Product Owner is a misunderstood job in many organizations, yet there’s a soaring demand year after year.

If you’re keen on becoming a Product Owner, then here’s an interview prep guide containing the product owner question and answers that will help you become more confident.

Here’s a list of 30 beginners, intermediate, and advanced questions that will ensure that you are on the right track.

What’s the difference between Agile and Scrum? Are they the same?

Agile manifesto consists of values and principles to develop software iteratively and incrementally. Scrum is a framework that consists of accountabilities, artifacts, and events that helps in creating and sustaining complex products. Scrum is one of the foundations for agility. In general, we call Agile a mindset, and Scrum is a framework that helps adopt an agile mindset.

What are the responsibilities of a Product Owner?

The responsibilities of a Product Owner

  • Creating and owning the Product Vision
  • Managing the Product Backlog
  • Defining the Sprint Objective
  • Manage budget, scope, releases, and stakeholders of the Product
  • Review product progress
  • Being available to the team
  • Effective communication to the stakeholders of the Product
  • Collaborating with the scrum team for the Product Backlog Refinement
  • Measuring the value of the Product (maybe using EBM)
  • Product roadmap
  • Product marketing and sales
  • Product operations

Is Product Owner and Product Managers different?

Product Owners and Product Managers are different. Here’s how –

A Product Owner is a key individual responsible for delivering superior quality products to the end-users within the deadline. The product owner is tasked with optimizing the business value of a product by creating and maintaining the product backlog.

A Product Manager is an individual who identifies the customer needs and the business objectives that a product will fulfill. They envision the product roadmap and the way to achieve it. 

Product Managers lead a cross-functional team that works on the product and makes necessary improvements.

Here’s a table articulating the differences between Product Owner and Product Manager-

Product Owner

Product Manager

The focus of a Product Owner is short-term. Their expertise lies in building products that satisfy customer needs in the present. The Product Manager has a razor-sharp focus on building a revolutionary product. They are strategic and farsighted.
The Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the development process, translating product vision into the product backlog, and representing the customer’s needs in front of the development team. The Product Manager’s role lies at the intersection of product, engineering, design, and marketing. They are in charge of product vision, customer search, cross-functional collaboration, and feature prioritization in the sprint backlog.
The Product Owner takes ownership of creating user stories, backlogs, and epics. The Product Manager is instrumental in creating the product roadmap and minimum viable products.
The product owner measures success using metrics such as successful sprints, cycle time, and lead time. The Product Owner looks after the metrics like Net Promoter Score, conversions, revenue, and churn.

 

As a Product Owner, do you participate in story grooming or user story splitting and estimation discussion?

Yes, the Product Owner participates in Product Backlog Refinement to groom stories and epics. Well-refined stories help the developers in estimating and forecasting. The Product Owner provides business context for user stories and helps in splitting epics and user stories.

What is a Roadmap? How do you develop a strategic roadmap?

A product roadmap is a guide that outlines where a company plans to go and how soon they plan to get there. A good product roadmap helps companies organize, prioritize and communicate their long-term goals and strategies.

While creating a roadmap, the following aspects should be considered: 

  • Product strategy to achieve product goals
  • Priorities based on business value.
  • Product development accountability. 
  • Product timeline.

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Define term velocity in agile? How do you measure it?

Velocity is the sum of completed user story points within a sprint. This can give you an idea of how much work a Scrum team can do in upcoming sprints. For example, if the team has pulled five stories worth 30 story points and completed all by the end of the sprint, team velocity is 30.

What techniques does a Product Owner normally use in backlog prioritization?

The Product Owner uses 5 techniques for backlog prioritization

  • 100 Dollar Test
  • Stack Ranking
  • Kano Model
  • Cost of Delay
  • MoSCoW Method

What purpose does Release Burndown Chart serve?

The Release Burndown Chart depicts the work that is yet to be completed by tracking the sprint status. The X-axis shows the number of sprints, while the Y-axis portrays the remaining work.

What is the Definition of Done? Who decides it?

DoD is a mutual understanding within the Scrum Team on what it takes to make your Product Increment releasable. The development team decides it.

Is Definition of Done and Definition of Ready the same?

The Definition of Done and the Definition of Ready are poles apart.

Definition of Ready refers to a checklist or criteria that indicates that a user story is ready to be added to the next sprint. However, Scrum doesn’t prescribe a definition of done, but it is a popular way to describe what it takes to say user stories are ready to develop.

Definition of Done includes activities such as coding, designing, testing, comments, and release notes.

Definition of Ready also refers to entry criteria for user story and Definition of Done as exit criteria.

Who decides the sprint goal?

The Scrum Team decides the Sprint goal during the Sprint Planning, where a Product Owner comes up with a clear business objective.

