Everything You Need to Know About the Product Owner Role in Scrum

• Agile

The role of the product owner in Scrum comes with several responsibilities like setting the vision, managing the constraints, and representing the clients’ requirements. They are integral to the project’s success.

The job description of the product owners varies significantly with the nature of the projects and the industry. There are however some common elements and responsibilities that will be discussed in this article.

What is a product owner in Scrum?

Scrum team members normally don’t meet with the management or the end-users of their project and usually rely on product owners. Scrum product owners create the vision for the team to follow and communicate the expectations of the clients and other stakeholders to the team.

The product owner’s main responsibility is to represent the end-user, or the client, in the development process. They are responsible for creating and prioritizing a product backlog and act as a leader who is responsible for ensuring value in the final delivery.

Roles and responsibilities of the product owner

Depending on the demand for a certain project, a product owner may have to wear many hats at once. Apart from being responsible for creating and prioritizing the product backlog, Scrum product owners can act as a business analyst, a project manager, a negotiator, and even as a product developer when the situation demands it.

We have compiled a list of some common roles and responsibilities of Scrum product owners in the following sections.

1. Product vision

The Scrum product owner is responsible for creating a roadmap for the rest of the team to follow. Product owners start by communicating with every single party involved, conducting a market analysis, and understanding the needs of the clients. They then use their insights to come up with the required features and a product roadmap, which identifies the long-term and short-term goals for the project team to follow.

The project roadmap is integral for keeping everyone on the same page so it has to be free from any ambiguity. Approaching the entire project with a higher perspective and including details such as a rough execution plan and a strategic outline can help in keeping the vision and roadmap as cohesive as possible.

2. Developing and managing the product backlog

The product backlog is an important document that identifies all the requirements of a particular project. Creating and managing the backlog is the responsibility of the product owner. No one else can change the tasks or even the order identified in the product backlog.

Prioritizing the tasks and creating an order also comes under managing the product backlog. Scrum product owners have no say in the amount of work the team will do in one sprint or how many sprints the project will need. However, they have complete control over deciding the order of the tasks.

Scrum product owners understand that backlogs are dynamic. It will never remain as it is throughout the project. Priorities may shift or some new features might get added to the list. The best way to handle a product backlog is through visibility. Everyone involved must be able to see the changes in the product backlog to stay updated on the progress.

3. Balancing the constraints

Constraints are an important consideration in any project. The triple constraints, scope-time-budget, are the most common project constraints and in many Scrum environments, product owners are responsible for handling them. Only through a deep understanding of a project’s need and the clients’ requirements, product owners can achieve the most appropriate balance of handling the project’s constraints.

4. Representing the clients

The product owner acts as a proxy for the clients and so they need to understand the project’s needs to do that. With experience, effective product owners even develop an ability to anticipate their clients’ requirements and further optimize the development process. This allows the team to increase their efficiency and deliver the best results while taking the shortest amount of time.

5. Communicating with other stakeholders

Product owners act as a liaison between different parties and connect the management with the development team. The management contacts the product owners in case they need a new feature or a clarification. Similarly, the development team also approaches the product owner in case they want to make their voices heard.

To act as a bridge between the development team and the other stakeholders, product owners need to stay updated with the progress of the team. They should encourage the team to adopt transparency in their work and ensure their presence in the sprint planning sessions and daily Scrums, and other Scrum ceremonies so they know the current progress and issues of the development team.

6. Evaluating performance at every stage

Product owners are accountable for ensuring the success of the project. They work together with the team to come up with the definition of done and the minimum criteria for a project to be called a success. The final say on any project deliverable is of the product owner. If they feel that a deliverable failed to achieve the required quality level, they can reject it and send it back to the team for a do-over.

Summary

Product owners play an integral part in a Scrum environment. They have multiple responsibilities and are accountable for ensuring that the project delivers the right value to the end-users. They have multiple responsibilities and are generally known to be multitalented individuals who can quickly and adapt to the given circumstances. Click here to learn more about the different Scrum roles and their contributions to making any project a success.