Product Owners represent the centre of the development cycle, acting as the voice of the customer while being responsible for maximizing product value. But what do they actually do? And what are their key responsibilities?
Although their job description can vary, they do share a common set of responsibilities. This article will give a quick definition of the position and a list of its duties.
Product Owner: A Definition
To achieve this, the Product Owner takes on multiple roles while engaging with the scrum team, internal stakeholders, and the customer. As such, acts as the voice of those groups.
Responsibilities Of The Product Owner
Oftentimes, their long days are filled with a variety of tasks, ranging from meetings with their team to sketching up different solutions. Nonetheless, and independent of organizations and industries, Product Owners share various responsibilities across the board.
1. Managing The Product Backlog
The Product Owner ensures that the Product Backlog is well groomed, meaning that all work is reflected, ordered, and clear to the relevant stakeholders. It involves creating product backlog items along with acceptance criteria while prioritizing them to achieve the underlying product vision. Because the backlog is made visible to all stakeholders, the performed tasks are optimized while ensuring the team stays aligned and committed to the vision.
Furthermore, the Product Backlog is the live source for all the development work to be completed. As such, it is constantly updated to make sure the team can deliver the most important tasks iteratively and incrementally.
2. Prioritizing Work
As stated before, the Product Backlog reflects a prioritized list of tasks to be completed. This is created and maintained by the Product Owner. The Product Owner has to manage various influences and needs, ranging from internal stakeholders, the development team, and the customer. Furthermore, aspects such as potential revenue gain, the cost and difficulty of implementation as well as potential customer satisfaction are going into the ordinal assessment. Although the Product Owner is solely responsible for the Product Backlog, considering other opinions is key in reflecting all the needs in a prioritized manner.
3. Participating In Scrum Events
The Product Owner obtains a key role in the Scrum events such as Sprint Planning, Review, and Retrospective. During Sprint Planning, they work with both the team and external stakeholders to pick tasks they want to achieve in the coming sprint.
During weekly refinement meetings, they work closely with the development team to define, rank, estimate or remove tasks. They also lead the Sprint Reviews to make sure the previous development work meets the common Definition of Done. In addition, during Sprint Retrospectives they act as part of the team to help finding opportunities for improvement.
Throughout the Sprint, they work closely together with the Scrum team to answer questions arising, accept and define new and existing work items, collect customer feedback, and design prototypes. During the Daily Standups, he is welcome to attend and listen, but not to take an active part unless asked.
4. Defining And Owning The Product Vision
While there is organizations where not Product Owners, but the management (e.g. Product Directors) create and partly own the vision, Product Owners make sure to execute on this vision. But more often than not, Product Owners take upon the majority of creating and owning the vision.
They have to make sure that this vision is understandable to everybody in the firm while obtaining organizational support for it. This involves continuous communication with all relevant stakeholders. This allows the team to stay on track serves as an over-arching yardstick for the team to measure their activity and progress against. Furthermore, he or she has to ensure good economic decision-making during development at the sprint, release and product level. This involves both maximizing monetary and customer value as well as responsible cost management.
5. Being Primary Liaison
The Product Owner is the primary communicator for both the firm’s stakeholders (including the Scrum team) and customers. One of the key tasks is to be make sure to get organizational buy-in for the vision. Being a great communicator (and sometimes negotiator) is therefore highly desired. As such, he indirectly supports the Scrum Master in keeping the noise away from the Scrum team.
Furthermore, by acting as the voice of the customer, he or she makes sure that the development work is maximized. That involves communicating with the sales and marketing teams, doing market research, and talking to customers directly. Again, the Product Owner’s ability to prioritise comes into play as he or she cannot consider every request. Furthermore, by being knowledgeable about all product aspects, the Product Owner can anticipate client and market needs and proactively.
6. Monitoring Progress
The Product Owner inspects the delivered work, shows the achieved progress and has complete authority to accept or decline items. Work that is either incomplete or not finished needs to be re-prioritized. On top, they communicate that progress externally to other stakeholders.