What does it mean to be a product owner?

Product owners are the people who are in charge of product development. They are the leaders who manage the team and guide the product’s progress eventually helping the team to be successful. Product owner plays a pivotal role in every type of product development, particularly in the Agile methodology.
The position of the product owner in business was originally developed to give an address to the gaps and challenges that are faced in Agile development, mostly in the Scrum teams. Scrum is a type of Agile framework that is used in software development.

What do product owners do?

For any given product development project, product owners are the predominant stakeholders. They are the managers of strategy, tactical execution and vision connected with product development. Product owners develop and meanwhile set the program priorities, supervise and maintain the product backlog. It is a listicle of tasks that has got to be settled before the completion of a project.

On the other hand, product owners work intimately with the development team. Meanwhile, they are equally responsible for maintaining the quality and integrity of the ultimate deliverable. Product owners are at present a part of the Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS).

Various industries such as banking, e-commerce and retail are now employing the product owners, who can navigate the product from inception to completion and as well have a vision for it. When we talk about an organisation, product owners are the heart of the entire universe of product development. They are the bridge between internal organisations that include marketing, customer support, sales, product management, etc and the development team.

What do product owners do

What is a product owner in technology?

Needless to say, the product owner plays a vital role in technology, software, and product development. He/she understands the requirements from the clients/customers and communicates the same to the development team. The product owner congregates user stories- interpretation/narrative of the application/software from the customer’s perspective. These are rather simple tasks. It is the responsibility of the product owner to prioritise the stories that influence the development of the program/app.

Is the Product owner the Project manager?

The answer to this question is rather organisation specific. A few organisations have an exclusive or single role for product owner/project manager. However, some other organisations employ both of these roles and distinguish well-defined differences between them.

‘Product owner’ is just an alternative name for a project manager. While product owners authorize the definition and make adjustments to the scope of work, project managers make sure they deliver the project that is previously outlined by others.

Take a look at this table to have a better understanding of the contrast of product owners and project managers.

Product Owner Vs Project manager

Nevertheless, both the product owner and project manager handle Customer demos and develop acceptance criteria.

How does the product owner manage stakeholders’ desires for the product?

The product owner is held responsible for handling the stakeholders. They should be authorised to recognise and adhere to the goals of the product.

Explore below a few tips and tricks to establish a successful relationship with internal and external stakeholders:

  1. Be Aware Of The Plan: Ensure that you have a perfect understanding of the scope of the project, resources and also the timeline. Communicating the roadmap and strategy to all the stakeholders is equally important.
  2. Be a Leader: Inculcate leadership qualities and learn to say no when it is necessary. Whenever there is a request that falls outside the scope of the project, say no. Meanwhile, accept and say yes when it enhances productivity and scales up the work.
  3. Advocate For Your Customers: A product owner is someone who will have a complete and in-detail understanding of the product. Hence, articulating the ideas that best suits the interests of customers is of equal importance.

What skills does a product owner need?

What skills does a product owner need

Although the job description of a product owner can be organisation specific or industry-specific, here are some of the basic skills that a product owner needs to succeed.

  • Authority to do the work: The product owner must be empowered to take necessary and timely decisions and complete the project.
  • Leadership: Right from the beginning, a product owner should lead the project. The product owner is the developer of the vision, team and the project.
  • Decision-Making: Capability of making quick and authorised decisions is one of the preliminary skills of a product owner.
  • Communication: Having excellent communication skills is of great significance for a product owner. They connect the people with information.
  • Delegation: The product owner should be aware of the skillset of their team members and hence guarantee smooth collaboration.
  • Conflict Resolution: Disagreements are very much a part of every project. The product owners should know to find solutions while solving conflicts.
  • Stakeholder Management: This can define the difference between chaos and progress. Ensuring the team meets objectives and resolves issues at the earliest is of crucial importance.
  • Development & product experience: Though a product owner need not be a trained or experienced software engineer, having a basic idea of the processes involved in software development is crucial to develop workflows and handle stakeholders and their expectations.
  • Tactical skills: Having an elementary idea about everyday activities and knowing what work will be completed when is another important skill that a product owner must-have.
  • Market & customer insights: The product owner is the one who provides basic information about the product- pricing, features, marketing strategies, sales forecasts, etc. Therefore, having a better understanding and strong knowledge about customer and market is critical for them.

