When you purchase a product, you are that product’s owner. But that does not mean that you should add “product owner” to your resume. In an Agile workplace, product ownership includes responsibilities and accountability related to a product’s vision, goal, development, and successful release.
The product owner role is integral to the successful development and release of products. Product owner responsibilities might vary depending on company size, industry, and environment. But whatever their specific duties might be, they are ultimately accountable for overseeing product development from start to finish.
In this post, we’ll discuss six different product owner types and identify their specific roles and responsibilities.
What is a product owner?
According to Scrum, a product owner is the person responsible for “maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the Scrum team.” As a member of the Scrum team, the product owner communicates the vision and goal of each product. They work closely with internal and external customers, development teams, senior management, and other stakeholders to get a better idea of what the product vision and goals are.
However, not all businesses adhere strictly to Scrum’s explicit definition and instead, change the role to fit their team’s makeup and needs. They may designate one person as the product owner or give multiple people the title of “product owner”, with each individual responsible for smaller, more specific roles.
While a role of product owner can look quite different from team to team, the end goal is the same: see through the success of a certain product.
What are the differences between product owners and product managers?
The roles of product owner and product manager are often used interchangeably. In some cases, these roles might even be performed by the same person. While both roles share some responsibilities, they do have one major difference—product owner is typically seen as a tactical role while product manager is considered more of a strategic role.
For example, a product manager is more concerned with the long-term goals of a particular product. The product manager focuses on planning and building a roadmap that describes where they hope to take the product in the future. A product owner is more likely to be focused on the tasks that need to be completed in each iteration to meet short-term release goals.
Product owner role and responsibilities
Product owners might not be required to take the lead in every role outlined below, because, again, the role often changes according to the needs of the team. As a general rule, though, they should be familiar with each of these responsibilities so they can step in if needed.
Defining the product vision
The product vision is a customer-focused document that describes your long-term goal for the project. The document defines who the customer is, what they need the product to do for them, and how the product will meet their needs. The development team uses the product vision to stay focused on what they want to achieve. This helps them to actualize ideas and plans that will meet those goals.
Managing the product backlog
The product backlog is the development team’s “to-do” list. It includes items the product team needs to work on like stories, epics, bug fixes, new features, change requirements, and more.
The product backlog is not a static list and needs to be updated regularly. The product owner is responsible for reviewing its contents to ensure that it is up to date and that the most important items are at the top. They prioritize based on customer needs and the product’s vision and goals. This, in turn, helps the development team to know what their priorities are for each development iteration and ensures that value is continuously added to the product.
Because the backlog changes frequently, the product owner ensures it is always available and easily accessible so the team knows what to do next. This is one of the product owner’s most important responsibilities, although there is some crossover with product managers on this task.
Understanding and anticipating customer needs
Product owners work closely with customers so they can understand them and respond to their needs. They also have a deep understanding of current market trends so they can anticipate and react to changes.
Create a customer journey map to give you more insight into your customer’s needs. A customer journey map is a visual representation of a customer’s experience with your brand. It helps you understand your products from the customer’s point of view, so you can deliver products that better meet their needs. Product managers often use roadmaps as well, so this is another task that has some crossover with the closely aligned role.
Communicating between stakeholders and development teams
Product owners need to communicate skillfully, because they are the primary liaison between the development team and stakeholders. They keep stakeholders up to date on the team’s current progress. They also relay any needs, expectations, concerns, or feature requests from stakeholders to the development team.
What are the different types of product owners?
According to Roman Pichler, an expert in product management, the generic term “product owner” is used to describe the following six different product management roles.
Scrum product owner
As mentioned earlier, the product owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the final product. The only way you can effectively do that is if you own the product in its entirety. If you only own one component of the product, that’s the only part you’ll be able to maximize. The traditional Scrum product owner is responsible for making sure that all the components and features come together to create a product that offers value to customers.
A feature is a part of a product that provides value to a customer, like an update to a user interface, new functionality in the product, or performance upgrades. For example, a smart light bulb that used to work through a Bluetooth connection now works with a wi-fi connection would be considered a feature.
A feature owner is responsible for maximizing the value of a specific feature. The feature owner could be the product owner who oversees the product in its entirety, or it could be another member of the product development team who works closely with the product owner and the developers.
A component is an element of a larger object or system. For example, you might take your car to a mechanic to have its brake pads checked. A brake pad is a component of a brake, and a brake is a component of the car. A component owner is the member of the development team who is responsible for the quality and value of individual aspects of a product. They ensure the quality and functionality of each.
A platform is a collection of technologies that work together as a base for use by other applications and technologies. The individual in this role must be a technical expert on the platform in order to collaborate with and advise the product development team.
SAFe product owner
The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is a set of procedures and practices designed to scale Agile methodologies for large organizations and enterprises. The SAFe product owner works with product management, other product owners, stakeholders, and customers to define tactical aspects of the product, such as user stories and product details. They act as the voice of the customer, ensuring that needs and expectations are met.
A portfolio is a collection of documents, work, or other assets. A portfolio owner is the person responsible for a specific portfolio. They are tasked with managing, updating, and improving all of its associated products.
Product owners are crucial members of any product development team because they have their fingers on the pulse of market trends, they understand customer needs and expectations, and they have many opportunities to provide value and continuous product improvement.
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