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7 Key Product Owner Responsibilities

Agile is as much about roles as it is about processes. Scrum has three defined roles: the Product Owner, the Scrum Master, and the Developers. While all three are critical roles, the Product Owner’s role is one with huge responsibilities. Product Owner responsibilities go beyond just stakeholder management and extend to driving product value and helping developers practice agile software development.Who is a product owner in Agile projects?The Product Owner is accountable for maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the Scrum Team. How this is done may vary widely across organizations, Scrum Teams, and individuals. —Scrum GuideThis definition in the Scrum Guide outlines the most basic responsibility of the product owner, who as the name suggests represents the product. They may not be the user or customer, but they are a proxy for the customer. The product backlog is an ordered list of items or tasks that need to be accomplished or developed during the project and the product owner manages the product backlog.The Product Owner is a role accountable for maximizing the value of the product, by ensuring that the backlog is always up to date and reflects the prioritized list of features. The Agile product owner must ensure that work is always carried out as per Agile principles and values which leads to customer satisfaction.  “Think of the product owner as the person who champions the product, who facilitates the product decisions, and who has the final say about the product.” -- Roman Pichler A Product Owner: Drives value Manages stakeholders Ensures effective communication between development team and end-users Communicates the product vision to the development team  Bridges the gap between stakeholders and development team members Prioritises item backlog Roles a Product Owner can assumeA Product Owner’s role can be narrowed down to the following: Product expertise: Your domain expertise plays a huge role in why you are a product owner. Your organization needs your knowledge and experience of the product to drive the project and the customers, too, lean on your expertise to understand the product and their business. Maximizing Product Value: Maximizing product value is the most important aspect of a product owner’s job. Prioritizing and delivering items of value to the customer is what maximizing value is all about. Communication skills: A product owner must have good communication skills. This is non-negotiable. Having to work with stakeholders, development team and scrum masters means that Product Owners must be able to communicate the status of the product, technical knowledge and other information that is product related to all parties. Not just communicating, but you must also have a good ear to listen to all that the stakeholders and the developers say and relay the information accurately to the other party. Deciphering customer wants: You need to understand what the customer speaks, decipher it and explain its technological implications to the development team. Understanding what the customer wants or is trying to achieve is an important part of the product owner role. You will use all your skills and persuasion to help the development team understand what the customer wants and ensure that they get a product they love.  Based on these skills, a product owner can take on several roles in the organization, including: Project Manager Business Strategist Customer Analyst Development Team Lead Program Manager Customer-centric Product Design Lead  What a Product Owner is responsible for:1. To Define the Product Vision: The product vision defines what your product is about, who it serves, what problems it solves and what benefits it provide. The PO should have a noticeably clear understanding of the product development goals. The   Product Owner must be able to communicate this vision to the developers and help them create the product the customer wants and is happy with.  The Product Owner’s role in defining the product vision also goes beyond just relaying what the customer wants. They should be able to think out of the box and suggest enhancements and features for the product that even the customer may have not thought about. So, in a sense, the Product Owner has the capability to wow the customer with their vision for the product. The product owner can define the product vision by: Having no ambiguity regarding the vision or end objectives of the product Ensuring that the product aligns to the business objectives Maintaining and grooming the backlog Keeping the developers and the stakeholders on the same page Ensuring that agile development practices are being adhered to 2. To manage the product backlog: Although the Scrum Master and the developers help the Product Owner in prioritizing and refining the product backlog, the primary responsibility of maintaining it lies with the Product Owner. The product backlog is a living artifact and managing it, prioritizing and refining it will ensure that the team is able to continuously inspect and adapt.  Prioritization of the product backlog is an important aspect of a Scrum project. The Product Owner must have the requisite skills to understand how to prioritize items on the backlog by identifying items that would need to be delivered first. But how does the Product Owner know which items to prioritize? Here’s where their domain expertise and inherent knowledge of the product and the market comes into the picture.Product Backlog refinement is the act of adding detail, estimates, and order to items in the Product Backlog. This is an ongoing process in which the Product Owner and the Development Team collaborate on the details of Product Backlog items—Scrum Guide  3. To prioritize Product features: Prioritizing features is an important part of the Product Owner’s responsibility. This comes under the purview of the product backlog management. The Product Owner can take inputs or stories from the development team and the stakeholders but the final act of prioritizing the stories on the backlog is the role of the product owner. The items on top need more priority than the items that are lower down. The product owner must co-ordinate with the rest of the agile development team to prioritize product needs. This they do by considering the budget, scope, and timelines. The product owner must prioritize needs by considering project constraints, identify areas that have fewer constraints, determine which product feature will be developed when, and ensure that prioritization is carried out at every iteration.4. To be involved in the development Stage: The product owner’s role goes beyond just creating the product backlog. They must ensure that the developers are doing the right thing and that all times Agile and Scrum processes are followed. In their quest to maximize value, the product owner will be involved throughout the development process to identify ways in which the process can be made more efficient and productive. The product owner is involved in all the sprints and should: Collaborate with developers to identify and plan the next iterations to be carried out Inspect and identify areas that can be improved upon Refine development process in consultation with developers 5. To anticipate customer needs and adapt accordingly: Customer satisfaction through continuous delivery of the product—Agile Manifesto Agile is all about placing customer needs at the top. The most efficient way to achieve that is by anticipating what the customer would want and adapting the development process and product backlog to achieve that. Agile is also about flexibility and adaptability and helps teams to refine requirements at every iteration. This is necessary in the markets we live in today, where change is rapid and customer requirements also fluctuate.   A product owner can anticipate what enhancements or improvements the customer may want by having foresight and domain expertise. This helps them be prepared and does not spring any surprises on the developers if the customer produces any new needs.6. To act as a primary liaison:   A product owner must work with multiple team members and stakeholders. They are the primary bridge between the teams and the stakeholders and must ensure that there is alignment with respect to time, budgets, and requirements.  The skill to collaborate is essential for a product owner working on critical projects. This liaising does not just involve relaying messages to and from the stakeholders and the developers, but involves facilitating the conversation and decision making, thus empowering the team and aiding transparency between all parties. Their skills of liaising and communicating also comes in handy in motivating team members, keeping stakeholders happy and getting support of senior management by effectively conveying the product vision, features and objectives. 7. To evaluate Progress A Product Owner should be involved at every stage of product progress, making sure that there is no deviation from the original scope and the needs of the customer. This they do by always being aware of how the developers are proceeding with the development of the product and making sure that the product backlog is being adhered to.  Conclusion  “To achieve truly great Scrum, an empowered, dedicated Product Owner with a strong vision is crucial.” --The Product Owner Manual by Scrum Sense Product Owners drive the product development and have several responsibilities within the agile team and the organization. Organizations look for certain criteria in product owners and hire those product owners who they think will be able to perform responsibilities like managing businesses and stakeholders, motivating teams, engaging in Scrum processes and practices and more. 
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7 Key Product Owner Responsibilities

