The Scrum Framework consists of three roles, the Product Owner, the Scrum Master and the Development Team. Together they form the Scrum Team. In this blog, we’ll cover the typical tasks, accountabilities, skills and traits of the Product Owner role in Scrum. Similar posts have been created for the Scrum Master and Development Team roles. Enjoy!

Purpose of the Product Owner
The key responsibility, or the purpose of the Product Owner role is to “maximize the value of the Product”. The Product Owner is one person (not a committee) responsible in the Scrum Framework for maximizing the value. The way the Product Owner maximizes value, is by continuously making choices about what to built and what not to built in the Product. In order to do so, the Product Owner is also responsible for the product vision and for managing the Product Backlog  and stakeholders.

Accountabilities of the Product Owner
The Product Owner has the following accountabilities:

  1. Maximizing the Value of the Product, including:
    1. Product Backlog Management;
    2. Return on Investment (& Budget);
    3. Total Cost of Ownership;
    4. Estimating value; and,
    5. Defining, maintaining and sharing the Product vision;
    6. (Co-)Creating the Sprint Goal during the Sprint Planning;
  2. Product Backlog Management, including:
    1. Clearly expressing Product Backlog Items;
    2. Ordering the items in the Product Backlog to best achieve goals and missions;
    3. Optimizing the value of the work of the Development Team;
    4. Ensuring the Product Backlog is visible, transparent, and clear to all, and shows what the Scrum Team will work on next;
    5. Ensuring the Development Team understands items in the Product Backlog to the level needed; and,
    6. Ensuring Product Backlog Items have the attributes of a description, order, estimate and value;
  3. Stakeholder Management, including:
    1. Inviting (key) stakeholders to the Sprint Review;
    2. Explaining what Product Backlog Items have been ‘Done’ and which haven’t been ‘Done’, during the Sprint Review;
    3. Discussing the current status of the Product Backlog, next targets and objectives, likely delivery dates and progress made, during the Sprint Review;
    4. Tracking the total work remaining (at least every Sprint Review) for the Product, creating forecasts and making this information transparent for the stakeholders;

Typical Tasks of the Product Owner
As explained in this blog, there are different types of Product Owners. recognizes the Scribe, Proxy, Business Representative, Sponsor and Entrepreneur type. Depending on the type of Product Owner, there are different tasks associated with the role. For example, where Entrepreneurial Product Owners will probably spend more time on the Product Vision and Strategy, Scribe level Product Owners will probably spend more time on writing User Stories for example.

The following list isn’t complete, but some of a Product Owners typical tasks include:

  1. Creating, managing and sharing the Product vision, Product strategy and Product roadmap;
  2. Organizing Product Backlog Refinement sessions, including meeting preparation, inviting the right people, discussing the items, adding details, etc. etc.;
  3. Preparing and hosting the Sprint Review, demonstrating what was ‘Done’ and what wasn’t ‘Done’, getting feedback from the (key) stakeholders and collaborating on the next steps to be taken in order to optimize the Products’ value;
  4. Creating new Product Backlog Items (which could be User Stories) and discussing them with stakeholders and the Scrum Team;
  5. Creating & maintaining the Product roadmap and Release Burn-up Chart in order to inform and manage stakeholders about the next steps to be taken with the Product.
  6. Writing a business case for a new product(feature) and/or organizing Business Value Estimation Workshops in order to collaborate with stakeholders about the potential value of Product Backlog Items.
  7. Having meetings with stakeholders, customers, users, other Product Owners and other people who can contribute and support the Product Owner to maximize the value of the Product.
  8. Add, manage, remove and update the Product Backlog and it’s Product Backlog Items.

Mandate / Authorities

  1. Cancelling a Sprint before the time-box is over, in case the Sprint Goal has become obsolete during the Sprint (due to changed market conditions such as new competitors, new technologies or other internal and external drivers);
  2. Accepting the Product Increment before the end of the Sprint (the Product Owner accepts the Product on behalf of the stakeholders);
  3. Managing the Product Backlog, including:
    1. Saying “No” to stakeholders and/or new ideas;
    2. Deciding on the ordering of the Product Backlog;
    3. Deciding on the contents of the Product Backlog;
    4. Adding items to and removing them from the Product Backlog;
  4. Decide wether or not and when to release the Product Increment;

Top-3 Skills

  1. Communication Skills – Great Product Owners have excellent communication skills. They have to work with all kinds of stakeholders, on different levels throughout the organization. Therefore, they have to be able to communicate and work with lots of different kinds of people;
  2. Product & Market Knowledge – The Product Owner has to understand the Product and the Marketplace. The Product Owner should have a clear vision on where the market is going and where the Product should therefore be going towards. Although the Product Owner doesn’t necessarily need to have deep understanding of technology for example, but he or she should understand very clearly what the marketplace needs;
  3. Networker – The Product Owner should be a networker. This is because the Product Owner wants to deliver a successful Product to the market. Therefore, he or she should find funding, work with important stakeholders, involve the right people in the development process, etc. etc.

Top-3 Traits

  1. Entrepreneurial – Product Owners’ at their best are entrepreneurs. They’re full of ideas, see plenty of opportunities, take responsibility and ownership and take conscious decisions in order to minimize risks and to seize opportunities;
  2. Visionary – Great Product Owners have a clear vision. They know what they want for their customers and users and more importantly, why they want it! They’re focussed on the Products’ success and the longer term vision of the Product;
  3. Decisive – Product Owners need to be decisive. They have to make lots of choices, often including saying ‘no’ to people thereby disappointing them. They have to make sure to do the most important, most valuable things for the Product.