple Product Owners to a single project. This type of setup might seem like a good idea to the inexperienced manager but it likely lead to unnecessary meetings with conflicting interests and politics and will ultimately kill the project.
Assigning a Product Owner to multiple projects with the desire to cut corners or cost. The Product owner will be overworked and will likely neglect product backlogs, miss important sprint planning meetings, and reviews.
Summary of the Product Owener’s Core Responsibilities
The Product Owner is responsible for the success or failure of the product. They must have excellent people skills to lead complex product teams and demanding stakeholders. They must be able to combine strategic problem solving skills along with excellent documentation and backlog management. A Product Owner must be an advocate for the customer and product, and be able to articulate that into user stories. Lastly, the Product Owner is humble and can take feedback well while showing resilience.