Agile framework has been the most popular software development model for a long time, and one of the primary reasons behind it is well-defined roles and responsibility. Product owner, despite being one of the four key roles, is often overlooked as the least important. However, that is far from the truth. The roles and responsibilities of a good product owner are vital in ensuring the vision of the product in the long run.
Who is a product owner?
In the simplest terms, a product owner is the person who acts as the link between those who want the product to be built and those actually building it. Acting as the representative of the client and management, a product owner oversees the entire product development process. It is the product owner who formulates the list of requirements and hands them out to the team as per the priority. In most cases, it is also the product owner who ends every sprint by deciding whether a task is done or if it needs further work.
Key responsibilities of a product owner
Maintaining the product backlog
The most important responsibility of a product owner is to take care of the product backlog. The Scrum Product Backlog is the improved version of the Requirement Specification Document, listing all the things that need to be done. The duties for maintaining the product backlog include:
- Clearly expressing the item in product backlog
- Ranking the items in product backlog as per their priority
- Making the product backlog accessible to all and handing out the next backlog item to the team
- Explaining the product backlog items to the team so that there is no scope of doubt
Serving as the link
As mentioned earlier, the product owner serves as the bridge between the management and the development team. However, that doesn’t mean that the product owner is a mere representative. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Product owner has both the duty and the authority to make decisions regarding the product, including changes in the product backlog. Any request for alteration from the management goes through the approval of the product owner.
The Definition of Done (DoD) is one of the key challenges of product development, simply because it varies from person to person. While every person with a role has a say in it, it is the product owner who generally decides when the product is done. Usually, the DoD in case of a product owner is when the final product meets all the requirements of the client.
Navigating the team effort
The clearly defined role of a product owner stops him/her from telling what to do or not to do. As such, a product owner cannot dictate the tasks to be completed in any sprint. However, a product owner indeed plays an important role in ensuring optimized team effort and productivity.
Playing the customer’s advocate
If you thought a product owner only played dual-role as a representative of client and developer, think again. There is an added responsibility on a product owner to ensure that everything done add optimum value to the customer. In a way, a product owner plays an additional role of a reviewer to decide if the product is going to be the one that customers would prefer or not.
Key characteristics of a good product owner
So, now that you know unicorns exist, it’s time to find them. The right product owner is quintessential for a good product, so here are the things you should look out for:
- One doesn’t have to be from a technical background to be a product owner. However, it is imperative that the product owner possess complete functional knowledge about the product and how the consumers would use it.
- A good product owner must be more than a mere proxy of the management. He/she must have both the authority and the willingness to make decisions.
- While the entire development team is concerned about the functionality of the product, the product owner must understand things from the perspective of the end user and whether the product will add value to them. Thus, the keen eye of a good product owner will ensure the popularity and financial success of the end product post-launch.
- It cannot be stressed enough how important communication is in any product development. This becomes trickier when you are dealing with the developer team and the management- two factions with different approaches and different objectives. A good product owner facilitates smooth communication between the two and ensures that the expectations and objectives are clear to both.
In the end, it could be said without a doubt that a good product owner is vital for a good product to be built. There are a far too many responsibilities on a product owner, and all of them need to be fulfilled with diligence. Getting the right product owner should be one of your top priorities before even thinking to start the product development.