What Is a Product Owner: Key Roles and Responsibilities Explained

Do you wonder, ‘what does a Product Owner do?’. Well, ‘Product Owner’ is a role defined in scrum methodologies, as any person who is part of the business or key user team. Scrum is a type of software development methodology that uses an incremental approach to software development. The roles and responsibilities of the Product Owner include what features would be a part of the product release. The Product Owner defines user stories based on customer requirements and prioritizes them for the development team. 

Who is a Product Owner?

A Product Owner is part of the scrum team. The key responsibilities of a Product Owner are to define user stories and create a product backlog. The Product Owner is the primary point of contact on behalf of the customer to identify the product requirements for the development team. This product backlog will be a prioritized set of customer requirements. The Product Owner has the complete responsibility and ownership of defining and even prioritizing user requirements. The Product Owner must communicate with the development team to explain the product features to be implemented. Any queries that come from the development team must be addressed by the Product Owner on key user requirements.  The role of the Product Owner is to maximize the value addition of the products that are developed by the agile scrum team. 

The Product Owner must ensure that the user stories meet customer requirements. The role of the Product Owner is critical for companies that are keen to move to an agile-based product development methodology. The Product Owner has to collaborate and work closely with various stakeholders such as customers, business leaders, development teams, project managers, and other stakeholders. 

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Product Owner Roles

A Product Owner needs to ensure and realize maximum value for the organization, from the product development process. This essentially means collaborating closely with the development team and ensuring all the product requirements are well defined and executed in time. A Product Owner plays a key role in the Scrum team, along with the Scrum master and the development team. However, the responsibilities of the scrum master are different and the Product Owner must ensure that the responsibilities of the two roles do not overlap each other. 

One of the main roles of a Product Owner is to manage the product backlog. This may include the following activities:

  • The product backlog must be clearly defined, and all the items need to be mentioned elaborately.
  • Prioritize and order the product backlog in the right manner so that the important tasks are given topmost priority. 
  • Prioritize work items and product backlog, this must be in line with customer vision and goals.
  • Evaluate the work done by the development team and provide constant feedback.
  • The Product Owner must ensure that the product backlog is communicated clearly to all team members. 
  • The Scrum Team must have clarity on the product requirements and user expectations.  

Apart from the roles mentioned above, a Product Owner needs to have certain key skill sets like:

  • Domain Experience

Domain knowledge is one of the key requirements of the Product Owner role. Often, one of the major reasons behind the hiring of Product Owners is product and industry knowledge. The Product Owner must ideally understand the customer's industry and how they would be using the product. 

  • Leadership and Communication Skills

The Product Owner must have excellent communication and leadership skills. As one of the significant responsibilities of the role is interacting with many stakeholders, it is imperative to be able to convince team members on achieving the required goal. 

  • Maximize Value

The product must be released in a short period. Hence, it is important to prioritize requirements and what is of utmost importance to be delivered. The Product Owner must ensure maximum product value in line with customer expectations and product vision. 

  • Effective Interpretation of Customer Requirements

The Product Owner is the single point of contact for understanding customer requirements and expectations from the product. He/she must interpret customer requirements and define them with product functionality. Customer requirements need to be properly translated and communicated in the right technical language so that the development team can easily understand and interpret them. 

Product Owner Responsibilities

  • Product Backlog 

Product Backlog is one of the primary responsibilities of the Product Owner. He/she must own and define the product backlog according to customer requirements. The Product Owner must first update the product backlog list. Following this activity, there must be proper prioritizing of the backlog based on urgency and criticality of the requirements. The proper sequence of development also needs to be appropriately charted out. 

This product backlog list needs to be updated continuously. As the products’ needs change and evolve, the backlog list also needs to be continually updated. The product backlog must be made available to all the stakeholders since it is dynamic and subject to many changes. 

  • Development Stages

A Product Owner must also be actively involved in the product development process. As the customer objectives and vision change, the same needs to be continuously monitored and communicated to the development team. A Product Owner must also be present in all cadence and review calls and meetings. It is always good for a Product Owner to take the initiative and be a part of sprint review meetings while identifying areas of improvement. 

  • Acting as a Primary Point of Contact

The Product Owner role is unique, and in that, he/she is the primary point of contact for all the relevant stakeholders. He/she must make sure there is an appropriate buy-in from customers along with management and development teams. This is important for the smooth execution of the project and product delivery. 

  • Communicating Customer Vision

A Product Owner needs to have a clear perspective on customer goals and objectives. This needs to be adequately defined and communicated with all the relevant stakeholders. This includes the customer, development team, scrum master, project team, and the corresponding business managers. 

  • Adept and Anticipate Customer Needs

A Product Owner must have an adequate market and industry experience, not just to understand, but also anticipate customer needs. A Product Owner should also understand the customer requirements from a journey lifecycle perspective. This will help him/her know long term customer goals and anticipate changes and new requirements better. 

  • Evaluation of Progress

A Product Owner must be able to liaison and monitor each phase of the product development cycle. At each iteration, the Product Owner must be a part of the product development review and suggest any changes or improvements on behalf of the customer. Based on the feedback from the Product Owner, the development team can then make necessary changes or modifications to the product features. 

Interested to begin a career in Agile and Scrum? Try answering these Agile Scrum Master Exam Prep Questions and find out!

Difference Between a Scrum Master and a Product Owner

The main difference between a Scrum Master and Product Owner is around project coordination and interacting with the relevant stakeholders. A Scrum Master is an expert in Agile practices and methodologies. A Scrum Master must ensure that all messages are communicated in the right manner and the development methodologies must also adhere to Agile best practices. 

Empathy is an important virtue in Scrum and Agile methodologies. This is especially important for both Product Owners and Scrum Masters as they need to motivate the team to work together while adhering to Agile methodologies. 

Conclusion 

To sum it all up, a Product Owner must be an expert in the business domain and industry. To understand customer requirements better and translate them into product requirements, a Product Owner must be well-versed with business logic as well as the technical capabilities of the product.  

Finally, a Product Owner is crucial as it is the most important role in ensuring the delivery of quality products while maximizing product value in line with the product vision of the customer. Simplilearn's Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) credential from the Scrum Alliance® will validate your expertise in Scrum, an agile framework that enables collaborative cross-functional teams to deliver projects in incremental portions.

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