Name the various estimation levels in Scrum

Estimating is a crucial event of the product backlog. Estimating is about creating a shared understanding of the requirements and a shared understanding of the solution. When teams have problems estimating, it is rarely an estimating problem. It is a shared understanding problem.

The two estimation levels in Scrum are

Product Backlog: Estimation of items at the product backlog level is helpful when trying to estimate the time demand for specific features. When one estimates their job or task at hand, they have a much greater satisfaction knowing that it can be completed in due time and recognized for their team’s efforts. Another purpose of estimation is that it helps prioritize which features need to be completed first when everything would seem equally important.

Sprint Backlog: Estimates for stories at the sprint backlog level help to draw a line between what work can be accomplished by the team in a single sprint and what cannot.

More precise estimates at this stage lead to more accurate projections of what a team will complete by the end, which is highly important, as overestimating could waste a lot of time while underestimating would mean that some stories may be left behind.

Explain the distinction between committing and estimating.

When agile teams work on the product backlog, they break it down into smaller bits and align them into a roadmap for delivery. This process takes a high-level view of an item’s completion, functional approach, and complexity.

Estimates tell us what it takes to deliver the item. Commitments are promises made by agile teams assuring item delivery during their sprints or in a release.

How is backlog grooming accomplished?

Backlog grooming (actual name is Product backlog Refinement) helps ensure that everyone on the team understands what’s expected of them; this is important. In a backlog grooming meeting, all members discuss the tasks in their own areas so that everyone has a better picture of what they are supposed to be doing, and the others can help where they see fit. Backlog grooming meetings should occur regularly to ensure that tasks are not forgotten or assigned elsewhere without someone noticing.

In the backlog grooming meeting, they take one item at a time and discuss how they can work out that particular story to provide their customers with the best experience.

Consider the Scrum Team is to build an eCommerce portal. The Product Owner conveys that the following functionality to be developed is a payment gateway to start buying the products. But what does it mean to build a payment gateway? Do you need to enable credit card payment or payment via net banking? Which credit card to process? What will it need to allow a credit card? Will we store the credit card information of the customers? How will we keep it, and how will we ensure the security of the stored data? And so on. Too many questions. And to build the proper functionality in the right way, we would want to have a clear understanding/answers to these questions and many more that might arise.

Product Backlog Refinement is the Scrum Team’s activity to clarify the PBIs to be developed in upcoming sprints. The PBIs that the team thinks can get done within a sprint are considered ready for the next Sprint Planning. The Product Backlog Items get refined to this state of readiness during Product Backlog Refinement. Typically, during Product Backlog Refinement, the PBIs are broken down into smaller, more precise chunks of work; they are ordered and estimated. It is an ongoing process.

Product Backlog refinement should not consume more than 10% of the team’s capacity as a rule of thumb. It is not a rule, and the Scrum team may take more than 10% of capacity during the early stage of product development.

Release PO vs. Feature PO: What’s the difference?

When the backlog is too big to be taken care of by a single product owner, there may be a need to add multiple people who can take care of the bigger picture.

For example, team and project product owners work with their respective teams and clients on feature delivery, but in turn, the release product owner may work to formalize important releases/milestones/announcements for paying customers so that they are made aware of upcoming changes related to features or bug fixes.

A feature product owner ensures the team understands a feature well and makes sure it gets delivered on time if there are no impediments. There can be more than one feature the teams are working on.

A release product owner consolidates features through a release and sets dates for these releases. These releases could last up to six months in some larger companies, whereas a feature PO is focused on delivering the feature with their delivery team(s).

What does the cone of uncertainty mean?

The “Cone of Uncertainty” describes the reduction of the uncertainty about scope after each sprint. There can be a lot of variability at the beginning of a project and that may lead to higher uncertainty in estimation and the team makes progress, variability starts reducing and so is uncertainty in predictability.

What is the purpose of Release Management?

Release management helps you provide value to your customers by coordinating the work that goes into deploying new features and bug fixes. Release management plans for each deployment need to include development, testing and release timelines with actionable tasks assigned to specific stakeholders.

How does the PO screen the user stories before putting an idea in a backlog as a Product Backlog item?

While the product owner should welcome new ideas and give them serious consideration, ultimately, they have to filter out only those ideas that will effectively create what your company is looking for.

All new ideas need objective analysis, and this analysis can include test runs with customers (in the form of pilots). Every idea needs to be carefully evaluated before it can be incorporated into your product backlog – especially when it comes to deciding which ones are worth including.

What’s the best way for a Product Owner to deal with uncooperative stakeholders?

The best way to get your stakeholders on board is to show them how their presence is valuable and why they should care about the agile methodology. Involve them in regular meetings and discussions between the team members, product owner, and other stakeholders to understand how it all works.

If things still don’t change, find a sponsor to help convince them of why they should pay attention. Facilitate workshops or training events where everyone can learn what agile development means and how it will benefit everyone involved.

