Who Is the Product Owner in Agile? Key Roles and Responsibilities

The agile product owner, also known as the scrum product owner, is the responsible individual for maximizing the value of the products created by the scrum development team. 

Beyond this overarching responsibility, the product owner is also responsible for defining stories as well as product backlog management.  

Whether the Product Owner does the product backlog management work or delegates responsibility, the Product Owner remains solely accountable. 

For most enterprises moving to Agile, this is a new and critical role, typically requiring the Product owner to support each Agile team (at most, two simultaneously). 

Beyond this, their role also requires them to be the customer proxy responsible for working with Product Management and other stakeholders to define and prioritize stories in the Product Backlog. 

This allows the Product Owner to effectively address program priorities (such as features) while maintaining technical integrity. 

1. Defining the Vision

As mentioned above, the agile product owner is the point person on the product development team that defines goals and creates a vision for development projects. 

It’s their responsibility for communicating with stakeholders across the organization, customers included, to make sure there are clearly defined goals and that the vision aligns with business objectives. 

As a product owner, it’s imperative that you exercise a higher perspective and align the team behind your vision, which can be difficult due to how fast past agile product development can be.

This is where the value of creating a product roadmap comes into play. A Product Roadmap allows you to create a high-level, strategic visual summary that outlines your defined vision and direction for a product offering over time. 

It doubles as a  strategic guide for stakeholders as well as a plan of execution for your agile team. 

2. Managing the Product Backlog

One of the most important responsibilities, to reiterate, is managing the product backlog. This can be summarized as your development team’s to-do list. 

As the Product owner, you must create a list of backlog items and prioritize them accordingly. 

However, you should view the product backlog as a live document that you’re continually updating and improving. 

Therefore, it’s imperative that the product backlog is accessible and available to all necessary stakeholders.

3. Prioritizing Needs 

One of the most difficult tasks for a Product Owner is prioritizing the needs of everything from the scope of the product to the desires and objectives of the stakeholders. 

At Chisel, we have a team alignment tool that can also function as a decision making tool where all your stakeholders will be able to assign values to a specific feature while simultaneously having a view of the driver values.

You’ll see a helicopter view of the overall team alignment, which will help you prioritize accordingly. 

4. Overseeing Product Development

Now that you’ve set vision, strategy, and product priorities, the product owner should focus on making sure everything runs smoothly in terms of development. 

They are key throughout each event: from planning, to refinement, to review, all the way through the sprint. 

During the final planning, agile product owners will work with stakeholders to identify and organize the steps required for the next phases. 

5. Anticipating Clients Needs

After the product is organized and the teams are aware of their necessary functions, you have to now take into account the customer’s opinion on what you are developing. 

This can be done through any qualitative research method you please. 

6. Constantly Inspect and Adapt

As the Product Owner, the responsibility for the apt and timely completion of the product is on your shoulders. 

Be sure to constantly take in new idea and information. Data is your friend and the more you can accumulate the better your decisions will be.

Other Types of Product Owners

Feature Owner:

A feature owner is an individual who owns a capability end users can interact with. An example could be the ability to highlight within a word document. 

Component Owner: 

A component owner owns a building block necessary for the functionality of the product, like the payment processing side of the product. The component owner usually needs a robust technical skill set. 

Platform Owner:

A platform owner is responsible for maximizing the value a software platform creates. An example of this would be reducing time-to-market of the products built on top of the platform. 

A software platform, in this case, is a collection of digital assets that are used by several products. 

As a platform continues to expand, it may be necessary to add a feature owner and product owner to help lessen the burden of responsibility on the platform owner. 

SAFe Product Owner: 

The SAFe Product Owner is found when using the agile scaling framework. 

Despite the similarity, an agile product owner and a SAFe product owner is not the same thing. 

Where in Agile, the product owner owns the product in its entirety, a SAFe product owner focuses on the product tactics. 

The strategic product responsibilities are taken on by a different role, the SAFe product manager. 

The SAFe model, essentially, splits product ownership into two distinct roles. 

Agile product ownership, to reiterate, focuses on full-stack product ownership. 

This method is best used when your product is stable and you’re looking to scale quickly. 

Therefore, when you are in early growth stages, an agile product ownership model is still the clear choice in ownership styles. 

Portfolio Owner

A portfolio owner owns a group of products, which is also known as a product portfolio manager. An example of a product portfolio would be the Microsoft Office suite. 

The job of a portfolio owner is to maximize a product portfolio’s value created. This includes portfolio management, collaborating with product owners within the portfolio, harmonising the individual product strategies as well as product roadmaps, helping create a common user experience across various products, and aligning major releases. 

Usually, a portfolio manager will be most successful if they’ve had experience in the past managing individual products. Having the necessary product management skills is a must

The size of the company will be dependent on whether this position is required, but the bigger the product offering, the more likely it is.

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