Scrum Product Owner

What is a Product Owner in Agile Scrum?

In my last blog post, I talked about the Scrum Master, his/her responsibilities and details of their role. In this post, I’m going to go over what the roles and responsibilities of the product owner are.

What are the roles and responsibilities of a Product Owner?

Before we jump in I want to be 100% clear that the product owner is a single individual, not a committee. May organizations try to make the product owner a committee based system, which actually clutters up the framework and makes for a lot of inefficiencies. The product owner does need to respond to stakeholders and translate visions to the team. Yet, it is still a single role with multiple responsibilities.

In an overview, it might seem that the product owner has the easiest job in an agile scrum framework, yet every role is critical to the success of the product in the agile scrum development.

The product owner is responsible for the return on investment (ROI) of the product that is developed and the development efforts.

In order to have a successful product, there must be a must have a clear vision of the product and what is happening in the market.

The product owner must be able to determine the priority of the development that needs to occur in order maximize the ROI of the product. Thus, the product owner is the owner of the backlog and how the product and it’s functions and features. Additionally, the product owner must be available for the team in order to ensure that all questions are answered and there is 100% clarity in what is being developed.

Just because the product owner is the owner of the product backlog, doesn’t mean that they can simply demand things to be done faster. The amazing thing about the agile development methodology is that it has great checks and balances. The development team will speak let the product owner know what is possible and what can be committed to.

In order to properly plan and develop the product, the Product Owner must have the authority to make real business decisions, vision about what the product could be, and availability to the team(s). In bad implementations of Scrum, one of these elements is usually missing. For example, if I don’t have the authority to cancel product development entirely (an important ROI decision), it’s misleading to call me “Product Owner.”

How does the Product Owner Prioritize the Backlog?

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.

Who makes a great product owner?

The product owner is responsible for the vision that is created for the product. The Product Owner must fully understand what is happening in marketing efforts, sales efforts and fully understand the market. This person should also be extremely good at mapping products and understanding how to write stories and have the communication skills to speak with stakeholders and translate those into the vision. Thus, there is a lot of depth to the Product Owner role in the agile scrum methodology.

Conclusion

The product owner is overall responsible for the success or failure of a product in its generating ROI. Thus, there must be a clear vision translated to the development team and a clear prioritized product backlog.
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