The Agile Product Owner

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The role of product owner was born of the scaled agile framework. Product owner is a role, not a title, and the responsibilities for the role vary.

In “The Scrum Papers: Nut, Bolts, and Origins of an Agile Framework“, author Jeff Sutherland emphasizes the product owners’ main responsibility of ensuring Return on Investment (ROI) for a given product feature:

“The Product Owner is responsible for maximizing return on investment (ROI) by identifying product features, translating these into a prioritized list, deciding which should be at the top of the list for the next Sprint, and continually re-prioritizing and refining the list.”

Of course, a product owners’ responsibilities extend beyond list management, so I have included other potential responsibilities below.

Act as a proxy for the customer

  • Know the stakeholders are end users of their product
  • Engage stakeholders and end users to ensure the team is building the right product and delivering expected value
  • Identify customer and stakeholder needs
  • Observe, learn about, contact and analyze end users of their product

Understand the product experience

  • Analyze product feedback, derive insight, determine actions and update the product backlog as needed

Educate

  • Convey the feature goals and vision at the beginning and throughout sprints and releases
  • Educate the team on the business domain (marketplace need and product direction)
  • Represent the needs and desires of the stakeholder community
  • Describe the desired user experience
  • Provide real-time input on user stories, user experience, user interface, and requirements throughout the iteration
  • Help the teams understand exactly what is required
  • Attend weekly product owner team meetings

Plan

  • Facilitate the flow of work to the development teams
  • Provide sprint goals and user stories for sprint planning
  • Facilitate backlog grooming with input from the product manager and stakeholders
  • Make scope-versus-schedule decisions
  • Validate acceptance criteria
  • Validate acceptance tests
  • Facilitate interaction between stakeholders and team when needed

Manage

  • Continually prioritize and sequence the product backlog according to business value
  • Determine what needs to be done next and what gets deferred based on user value, time dependencies, risk reduction, dependencies with other product owners and effort (Weighted Shortest Job First)
  • Assign requirements between different teams in a consistent and sensible manner
  • Have their own daily coordination meetings
  • Manage consistency of requirements between different teams
  • Facilitate communication between the development teams and stakeholders
  • Fulfill a quality assurance function, focusing on fitness for use
  • Can terminate a sprint if a drastic change in direction is required
  • Have regular, perhaps weekly, meetings to discuss any requirements issues between across product managers and development teams
  • Exchange constantly with other product owners in the organization through community of practice

Promote

  • Develop plans to expose the product to customers, users, and internal stakeholders
  • Coordinate product launch activities
  • Have an instrumental role in producing product demos for stakeholders
  • Demo the solution to key stakeholders
  • Educate stakeholders in the development process
  • Facilitate milestone reviews
  • Share insight throughout the company regarding the product
  • Ensure everyone knows what is on the backlog and what the priorities are
  • Communicate team status
  • Announce releases

 

References

DZoneScrum AlliancePragmatic MarketingScaled Agile FrameworkAgile ModelingAgile BuddyAgile TrailAgile ScoutOn Product Management