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Scrum Team Roles - Product Owner

13 Aug 2019

One of the roles on the Scrum team is Product Owner (PO). In this article, we will focus on the PO as a role,  what they do and why their role is so important in both the Scrum framework and the team. A PO is a new role, which means there's no traditional role to compare it to. That's why so many people don't really know what a PO is or what it's supposed to be.

Without further ado, let's have a look at the role of a Product Owner in Scrum team.

What is a PO?

A Product Owner is an individual who's solely responsible for maximizing the value of the product that's being built. How they do it varies based on organizations, individuals and of course, Scrum teams. However, one thing is for certain and that the PO is responsible for ordering the Product Backlog so as to maximize the product's value. 

A Product Owner should be someone with extensive knowledge and understanding of the users, their preferences, needs, expectations and demands. That's why one can safely say that a PO is the key stakeholder within a Scrum team. In addition, anyone from marketing, sales, product management and so on can assume the role of PO. This varies from organization to organization and it depends whether the team is building a commercial software or otherwise. 

What does a PO do?

As mentioned before, the main responsibility of a PO is to prioritize the Product Backlog in order to maximize the value of the end-product. However, that's not all that a PO does within a Scrum team. Contrary to popular belief, a PO doesn't own a product. 

They are just a person who is able to envision what needs to be built and what features should be developed based on their understanding of user needs and the best way to deliver value. A Product Owner is also responsible for conveying that vision to the development team so that they themselves can also understand how to create a high-value product. Here are a few examples of POs responsibilities.

  • Clearly conveying Product backlog items.
  • Prioritizing backlog items in order to achieve goals and missions in the best way possible.
  • Optimizing the Development Team's performance to enhance the value of work they do.
  • Ensuring transparency, visibility and understanding of the Product Backlog to all so that everyone knows what the Scrum team will be working on next.
  • Ensures that members of the development team understand the items within a product backlog to the required level.

Therefore, a PO doesn't go around telling people what to do. Instead, they motivate and encourage the team to achieve a specific goal while the final decision on what to work on and how is up to the team to decide. 

Additional PO responsibilities

A Product Owner remains included in a project throughout the project's lifecycle. In other words, they will provide continuous support to the Development Team as long as it takes. However, during the project's lifecycle, a PO has a number of other responsibilities. 

As an example, a PO acts as a liaison between developers, users, stakeholders and everyone else involved in a project. They gather user and stakeholder feedback on both finished bits of a product, as well as bits that are yet to be developed. They may also gather information about market trends and the overall state of the market, in order to maximize value to the organization and for the end-users. 

They may delegate some of the work to a Scrum Master or collaborate with them to make more strategic decisions. They may represent the will of a committee but the Product Owner is always a single person who has the last say on how a backlog should look like. That's why it's of the utmost importance that the entire organization respects the decisions a PO makes. 

Becoming a PO

As aforementioned, anyone from sales, marketing, product development or any other department can assume the role of a PO, as long as they have the necessary skills and understanding of the users and stakeholders. Even a project manager or a Scrum Master can assume the role if needed. 

However, should someone solely opt for a PO career path, they can receive proper training and certification for the job. As an example, the Scrum Alliance provides both a training course and examination for a Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO). On the other hand, also provides both training and examination for their Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO I and II). 

Aside from training and certification, a PO should possess certain individual skills, such as availability, business-savvy and communication skills. In addition, a Product Owner must understand the market, the users, the stakeholders and the people they work with. Communicating messages to different people is essential so that everyone is on the same page. 

The role of a Product Owners is vital to the Scrum Team. A Product Owner can envision the product and have both the organizations and the users' best interest in mind. Their main attribute is helping everyone else see what the product should look like once it's successfully completed.