What is a Product Owner?
The Scrum Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product and the work of the Development Team. How this is done may vary widely across organizations, Scrum Teams, and individuals.
Key Scrum Product Owner Responsibilities
The Product Owner is the sole person responsible for managing the Product Backlog. Product Backlog management includes:
- Clearly expressing Product Backlog items;
- Ordering the items in the Product Backlog to best achieve goals and missions;
- Optimizing the value of the work the Development Team performs;
- Ensuring that the Product Backlog is visible, transparent, and clear to all, and shows what the Scrum Team will work on next; and,
- Ensuring the Development Team understands items in the Product Backlog to the level needed.
The Product Owner may do the above work, or have the Development Team do it. However, the Product Owner remains accountable.
The Product Owner is one person, not a committee. The Product Owner may represent the desires of a committee in the Product Backlog, but those wanting to change a Product Backlog item’s priority must address the Product Owner.
For the Product Owner to succeed, the entire organization must respect his or her decisions. The Product Owner’s decisions are visible in the content and ordering of the Product Backlog. No one is allowed to tell the Development Team to work from a different set of requirements, and the Development Team isn’t allowed to act on what anyone else says.
What It Takes to Be a Product Owner for Scrum and Agile
Each organization implements agile differently. So understanding an organization’s structure and roles are important to being a successful Product Owner.
But in general to be successful Product owner (PO) they need:
- To be empowered to do the work. Stakeholders and bureaucracy can’t undermine the authority of the PO.
- They need to know how to be a leader. They must provide a clear voice to inform what to build or not build.
- They must be able to ingest information and make quick decisions with authority. They are the authority on the product and have domain knowledge.
- It is critical that a PO is able to clearly articulate and communicate with the development team and stakeholders.
- Handle conflict resolution
- Manage stakeholder expectations.
- Have product and development experience. A PO doesn’t have to be a software developer. But they do need to understand the basic processes involved in software development.
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