Updated: Mar 2, 2022
The Product Owner (PO) drives the project from the business point of view and possesses the primary responsibility for the return of investment (ROI). The PO should communicate a clear vision of the product and define its main characteristics.
The PO approves or declines the product increment at the end of each sprint. His most important responsibility is to ensure the team only works on those backlog items that provide the highest ROI for the customer.
Please make no mistake; the PO represents the customer but still has the same goal as the development team; therefore, he must do all he can to assist the work during a sprint. He should limit the disruption of team members and ensure that the team has all the necessary information to deliver value.
The Main Activities of the Product Owner
The day-to-day activities of the Product Owner are varied and include the following:
Ensures that the product backlog contains enough user stories ready for the team to work on.
Works closely with the development team to mitigate urgent quality issues based on customer demands.
Performs competitive analysis and market research to best focus their efforts.
Shares feedback with the team regarding the quality of deliverables.
Ensures the product backlog is managed, maintained and prioritized at all times.
Takes an active part in the different Scrum events to increase the collaboration with the Scrum development team.
Determines the goal of each sprint to guide the team’s efforts.
Determines the project release dates and tracks development progress.
Determines and communicates the product vision and roadmap to the team and other relevant stakeholders.
The Characteristics and Qualities of a Great Product Owner
Let’s review the skills, characteristics, and conditions necessary to fulfill the Product Owner role:
A Product Owner should have the authority to make decisions related to the product. The ability to take those important decisions is vital because it is a primary condition for achieving the sustainable pace of the Scrum development team.
A Product Owner should be engaged in the development process. Otherwise, he will find himself outside the process quickly, without the ability to promote his agenda. An engaged PO has a higher chance of succeeding because he can lead the team through his decisions and commitments towards creating the final product.
Knows their customers
The PO represents the customer, and as such, he must truly understand the customer’s expectations, goals and vision of the product.
Master of the product backlog
The PO is the final authority on all aspects of the product backlog. He must have the expertise to understand how the product backlog should be prioritized by calculating all the critical factors such as risk, dependencies, value, etc.
Promotes face-to-face communication
As the customer representative, the PO should promote face-to-face communication in his team, which is the most efficient way to convey information. For example, product backlog items are explained in a personal conversation instead of using tools.
Available to the team
The Product Owner should be available to the development team, the customer and the Scrum Master. The availability of the Product Owner is essential in the Scrum environment, based on sprints and specific time boxes for several reasons:
It ensures that stakeholders do not have to wait long for feedback.
It removes the barriers associated with POs that differentiate themselves from the rest of the team.
It ensures that the team can keep a constant pace of development without needing to stop their work.
It guarantees that essential questions are answered quickly and valuable information is communicated on time.
Availability should come with responsibility. Product owners must be available for their teams. However, they must also find a healthy balance between availability and being a babysitter to the team.
Focuses on maximizing value
The Product Owner’s primary goal is to maximize each sprint’s value for the customer. Therefore, he must find the balance between “functional” stories that add direct value to the customer and “technical” stories that are important from a technical perspective (keeping technical debt down) but do not add immediate value to the customer.
Creates a product vision
The PO is the customer's voice and creates a product vision with the stakeholders (Customer, Management, etc.). The product vision is crucial because it allows development teams to work in a sustainable rhythm, increases product success and increases clarity.
Master of his domain
To gain his team's respect and make the right decisions, the PO must understand the environment and domain he is part of. The PO must have in-depth functional product knowledge, understand technical limitations, and be aware of the latest market conditions.
Adaptable to changes
In Agile development, we embrace change that arises during development cycles. A good PO is not afraid to confront these changes and resolve them in a way that does not affect the project goals and vision.
Trusts his team
A good PO trusts the team to deliver their commitments and gives them the freedom to manage their tasks and risks throughout the project.