SCRUM Product Owner: Role and Task

Scrum is an organization model, and used by companies that develop products with agile methods. It has been invented as a means to professionalize the software development process. As I have already written in earlier articles, the model defines different roles, and has a specific view to the role of the team members.

Here I will concentrate on the tasks and the role model for the Product Owner.

Responsibilities of the Product Owner

The product owner is responsible for the project objectives, and the timelines. He further sets the priorities for the other project participants (Scrum Master and Team), and accepts or rejects their work results. Often product owners are very experienced employees (Product Managers) with a certain standing, as they are also held responsible for the commercial success of their product. This responsibility comprises the prioritization of requirements, and the selection of the requirements to be developed with the next phase (sprint).

Day in the Life of a Product Owner

The typical day in the life of a product owner comprises the following activities:

  • Go, and see customers to discuss with them about their requirements, or their feedback on the direction of the development project
  • Support the development teams with needed feedback and decisions
  • Evangelize his product internal to the company, and regularly meet with the different stakeholders
  • Participate in the daily status meetings of the teams, and make sure the teams understand the project objectives
  • Manage the backlog

In addition to his direct supporting role, the Product Owner makes sure to create and communicate a long term product strategy. This requires him to safeguard time for strategic activities.

Safeguard Survival

Some important activities, and methods need to be part of the Product Owner’s toolcase. The most important questions, which he should be able to answer about his product are as follows:

  1. Which customers and users will we target with our product?
  2. Which customer needs will we address with our product?
  3. Who will be buying the product, and who else will be part of the purchase decision?
  4. Which product feature is how critical for the success of our product (in the customer perspective)?
  5. Which releasedate do we need to focus on (from customer perspective)?
  6. What distinguishes our product from our own earlier versions, or from competitive offerings (consider the importances from the customer perspective)?
  7. Which unique selling proposition will give us this new product?
  8. Which targetprice, and thus project budget will the new product require at maximum?
  9. Which elements of our product, and of our development project are particularly important (which issues will I have to monitor closely)?

With most innovative software products, I think, the problems already start with the definition of the target markets. Often, we think that a product fits to the need of a certain customer group, until we learn that customers use our products completely different as intended. This is, what I mean, when talking about that we need to understand the real customer requirements.

Further difficulties arise when we try to estimate, how critical individual product features are for the success of our product. If our focus is inside-out (at least with a tendency), we might choose features, which are particularly interesting from the engineering perspective. If we just concentrate on the customer’s view, we might miss to detect long term advantages, which our product could offer from the engineering perspective.

To estimate, which product features are how important, we should have the right mix between the engineering perspective, and the external customer view. This requires from the product owner that he can think as an engineer, and as a business man/ woman, simultaneously.

Further Reading

Usually, the Scrum-method is trained by certified scrum instructors. On the official page of the → Scrum Alliance, will you find additional reading, training material, and training courses.

Weiterführende Informationen

Das Original dieses Artikels ist auf Der Produktmanager erschienen (©Andreas Rudolph). Regelmäßige Artikel gibt es über die (→Mailingliste), oder indem Sie →mir auf Twitter folgen. In der Online Version finden Sie hier die versprochenen weiterführenden Links:

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