Product Owner

Business Agility Office

The product owner is a role on a product development team responsible for managing the product backlog in order to achieve the desired outcome that a product development team seeks to accomplish.  Key activities to accomplish this include:

  • Clearly identify and describe product backlog items in order to build a shared understanding of the problem and solution with the product development team
  • Make decisions regarding the priority of product backlog items in order to deliver maximum outcome with minimum output
  • Determine whether a product backlog item was satisfactorily delivered
  • Ensure transparency into the upcoming work of the product development team.

The product owner role was created as part of the Scrum framework in order to address challenges that product development teams had with multiple, conflicting direction, or no direction at all with respect to what to build.

Many infer that a product owner is someone who can spend a considerable amount of time with the product development team providing clarification on product backlog items, and making decisions about which product backlog items to do and regarding the specifics of those particular product backlog items.

The product owner also holds the vision for the product and is responsible for maintaining, prioritizing and updating the product backlog. In Scrum, the Product Owner has final authority representing the customer’s interest in backlog prioritization and requirements questions. This person must be available to the team at any time, but especially during the sprint planning meeting and the sprint review meeting.

Challenges of being a product owner:

  1. Resisting the temptation to “manage” the team. The team may not self-organize in the way you would expect it to. This is especially challenging if some team members request your intervention with issues the team should sort out for itself.
  2. Resisting the temptation to add more important work after a Sprint is already in progress.
  3. Being willing to make hard choices during the sprint planning meeting.
  4. Balancing the interests of competing stakeholders.
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