The Product Owner is a role in many Agile frameworks like Scrum and the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®). Many people believe their role to be managing the Product Backlog and even writing the User Stories (or Product Backlog items). What about optimising the delivery of products by maximising the value of the work of the team. Is that all, or is there something more to being a Product Owner?
Product Owners engage with senior executives to understand enterprise strategic goals and create a vision for their product and communicate it internally and externally.
Making day-to-day as well as strategic decisions on what to spend budget on, what work gets done now, and what work gets done later is a key responsibility of the Product Owner. Ultimately, understanding what is of value to the organisation, stakeholders, and customers helps the Product Owner prioritise for the best impacts and outcomes. These decisions of the Product Owner are made transparent through the Product Backlog. If you’re just trying to optimise for utilisation of contractors, making sure everyone is working 100%, then you’re not truly assessing what is of value – you’re just looking for work to keep people busy.
Fast feedback allows organisations to rapidly pivot so that value is always delivered. The Product Owner manages feedback to build empathy and an understanding of their needs and then realises it through the Product Backlog.
Because agile teams don’t do big upfront design, but instead do discovery and exploration activities iteratively, the Product Owner guides the team to explore the most valuable areas of their customers’ needs to learn what to build next. New ideas are defined and then put into the Product Backlog to refine and then deliver in a future Sprint.
Beyond the items in the Product Backlog, learning about customers needs is critical to building empathy with their context and what your products can do to help them.
Product Owners are responsible for using metrics and setting goals for their products. Most do this through setting investment hypotheses:
A Product Owners job is to set metrics against those investments and examine them on a regular basis to determine whether they are on track to achieving their goals.
To manage product goals with metrics, great Product Owners use Evidence Based Management (EBM), and review these at Sprint Review to better understand whether their work
Download the Product Owner role (PDF) checklist.
1. Sutherland, J. and Schwaber, K. (2020) The Scrum Guide. The Definitive Guide to Scrum: The Rules of the Game.