The Product Owner: Agile Methodology’s Story Teller
Product Owner (PO) may sound a little fuzzy but is in fact an increasingly popular profession within companies.
The Product Owner has a very special profile: they are experts in agile project and scrum methodology. Thanks to their product and business vision, they can provide maximum quality to users. This role has been created to be part of the Scrum framework.
So, who is behind the Product Owner? What does the PO do on a daily basis? What are their responsibilities and their interactions with their project teams? Discover more about this exciting job for passionate people below.
Product Owner: detailed job description
Who is the product owner?
The Product Owner is an agile project manager who oversees and coordinates the development and delivery of a digital product that meets customers’ needs.
A true conductor, the Product Owner bridges the gap between the technical and business sides of a project. As the guarantor of the product, they drive it toward continuous improvement and ensure its quality. This process aims to maximize the value offered to users.
The role of the Product Owner
The Product Owner is in charge of developing and optimizing a digital or IT product (most often, a software, an application, or a website). The PO has to respect a certain budget and time frame, in order to meet users’ expectations as accurately as possible.
Their vision is product, business and efficiency oriented. They make sure that the product is developed in accordance with the needs of the users. Part of their work is also to collect and analyze expectations to improve the process as a whole.
Their mission is to orchestrate the project and ensure its good implementation by the team members. The Product Owner generally works by applying an agile method, such as the Scrum methodology. It is one of the most widely used, and requires to collaborate with the following departments:
- the R&D team
- the customer support team
- the sales team
- the marketing team
Designations may vary from one organization to another: Product Manager, Chief Product Officer, Head of Product, Project leader etc. In all cases, the “product” refers to the deliverable that must be provided to the client following the execution of a project.
A good reminder: the Project Owner is not the Scrum Master. They are completely different jobs. However, they both work with agility and the scrum methodology. The Product Owner is also different from the Product Manager.
The mission of the PO
The Product Owner has an operational role, their main missions being:
- carrying the product vision and planning the product roadmap
- formulating and prioritizing the needs
- participating and focusing on the story sprint
- managing the product backlog
- supervising the development stages
- adopting a continuous product improvement approach
The illustration below explains these missions in detail:
The PO is responsible for managing the Product Backlog, a tool that lists and prioritizes project elements, including:
- the formulation and organization of the items in the product backlog
- optimizing the value of the work done by the development team
- the visibility and transparency of the product backlog for all, and the clarity of the next tasks to be performed
The Product Owner creates and builds the product backlog. Therefore, they are the sole person responsible for it. If requests are made to make changes to the product backlog, it is the PO who makes the decisions and defines the specifications.
Indeed, the PO is the person who will understand and express the needs of users. This means:
- understanding the company’s vision and customer expectations
- writing User Stories and prioritizing them
- translating these stories in features
- defining precise rules for adding or modifying functionalities
- creating validation tests, etc.
Product Owner Training
Education and certifications
As this is a relatively new profession, there are several possible career paths:
- a business school education with a pronounced attraction forTech and the digital world
- an engineering background with an appetite and skills in project management
- a bachelor’s degree offered by the European School of internet Professions
- different certifications like the Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO) or the Certification Scrum Product Owner (CSPO)
🌟 Some PO work in this field without any specific training at the outset. It is up to you to demonstrate your talent and ingenuity.
In the end, what really matters is that the Product Owner:
- understands business needs
- has a sufficient digital background to identify technical issues and be able to interact with the development team
- has good knowledge of business and strategic marketing
- is willing to always adapt and update their knowledge
The Product Owner’s job is found in mid-sized companies and start-ups, whether they are start-ups or scale-ups. PO can work in teams of varying sizes, mainly in SaaS structures. Their working environment can be:
- a digital agency
- a software publisher
- an e-commerce business
As for every job, the PO’s salary varies depending on their skill level, business expertise, and years of experience.
Salaries can reach high amounts in very large organizations and for senior profiles with a solid business background and/or experience on different types of products.
Here is the average base salary in New York in 2021:
Skills and qualities of a good PO
As with the Scrum Master, there aren’t defined paths to follow in order to become a Product Owner. It must come from passion and the will to help others in the first place.
To be successful in their daily activities, the Product Owner must demonstrate the following qualities and skills.
★ Hard skills:
- understanding of the product
- technical skills and tech. sensitivity
- UX sensitivity
- notions in business and marketing
- interest in growth hacking, use of the AARRR framework
- analytical skills: data analysis, KPI study, and synthesis skills
- experience in project management, with a good knowledge of agile approaches (especially the Agile Scrum Methodology)
The Product Owner can use a variety of software to help. Several tools exist that cover customer support, prototype design, project management, data analytics and knowledge management.
☆ Soft skills:
- organizational skills and good priority management
- decision-making capacity: arbitration between the different issues and stakeholders
- communication and clarity of expression
- negotiation skills and diplomacy
- reactivity, fast execution, and proactivity
- relational talent and listening skills
- availability and flexibility
- curiosity and creativity
In short, the Product Owner takes on a cross-functional role. As a “Super digital Project Manager”, they act as a bridge between the internal teams. The PO plays the role of a facilitator between business, marketing, R&D, and design teams. Product Owners must always be available to answer questions and help their teams.
In addition to being a manager with a solid background in the Tech/digital fields, the Product Owner also remains the preferred contact for users.
With a great Product Owner and stable Agile Teams, it is possible to resolve problems effectively.
What about you? Are you interested in the job of Product Owner? If you already perform this role on a daily basis, how do you keep up to date with the latest trends in the sector? Let us know about your experience!