Who is Scrum Product Owner?
The Product Owner (PO) is a member of the Scrum Team. The main task of the Product Owner is the responsibility for maximizing the product value resulting from the work of the Development Team. That’s not all. A Product Owner manages the product backlog, creates user stories, cooperates with stakeholders and with the Scrum team. The product is owned by one person, not by a group of people. For this reason, the main responsibility lies on his or her shoulders.
The PO should have a clear vision of the product strategy. Understands market needs and confronts them with the possibilities of the remaining team. It can be said, that the Product Owner not only imagines what the product will look like, but also puts these ideas to makes them available in an understandable form and, together with the team, makes decisions on a regular basis.
The success of the PO depends to a large extent on how the whole organization respects its decisions. The decisions of the PO are visible in the next Sprint Backlog. The development team can’t be forced to work with a different set of requirements because it can affect the work efficiency and sprint performance.
It should also be clearly stated that the Product Owner is not project manager. The project manager has overall responsibility for the planning, implementation and execution, monitoring and closure of the project. Cooperates with other PMs, marketing and sales team, also with customers. Besides these, project manager optimizes realization time, costs and budget. At the same time Product Owner deals especially with the stakeholders and the development team in order to optimizes business value of the project.
What are the traits of a truly effective Product Owner?
As we can see, the role of the Product Owner is very important in the Scrum project management process. What qualities should the PO have in order to watch over the project like a guardian angel? Discover the 10 most important features of the PO:
1. Focus on benefits and goals
The Product Owner can’t lose sight of the intended purpose of the action. It results from the basic obligation imposed on him − “maximizing the value of the product resulting from work of the Development Team”. That statement we can read in the official Scrum Guide. The ability of focus on benefits is important because it builds self-confidence and helps increase productivity. Clear definition of the goal helps us to naturally focus our attention on the next steps. As a result, all actions are taken in the right direction. Remember that all goals set in sprints must be SMART:
2. Set priorities
If you want to create a product that is of high quality, the easiest way to develop it is to first implement the requirements with the highest priority. The Product owner should perfectly understand the market, customer needs and business realities to make sensible decisions. As a Product Owner you should always remember to do what is most important first. Before the decision is taken, good PO should answer the question: “Does this really need to happen now or can it wait”? Think also about the risk and the way team works. High-level prioritization should be done at the beginning of the project. It is often done when discussing with the customer which features are must-haves and which are nice-to-haves. The PO must ensure that the team knows the priorities before the next iteration.
3. Communication with the team
Communication is a large part of the Product Owner responsibilities. Effective communication among members of a Scrum team allows to focus on delivering the highest business value in the shortest time frame and to reach goals. Good communication keeps project stakeholders informed and engaged, also keeps the Scrum teams focused on completing the committed work for the sprint. What is the role of the PO in communication? As a Product Owner you should be active to show your commitment and interest. Try to listen what is said and if you don’t understand everything you should ask until you do. As a PO, try to be available to your team. When the sprint is in progress, try to always provide early feedback and clarify any doubts to the development team.
4. To be a leader, be a learner
Effective leadership, like success in life, is a social and educational journey. As Albert Einstein said “Any fool can know. The point is to understand”. Product Owner represents the product backlog and mediate between the development team and the stakeholders. The more knowledge you have about the product you are working on, the more likely you will succeed. To do this you must be:
__Competent in the field of the product – you need to know the business and technological capabilities of the product and recognize the risks to be able to talk constructively with the developers,
__Prepared and responsible – get the knowledge to be well-prepared and ready to make decisions and take right action,
__Knowledgeable about project history – knowledge about the history of product creation allows you to clearly determine actions in the next sprint backlog.
Knowledge is a solid foundation that you can use when you need to make decisions. Broadening knowledge is especially important when you’re working on a long-term project. Today’s world is characterized by a dynamic change. Especially in the field of technology. That is why PO always should be a learner and try to deep his or her knowledge and constantly acquiring new skills.
5. Go out, don’t stay in a bubble
As a Product Owner think about what will transform story into a product feature that delights the end user. Try also to be close to the team, see the ups and downs of the product life cycle. As a PO, you’re not just a performer of what stakeholders say. Of course, you must listen to what they expect, but you also must be able to process the information you receive. Go beyond the usual patterns, broaden your horizons, think out of the box and draw conclusions. The curse of knowledge can get everyone. Remember that you work in a team. Confront your knowledge with the possibilities of the development team. Watch over the global progress of work. Looking from the side, you can see more. Draw conclusions and put the gained knowledge into the next sprints.
6. UX is not only interfaces
“User experience’ encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.” – that’s the formal definition of UX. What about practice? UX is the fulfillment of specific customer needs and leads to higher engagement rates, increased word of mouth and faster growth. One of the most valuable feature of a good PO is the ability to discover hidden needs that a customer or user might not even think about. Remember that the best user interfaces are the ones that provide the user with simple, easy to understand tools. Good Product Owner knows that what users want, not always is the same they use.
7. Know when to enforce product idea to stakeholders
One of the most important tasks of PO is to maximize business value. As we know, innovative ideas can seem impracticable at first, especially if they entail large-scale changes. The Product Owner role requires working closely with key stakeholders throughout the organization and beyond. That is why you must be able to communicate different messages to different people about the project at any given time. You need to be sure of the quality of your product to get some buy-in from the stakeholders. Assertiveness, self-confidence and the ability to present arguments are very helpful traits of the PO.
8. Keep it organized − roadmaps, backlogs
Product Owner is responsible for Product Backlog, cooperation with development team and stakeholders, and also for forecasting. That’s a lot of work and tasks to fulfill. Therefore, it is important to properly organize daily work. Fortunately, there are many tools and techniques that help to track progress, manage expectations and keep Scrum team informed. A product roadmap is a tool that describe how a product is likely to grow, to align the stakeholders, and to obtain a budget for developing the product. It’s a signpost in the daily work of the team. The Product Backlog helps you order the dynamic list of all the tasks that are known to be needed in the product. In this way, all functions, requirements can be shown in one document. The proper documentation management facilitates the work of the entire team. Every PO should pay a lot of attention to it.
9. Enforce and engage the team
PO motivates the people and tries to achieve the best team performance. It’s not an easy task. Besides technical skills, he or she must also have the skills of a good psychologist and coach. Research has shown, that if people don’t consider a given activity as important, they may not be involved in its implementation. As a PO always try to create a healthy balance between high levels of effort and perceived impact on project. Remember that autonomy is very important. It doesn’t mean that team will be left alone. The most important thing is to keep balance between team member’s needs and make them feel that there is enough room for creativity.
10. Agile approach in all tasks
The best Product Owners are characterized by charisma and agile approach. They perfectly understand that product development is not a simple, but dynamic process. Actively collaborate with the team when there is a need for change. They are self-possessed when obstacles and restrictions arise. They perfectly know that maximizing the value of the product, everyday communication with the teams, intensive research on the product and the market are their most important duties. They are agile because they are aware of their role and are prepared for it.We hope that the features of the successful PO described above will help you understand its role and importance in the Scrum team. Try to use this knowledge in everyday work and provide your stakeholders with high quality products. The responsibilities of the PO can be onerous and you have to remember, that there is really no one else in the team, who can replace you. So, if you decide to take on the role of the Product Owner, make wise decisions. Remember that even a small detail can determine the success or failure of the entire project.