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

The agile product owner, also known as the scrum product owner, is responsible 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 and 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. 

Who Is Product Owner?

A product owner is the one who is in charge of a product, and they are responsible for the product’s vision, development, and delivery

The product owner works with the team to make sure the product meets the customer’s needs and makes sense for the company.

The product owner is not a manager and does not direct the team. They work with the team to define what needs to be built and ensure that the customer is happy. 

They work closely with the team to make sure that they create the right thing and meet the customer’s needs.

Few important points about the product owner

  • The product owner is the most crucial role in a software development team. They are the bridge between the customer and the development team. Their primary responsibility is to understand the customer’s needs and translate them into actionable items constitutes their primary responsibility.
  • The product owner is the most critical role on a scrum team. They are responsible for the product’s success and need to understand both the business and the technology.
  • The product owner is responsible for creating and managing the product backlog, a prioritized list of features and requirements. They ensure that the team is on the right track and moving towards delivering a successful product.

The product owner is the most critical role in agile software development. They are responsible for the success of the product. 

The product owner is the bridge between the business and the development team. 

They must be able to understand and communicate the needs of the company and also be able to translate those needs into technical requirements that the developers can understand.

The product owner is the voice of the customer and the business and is responsible for the product’s return on investment (ROI). The product owner is responsible for creating and managing the product vision, roadmap, and backlog. 

Being the voice of the customer, they have to ensure that the team is building the right product. However, their role is not just limited to the product itself, they also need to be engaged with the team and ensure that they are productive and happy.

A product owner can do this by:

  1. Being available and accessible to the team
  2. Providing clear and concise direction
  3. Monitoring the progress of the team and product
  4. Facilitating communication between stakeholders and the team
  5. Taking an active role in sprint

Product Owner Roles and Responsibilities

Now that you have an idea about ‘who is the product owner,’ let’s look at the product owner’s roles and responsibilities.

Product Owner Responsibilities

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 to communicate with stakeholders across the organization, customers included, to ensure clearly defined goals and that the vision aligns with business objectives. 

As a product owner, you must 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. You can use a product management software like Chisel which also comes with an additional benefit of serving as your product roadmap software

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

Managing the Product Backlog

One of the most important responsibilities, to reiterate, is managing the product backlog. You can summarize this 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, the product backlog must be accessible and available to all stakeholders.

Prioritizing Needs 

One of the most challenging tasks is prioritizing the needs from the product’s scope to the stakeholder’s objectives. 

At Chisel, we have a team alignment tool that can also function as your product roadmapping software. All your stakeholders can assign values to a specific feature while simultaneously viewing the driver’s values to draft an outline.

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

Overseeing Product Development

Now that you’ve set the vision, strategy, and product priorities, the product owner should make 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 subsequent phases.

Anticipating Clients Needs

After you organize the product and the teams are aware of their necessary functions, you have to consider the customer’s opinion on what you are developing. 

You can do this using any qualitative research method.

Constantly Inspect and Adapt

As the product owner, the responsibility for the apt and timely product completion is on your shoulders. 

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

What Are Some Product Owner Skills?

Now that you have read so far, it must be clear that the product owner plays a pivotal role in a software development team.

The product owner must have a variety of skills to be successful. They must communicate effectively with stakeholders, understand technical issues, and make tough decisions. They also need to manage their own time and resources effectively.

They help understand and articulate the customer’s needs and ensure that the development team meets them.

The product owner role is a challenging one. They need to have both business and technical knowledge and strong communication skills. They need to be able to manage the expectations of both the customer and the development team.

Now let’s discuss the product owner skills in detail,

Some of the top product owner skills are:

  • The ability to see the product from the customer’s perspective and understand their needs.
  • The ability to prioritize and decide what features to build and what to delay or drop.
  • The ability to communicate with stakeholders, developers, and other team members.
  • The ability to be flexible and adapt as the product and market change.
Product owner skills

The role of a product owner is constantly evolving. As companies grow and products become more complex, the need for a product owner with specific skills grows.

While there is no single skill set required for all product owners, a few skills are essential to success. The most important one is the ability to understand and communicate with users. A product owner must be able to put themselves in the shoes of their users to understand their needs and wants.

What Are the 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 product’s functionality, like the payment processing side of the product. The component owner usually needs a robust technical skillset.

Platform Owner

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

A software platform, in this case, is a collection of digital assets 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 comes into action when using the agile scaling framework

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

Whereas in agile, the product owner owns the product entirely, a SAFe product owner focuses on the product tactics. 

A different role takes the strategic product responsibilities of the SAFe product manager. 

The SAFe model splits product ownership into two distinct roles. 

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

We recommend this method when your product is stable, and you’re looking to scale quickly. 

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

Portfolio Owner

A portfolio owner owns a group of products, 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, harmonizing the individual product strategies and product roadmaps, helping create a common user experience, and aligning significant 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 company’s size will be dependent on whether this position is required, but the bigger the product offering, the more likely it is.

Crafting great product requires great tools. Try Chisel today, it's free forever.