Susan May
Blog
19th Aug, 2021
7 Key Product Owner Responsibilities

Agile is as much about roles as it is about processes. Scrum has three defined roles: the Product Owner, the Scrum Master, and the Developers. While all three are critical roles, the Product Owner’s role is one with huge responsibilities. Product Owner responsibilities go beyond just stakeholder management and extend to driving product value and helping developers practice agile software development.

Who is a product owner in Agile projects?

The Product Owner is accountable for maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the Scrum Team. How this is done may vary widely across organizations, Scrum Teams, and individuals. —Scrum Guide

This definition in the Scrum Guide outlines the most basic responsibility of the product owner, who as the name suggests represents the product. They may not be the user or customer, but they are a proxy for the customer. The product backlog is an ordered list of items or tasks that need to be accomplished or developed during the project and the product owner manages the product backlog.

The Product Owner is a role accountable for maximizing the value of the product, by ensuring that the backlog is always up to date and reflects the prioritized list of features. The Agile product owner must ensure that work is always carried out as per Agile principles and values which leads to customer satisfaction.  

“Think of the product owner as the person who champions the product, who facilitates the product decisions, and who has the final say about the product.” -- Roman Pichler 

A Product Owner: 

  • Drives value 
  • Manages stakeholders 
  • Ensures effective communication between development team and end-users 
  • Communicates the product vision to the development team  
  • Bridges the gap between stakeholders and development team members 
  • Prioritises item backlog 

Roles a Product Owner can assume

A Product Owner’s role can be narrowed down to the following: 

  1. Product expertise: Your domain expertise plays a huge role in why you are a product owner. Your organization needs your knowledge and experience of the product to drive the project and the customers, too, lean on your expertise to understand the product and their business. 
  2. Maximizing Product Value: Maximizing product value is the most important aspect of a product owner’s job. Prioritizing and delivering items of value to the customer is what maximizing value is all about. 
  3. Communication skills: A product owner must have good communication skills. This is non-negotiable. Having to work with stakeholders, development team and scrum masters means that Product Owners must be able to communicate the status of the product, technical knowledge and other information that is product related to all parties. Not just communicating, but you must also have a good ear to listen to all that the stakeholders and the developers say and relay the information accurately to the other party. 
  4. Deciphering customer wants: You need to understand what the customer speaks, decipher it and explain its technological implications to the development team. Understanding what the customer wants or is trying to achieve is an important part of the product owner role. You will use all your skills and persuasion to help the development team understand what the customer wants and ensure that they get a product they love.  

Based on these skills, a product owner can take on several roles in the organization, including: 

  • Project Manager 
  • Business Strategist 
  • Customer Analyst 
  • Development Team Lead 
  • Program Manager 
  • Customer-centric Product Design Lead  

What a Product Owner is responsible for:

1. To Define the Product Vision: 

The product vision defines what your product is about, who it serves, what problems it solves and what benefits it provide. The PO should have a noticeably clear understanding of the product development goals. The   Product Owner must be able to communicate this vision to the developers and help them create the product the customer wants and is happy with.  