What is Systems Thinking? How important is it for a PO to have?

Systems thinking is vital to good product management. A holistic perspective enables the strategy of a product to be understood along with an increased ability to predict any environmental changes that might affect it. The Product Owner needs to have an in-depth understanding of a product and have others who are also integral parts of a team responsible for it. It means people from different teams must work towards the same shared goal and not on their own agendas simply.

Elaborate on the MOSCOW technique used for backlog prioritization.

The MOSCOW technique is one of the most popular tools used for backlog prioritization. The acronym MOSCOW stands for-

  • MO – Must be 
  • S – Should be 
  • Co – Could be 
  • W – Won’t be

M being the highest priority while W is the lowest priority

Does the Product Owner have a veto over release stories?

As a product owner, you are the face of the client or your customer. This means you have full authority over what goes into releases and when they should be delivered. You are therefore responsible for any requirements being supplied. You have the power to veto releases but only in regards to technical debt, which can only be taken care of by developers (as they will take ownership of it from here on out).

How does the Product Owner optimize the value of the development team’s work?

The product owner optimizes the value ordering the product backlog based on business value, risk, size, and dependencies to ensure the Scrum team also works on the most valued user stories all the time. Developing high-valued stories is not enough, so product owners must ensure timely feedback from the end-user by releasing the product early.

A product owner measures revenue generated by optimizing cost, tracking usage index, and customer satisfaction. That helps product owners to optimize the value of their products.

What do you mean by a decent product backlog item?

A decent product backlog item should meet the DEEP criteria-

  • D denotes Detailed Appropriately
  • E denotes Estimated
  • E denotes Emergent
  • P denotes Prioritized

Do you need a PO for a DevOps team?

Yes, a DevOps team helps develop the product, and this is done by working together with the product team.

But you absolutely need a Product Owner to work on providing any doubts that might arise on a daily basis since the DevOps team doesn’t have direct contact with customers, using their expertise and knowledge of how use cases are worked upstream in the entire development process.

How do you sync the product roadmap with the product backlog and user stories?

Some errors can occur when you have a product roadmap and don’t align it with the product backlog and user stories. The problem is that the product roadmap describes what products and features will be to realize the vision, who is responsible for building those products and features, and sometimes even an estimate of when they will be released.

Thus, it should generate user stories for the team’s product backlog, which should have a 1-to-1 relationship with your product roadmap – if not, some issues may ultimately hold you back before getting down to planning your overall strategy.

What are the challenges of being a Product Owner?

Being a Product Owner might seem rosy, but unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Product Owners have to deal with their fair share of challenges. Here are a few challenges Product Owners often face- 

Absence of Authority 
Product Owners may not necessarily have the support of the management or from the other people in the organization.The Scrum team lacks the power when the Product Owner doesn’t have the power to make decisions. So, ensure you as a Product Owner have the support from management and other stakeholders.

Increased burden 
Product Owners might often feel that they have too many things to handle or lack the time. That is when Product Owners don’t interact with the team members. The focus of a Product Owner should be one product and nothing else. The best ratio of Product Owner to Development is 1:1. With this, even Product Owners are deprived of support.When teams have a dedicated Product Owner, there is authority and transparent decision-making.

Stand by Product Owner There are common times when firms appoint a stand-by Product Owner when making a switch to Scrum. This happens when the original Product Owner is not available, and a team member fills in.
This irregularity disturbs the flow and creates chaos.

Restricted Product Owner  
Product Owners should have a complete understanding of the role. You need to ensure that you have a complete commitment to the role. It includes unrestricted access to market research data and sales figures to make data-driven decisions.

Can one be PO for multiple teams?

The Product Owner is the bridge between the business and Scrum teams as well as customers and other stakeholders. The PO has to focus on the needs of one product at a time because multiple projects with conflicting needs will waste time and productivity for everyone involved. However, Scrum doesn’t prevent a PO from managing multiple products.

Long story short, it is not advisable for PO to head more than one team.

What are Acceptance Criteria? Who determines it?

Acceptance Criteria is the set of predefined conditions that must be fulfilled to declare completion of a user story. The Scrum Team decides the acceptance criteria and is usually written during the Product backlog Refinement.

Do Product Owners have the authority to cancel the sprint?

The Product Owners have the authority to cancel a sprint but should do so after prior consultation with the key stakeholders and when the sprint goal becomes obsolete.

Wrapping Up

These 30 Product Owner Interview Questions and Answers are good to help you prepare for the interview. Refer to the Agile Glossary and go become a Product Owner in 2022. 

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Agilemania

We are a team of Professional Scrum Trainers (PST) and Enterprise Agile coaches actively working as Scrum Trainers, Agile Coaches, Scrum Masters/Product Owners aimed at delivering quality and consistency for our students across the globe.