There are several key roles in the Scrum team. One of them is called a Product Owner. Like a superhero, Product Owner can do three things at once. Feel the needs and “pains” of the user, be constantly aware of team capabilities and continuously use his or her observations for the benefit of the entire project.
But what does a Product Owner actually do and how does this position differ from a Project Manager?
PRODUCT OWNER VS PROJECT MANAGER
Project Manager and Product Owner are not the same thing. A Project Manager is a supervisor: he distributes tasks and workload, controls the status, and supervises the process.
A Product Owner is focused on the product. Envisioning the result that needs to be achieved, he or she knows how exactly the team will achieve it. Controlling each stage, PO corrects the course and says what to do next.
So, there are similar functions, but there are also differences. The functions of a Product Owner are closer to the work performed by a Product Manager.
WHAT DOES PRODUCT OWNER DO?
The Product Owner partly performs the functions of a Project Manager, a Product Manager, and a Marketer. He does not manage but directs the team to the desired goal. He has authority and responsibilities. A Product Owner is responsible for:
- Managing and prioritizing the product backlog;
Product Owners spend most of their time reviewing the backlog. They need to be sure that at each stage the team is in line with strategic goals and priorities.
- Serving as a middleman between product and DevOps;
Product Managers set the big-picture and helicopter view strategy. Engineers and developers create the actual product. In between these two ends of the product cycle, there is a huge space for interpretation — and misinterpretation. This is where Product Owner lives.
- Exploring the market and customers’ needs;
Deep exploration of problems that are going to be solved by the product, knowledge of customer needs, and translation them into product strategy are all parts of Product Manager job.
- Converting Product Managers’ strategies into tasks for development;
Product Owner receive tasks from the Product Manager, break them down into stories or reasonable chunks, and work with developers to implement them.
- Staying always accessible to DevOps for any questions.
Sometimes engineers might not understand, for example, why a user story affects the product design in a particular way. Or they believe they have a faster, easier way to build functionality. In this case, a Product Owner should tell that such actions can undermine product management’s goals and explain why.
IS PRODUCT OWNER A SEPARATE ROLE?
According to pure Scrum, a Product Owner is the role for one person from the team. But companies using the framework can adapt it to their needs. Therefore, it happens that one person performs several roles simultaneously.
For example, a Project Manager in custom development is both a Scrum Master and a Product Owner. It contradicts the Scrum guide but is acceptable if the system works and brings the result.
Normally it depends on the project, who will perform the role of Product Owner. It can be a person from the team, someone from the client side, or client himself, if, for example, the project is a website for his company. Product owners are often hired externally for a project and trained within the team.
IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF THE PRODUCT OWNER WORK
Responsibilities of a Product Owner may vary depending on the type of project. But normally, if you are a Product Owner, these aspects should be important to you:
You always envision what the final product will look like and are able to explain it to others. It is important to ensure that everyone in the team understands the tasks in the same way.
You make sure that the product will be valuable to the user. It does not matter what methods you use for this.
You will have to listen to the team's proposals, evaluate them and enter them into the general list of tasks and requirements. You are responsible for the content of the backlog and for any changes to it.
Only you choose the order in which the team will work. You always know exactly what functions will appear in the product first, and what can be improved later. You also plan tasks for each sprint.
- Development strategy
What you get after each iteration is especially important to you. You check the quality of the product at the end of the sprint and if something goes wrong, you know how to fix it. Product progress is your personal progress.
It is you who ensure that communication inside the team is effective and productive. Everyone on the team should have the ability to freely exchange product ideas and easily understand each other. If not – the result will be affected.
IN A NUTSHELL
Now you know who a Product Owner is and what he or she does. This position is in high demand now and can be very well paid. Want to become a Product Owner?
Then you’ll need to master quite a few skills. To be a Product Owner, you should be an expert of Agile methodologies, have an advanced understanding of marketing, UX/UI, software development, project management, and, most importantly, a product life cycle.