Did your last project take longer to complete than initially planned due to a cluttered, disorganized backlog? Did it go over budget as a result of changing requirements? Was your team not jiving as well as they could’ve been because they had trouble seeing the big picture? Building a product requires a significant amount of research, careful planning, and, most importantly, a Product Owner (PO) who can turn a vision into action. If you want your next project to go off without a hitch, it is critically important to bring a great PO on board. So, what exactly makes a great PO? First, let’s take a look at what they do on a typical day.
The Role of A Project Owner
A PO is responsible for defining the scope of the project and communicating it to the product management and development team. In addition, they are an integral part of an agile project team and play a major role in driving product value and managing the feature backlog. Typically, they represent the project’s key stakeholders. However, in some cases, they are the stakeholder who acts as a liaison with all other stakeholders.
While the role of the PO changes depending on the project-at-hand and work environment, main responsibilities include:
- Define the product vision and determine the functionality requirements
- Define and manage product roadmaps to realize business goals and strategies
- Establish a shared vision by building consensus on priorities leading to product execution
- Collaborate with the user experience (UX) team, project managers, visual designers, engineers to bring the product to market
- Create and maintain product backlogs and product documentation such as product requirements document (PRD), user stories, use cases, user flows, logic flows, and functional specifications
- Prioritize development activities with engineering teams, assist in determining the best technical implementation methods, work closely with QA on product testing
And what makes a good PO?
Excellent Communication Skills
During meetings and discussions, the PO is responsible for answering the what? and why? questions. Thus, they have an intrinsic ability to simplify complex and technical concepts into understandable goals. They also have a knack for planning, prioritizing, and incorporating all of the moving parts to bring products to life. They aren’t only able to define a vision – they are outstanding storytellers, which makes the vision memorable. Beyond clarity, great POs understand who they’re speaking to and what the other person needs to hear – not simply what needs to be said. They can picture themselves in the other person’s shoes and take into account their questions, concerns, wants, and needs.
Quick to Act & Make Decisions
In agile development, the product backlog is a prioritized list of deliverable items that is often referred to as a “live document” since it needs to be frequently updated based on changing project requirements or priorities. This task of updating typically falls on the shoulders of the PO, who must take the input of the stakeholders/clients and prioritize the work, without sacrificing business goals. This is arguably their most important responsibility because any conflicting priorities or unclear directions will reduce the effectiveness of the team and potentially hurt the relationship that the business has with the development team. To ensure the project goes according to plan, a PO needs to be able to shift gears quickly and reprioritize as to not disrupt the flow of work. Of course, having robust project management software in place will make this task more manageable.
When building a business case for a project, a good PO will take into consideration how their client interacts with the product and the contexts in which they’re using the product, including when the purchase is made, which points they’ll need support, and how to most effectively provide that support. They understand the market space because they spend time actually talking with customers. Moreover, they know that the way they interact with a customer will play a huge part in how they feel about the product. At its core, a great PO is about making sure customers feel appreciated, assisted, and listened to throughout their customer journey – not just when things go haywire.
Alexandre Bourret. Motivated and forward-thinking product owner with experience in a dynamic SaaS environment, Alexandre Bourret has been involved in the development of Nutcache since 2018. He acts as a liaison between business, sales and IT teams to refine the product and incorporate features based on market and clients demands.
Scrum product stock photo by Nebuto/Shutterstock