Product Owner is often a misunderstood but critical role. Many people think product owners are product managers, or project managers or even business analysts.

In this article, we’ll look at what a Product Owner is and what makes a great one.

Sometimes when organizations adapt to Scrum, the project manager or the product manager becomes the Product Owner. And that’s ok. However not always the person is able to adapt well to the challenges of the new role. Sometimes the candidate may have a very strong marketing background, and that could mean he/she could be more concerned about the marketing aspects of the product. Or if the background is on project management, they could be more concerned about writing long requirement specifications and the delivery of the product.

What organizations are really looking for, apart from someone who can perform A/B tests, communicate with stakeholders and execute user testing, is a person who can sit down with a development team and go through the different iterations. They need someone who is well able to answer questions from the team and the client, negotiate solutions and understand what the next release should look like.

So that are the key characteristics of a great Product Owner?

The Product Owner is a powerful role and if played correctly, can lead the team to deliver an exceptional product. It’s a role where you are leading the direction of the team, you prioritize their work and you validate it. You are not a mere spectator, but an active participant in the development of the product.

Product Owners have a strong impact on the team. They are the visionaries, the people who are able to identify with clients as well as with their team. A Product Owner must have a clear vision of what has to be done and must be capable of communicate it.

How do you know if your Product Owner is efficient?

The most important aspects to look for are:

  1. They should have a great product knowledge, create and understand user stories and identify where the product is going. Once they have clarity on that, they should be able to communicate it effectively to both the client and the development team.

  2. They should engage with their team and address their needs. They should be an active participant in the product development and be available to help the team with the challenges they face.

  3. They should keep the Product Backlog well maintained and groomed. Besides, the user stories should be small enough so that the team can work on them according to their capabilities.

  4. They should write appropriate acceptance criteria for each user story and be able to manage the technical debt.

  5. They have to be present at the stand up meetings, no matter what time they are hold because they need to have access to the development team and at the same time be accessible for them. Failure to do that can have an enormous detrimental effect.

A common question coming from Product Owners is what to do about velocity. They often want to know how they can get their team to do more, but the truth is that this is not their job. Their job is to prioritize the work, getting knowledge and share it back and testing the product among many others tasks, but they should not try to improve their team’s velocity.

Product Owners often get lost on how to optimize value vs volume. However, as we said their job is not to maximize the volume of work, but to recognize that there is only a certain amount of things that can be done within the sprint and prioritize them so that the most valuable ones get done.

I hope this overview can help you understand more the Product Owner role. Feel free to share your opinion by adding a comment to this post. Your thoughts are greatly appreciated!