The Product Owner’s role in defining the product vision also goes beyond just relaying what the customer wants. They should be able to think out of the box and suggest enhancements and features for the product that even the customer may have not thought about. So, in a sense, the Product Owner has the capability to wow the customer with their vision for the product. The product owner can define the product vision by: 

  • Having no ambiguity regarding the vision or end objectives of the product 
  • Ensuring that the product aligns to the business objectives 
  • Maintaining and grooming the backlog 
  • Keeping the developers and the stakeholders on the same page 
  • Ensuring that agile development practices are being adhered to 

2. To manage the product backlog: 

Although the Scrum Master and the developers help the Product Owner in prioritizing and refining the product backlog, the primary responsibility of maintaining it lies with the Product Owner. The product backlog is a living artifact and managing it, prioritizing and refining it will ensure that the team is able to continuously inspect and adapt.  

Prioritization of the product backlog is an important aspect of a Scrum project. The Product Owner must have the requisite skills to understand how to prioritize items on the backlog by identifying items that would need to be delivered first. But how does the Product Owner know which items to prioritize? Here’s where their domain expertise and inherent knowledge of the product and the market comes into the picture.

Product Backlog refinement is the act of adding detail, estimates, and order to items in the Product Backlog. This is an ongoing process in which the Product Owner and the Development Team collaborate on the details of Product Backlog items—Scrum Guide  

3. To prioritize Product features: 

Prioritizing features is an important part of the Product Owner’s responsibility. This comes under the purview of the product backlog management. The Product Owner can take inputs or stories from the development team and the stakeholders but the final act of prioritizing the stories on the backlog is the role of the product owner. The items on top need more priority than the items that are lower down. 

The product owner must co-ordinate with the rest of the agile development team to prioritize product needs. This they do by considering the budget, scope, and timelines. The product owner must prioritize needs by considering project constraints, identify areas that have fewer constraints, determine which product feature will be developed when, and ensure that prioritization is carried out at every iteration.

4. To be involved in the development Stage: 

The product owner’s role goes beyond just creating the product backlog. They must ensure that the developers are doing the right thing and that all times Agile and Scrum processes are followed. In their quest to maximize value, the product owner will be involved throughout the development process to identify ways in which the process can be made more efficient and productive. The product owner is involved in all the sprints and should: 

  • Collaborate with developers to identify and plan the next iterations to be carried out 
  • Inspect and identify areas that can be improved upon 
  • Refine development process in consultation with developers 

5. To anticipate customer needs and adapt accordingly: 

Customer satisfaction through continuous delivery of the product—Agile Manifesto 

Agile is all about placing customer needs at the top. The most efficient way to achieve that is by anticipating what the customer would want and adapting the development process and product backlog to achieve that. Agile is also about flexibility and adaptability and helps teams to refine requirements at every iteration. This is necessary in the markets we live in today, where change is rapid and customer requirements also fluctuate.   

A product owner can anticipate what enhancements or improvements the customer may want by having foresight and domain expertise. This helps them be prepared and does not spring any surprises on the developers if the customer produces any new needs.

6. To act as a primary liaison  

A product owner must work with multiple team members and stakeholders. They are the primary bridge between the teams and the stakeholders and must ensure that there is alignment with respect to time, budgets, and requirements.  The skill to collaborate is essential for a product owner working on critical projects. This liaising does not just involve relaying messages to and from the stakeholders and the developers, but involves facilitating the conversation and decision making, thus empowering the team and aiding transparency between all parties. Their skills of liaising and communicating also comes in handy imotivating team members, keeping stakeholders happy and getting support of senior management by effectively conveying the product vision, features and objectives. 

7. To evaluate Progress 

A Product Owner should be involved at every stage of product progress, making sure that there is no deviation from the original scope and the needs of the customer. This they do by always being aware of how the developers are proceeding with the development of the product and making sure that the product backlog is being adhered to. 

 Conclusion  

“To achieve truly great Scrum, an empowered, dedicated Product Owner with a strong vision is crucial.” --The Product Owner Manual by Scrum Sense 

Product Owners drive the product development and have several responsibilities within the agile team and the organization. Organizations look for certain criteria in product owners and hire those product owners who they think will be able to perform responsibilities like managing businesses and stakeholders, motivating teams, engaging in Scrum processes and practices and more. 

Susan

Susan May

Writer, Developer, Explorer

Susan is a gamer, internet scholar and an entrepreneur, specialising in Big Data, Hadoop, Web Development and many other technologies. She is the author of several articles published on Zeolearn and KnowledgeHut blogs. She has gained a lot of experience by working as a freelancer and is now working as a trainer. As a developer, she has spoken at various international tech conferences around the globe about Big Data.


Website : https://www.zeolearn.com

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