Roles and responsibilities of a product owner

According to Roman Pichler, the paramount responsibility of a product owner is to guarantee that the product creates value for its users, customers and the company.

Product owner responsibilities

  1. Set the vision: Apart from setting the goal, the product owner also aligns with the company’s strategy, meets’s users’ needs, and fulfills the mission. This is a crucial responsibility. The vision needs to be communicated to the stakeholders, team members, and everyone who is a part of the project.
  2. Develop the product road map: It is the responsibility of a product owner to develop roadmaps that accomplish both long- and short-term goals.
  3. Develop product strategy: A product strategy breaks down the product’s vision in the course of time and defines the market, the value proposition, the offering, the distribution, the pricing, and much more.
  4. Communicate with development teams, stakeholders and scrum masters: A product owner educates stakeholders; organises funding; relays status; negotiates budget, scope, funding & schedule; performs solution demos.

What is the role of the product owner in scrum?

Although the product owner is held responsible for the success of the project, be it any development cycle, a few roles are unique to the Scrum framework. In such scenarios, the product owner is the authorized lead for the team.

Essential responsibilities for the product owner in scrum are:

Role of the Product Owner in Scrum

Challenges for product owners

Even though skills and responsibilities for a product owner can make the position look prodigious, it has its challenges for sure. To name a few are:

  1. Lack of authority: Product owners sometimes may not receive adequate support and cooperation from the management. Scrum teams cannot be successful if the product owner doesn’t have genuine authority. Thus, product owners should ensure that they are empowered.
  2. Sense of being overwhelmed: Generally, product owners find it strenuous to have sufficient time to complete their work or lack support from their team. Resulting in overworking product owners developing bottlenecks for the projects.
  3. Proxy product owner: At times, organisations, use proxy owners when making the transitions before naming a product owner. This leads to ambiguity in authority and creates uncertainty in the team.
  4. Partial product owner: Unless there is a commitment to the company/organisation and the entire scope of the project is understood, product owners face challenges to take on their responsibilities.

Why do you need Scrum Product Owner Certification & Who needs it?

Scrum Product Owner Certification

Having a piece of in-depth knowledge about scrum is crucial because this has been a method of application, be it any industry. Holding a Scrum certification is pivotal since scrum is not only used in transforming product development work but also in supply chain management, graphic designing, and even in wedding planning.

And who all needs the scrum certification? The answer is quite simple- anyone who represents the voice of the customer in project and product development. If a job requires feeding the needs of the client to the development team, then this certification might just be right for you.

The future for product owners/ Next steps after Scrum Product Owner Certification

The evolution of the role of the product owner Certification and the scrum framework, that exists in an agile environment is deeply connected. Product owners are responsible for the success of the projects, connecting the developers, stakeholders, and users to create the best possible product. This job is a little of everything- marketing, sales, business, and technology.

An increase in innovation increases the in-depth understanding of user experience and embracing design thinking. This results in a drastic increase in the value of a product owner who can inspire teams and has a passion for users. A product owner who knows what’s best for the product, the team, and the market can sustain any industry.

Congratulations! You’re on your way to become an awesome Product Owner.

Being a product owner is all about defining and prioritizing teamwork. Though this is challenging, the end results are rewarding. Often, balancing other competing business priorities, scope, budget, and constraints of time could be overwhelming. However, the appropriate application of Agile principles to product development will help the product owner to accomplish the organisation’s goals cost-effectively and rapidly.

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Author's Bio

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.