What does the Product Owner do? What is his/her role in a Scrum team?

30 01

What does the Product Owner do? What is his/her role in a Scrum team?

logo-kwadrat-2-2 Author: Tomasz Sokołowski

Tomasz Sokolowski – Product Owner since 2019, previously Product Manager for over 10 years. He has been with ITDS since 2022. He has been involved in the financial industry for many years, mainly in projects in the field of retail banking and electronic access channels to banking services. He is currently working at HSBC bank, developing a central platform that provides customer data from multiple banking systems.

Scrum is a modern product and service delivery theory that has become increasingly popular in recent years. One of its main premises is the agile approach to project management. The agile methodology defines activities, tools, and roles assigned to particular individuals. In this post, I will discuss what a Product Owner does and what his/her responsibilities are in the team.

Who is the Product Owner?

The Product Owner is one of the roles represented in a Scrum team. Initially, it was mainly associated with IT but nowadays tends to be included in pure business teams as well. According to the definition provided in the official Scrum Guide, the Product Owner represents the customer and seeks to maximize the product value. A person employed in this role is responsible for defining the vision of the product and conveying it to their teammates.

The Product Owner is also in charge of creating and managing the product backlog, that is the list of functionalities to be delivered to complete the project.

The Product Owner sets the direction of the work but is not a manager of other team members. They work together with the customer, all the specialists involved in the project, and other stakeholders. It is the Product Owner who assumes responsibility on behalf of the team for delivering the product that meets the customer business expectations.

What does the Product Owner do?

The Product Owner develops the product vision – they must know precisely the customer business expectations and understand the needs of the product end users. They represent the customer needs in the team, to make sure that maximum value is delivered in the shortest possible time.

The Product Owner manages the product backlog, so that it is filed with tasks ready for the team to work on. They prioritize the backlog items so the team can focus on delivering maximum value as quickly as possible.

To ensure the top quality of the team deliverables, the Product Owner defines the acceptance criteria and accepts the work completed by the team, verifying whether it meets the client requirements. The Product Owner ensures that all stakeholders understand what the team is currently working on and know what results they can expect.

What is the Product Owner’s role in the team?

Product Owners are not leaders/managers of the team, nor do they supervise the teamwork. They are not responsible for efficient teamwork organization, in line with Scrum methodology (which is a task for the Scrum Master).

What role do they play in the team, then?

The Product Owner is responsible for filling the product backlog with tasks for the team and prioritizing them. This way, the team can focus on handling the most urgent assignments and maximize the results delivered to the customer.

The Product Owner also represents the customer and can both communicate their needs and verify if the team deliverables meet them. The Product Owner plays an important role in team meetings, such as backlog refinement, sprint planning, sprint review, or demos.

The person employed in this function is the team’s ultimate authority in terms of the product’s desired form – they decide which elements the team will develop first and which tasks will have a lower priority.

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What does the Product Owner need?

For the Product Owner to be effective and achieve satisfactory results, the company must provide them with the right conditions. Four basic elements are usually mentioned as the main pillars of the Product Owner’s work.

These are:

  • trust – independence and full ownership of the project enable effective product management,
  • team – a group of experts with the right skill set and experience, essential to meet the expected goals,
  • budget – enables the successful implementation of activities planned and making responsible decisions,
  • competitive salary – remuneration proportionate to the tasks, the level of responsibility and the challenges to be addressed.

What makes a great Product Owner?

The Product Owner should possess a range of unique abilities, bringing together soft and hard skills. First, they must understand the business strategy perfectly and be able to shape the product development vision within its scope.

They are expected to have excellent communication skills and to put them to use in the team and beyond, as well as stakeholder management competencies. They must know how to make decisions quickly, cope with stress, and correctly assess the risks involved. Viewed as an authority by fellow team members, they should be poised and able to anticipate various scenarios.

Key traits of a competent Product Owner include:

  • an appropriate set of skills – a guarantee of profound familiarity with the topic that facilitates seamless communication with all team members, the management board, customers, etc.
  • communicativeness – streamlines effective collaboration with the team and stakeholders,
  • charisma – makes it easier to present a vision of the product and motivate the team, even in the face of possible difficulties,
  • decision-making skills – necessary to efficiently make correct decisions, implement changes, react to difficult situations, etc.
  • assertiveness – helpful in unambiguously expressing their own opinion and resisting external pressures which could have a negative impact on the product development process.

Being the Product Owner is a demanding and responsible job. Individuals working in this position must have key competencies, experience, the right character traits, and natural aptitude. They have a crucial role to play in driving the success of the project, so make sure you select a trustworthy and reliable specialist for this position.