The product owner role is anything but boring.

The product owner role is anything but boring.

The role of the product owner is incredibly important. The decision-making role of a product owner helps grease the skids for the team so that they deliver value efficiently and effectively. That said, there is more to the role than making decisions. In the survey of practioners (Agile Roles: What does a product owner do?) the next four items were:

      1. Attends Scrum meetings
      2. Prioritizes the user stories (and backlog)
      3. Grooms backlog
      4. Defines product vision and features

The product owner is a core member of the team. Participating in the Scrum meetings ensures that the voice of the customer is woven into all levels of planning and is not just a hurdle to be surmounted in a demo. When I was taught Scrum, the participation of the product owner was optional at the daily stand-up, in the retrospective and in more technical parts of sprint planning. Experience has taught me that optional typically translates to not present, and not present translates into defects and rework. Note, on the original list #15 was buy the pizza. I think the Scrum meetings are a good place to occasionally spring for pizza or DONUTS.

The backlog is “owned” by the product owner. The product owner prioritizes the backlog based on interaction with the whole team and other stakeholders. There are many techniques for prioritizing the backlog, ranging from business value, technical complexity, and the squeaky wheel (usually not a good method). Regardless of the method the final prioritization is delivered by the product owner.

As projects progress the backlog evolves. That evolution reflects new stories, new knowledge about the business problem, changes in the implementation approach and the need to break stories into smaller components. The process for making sure stories are well-formed, granular enough to complete and have acceptance criteria is story grooming. Grooming is often a small team affair, however typically the product owner is part of the grooming team. Techniques like the Three Amigos are useful for structuring the grooming approach.

Product owner interprets the sponsor’s (the person with the checkbook and political capital to authorize the project) vision by providing the team with the product vision. The product vision represents the purpose or motivation for the project. Until the project is delivered a vision is the picture that anyone involved with the project should be able to describe. Delivering the vision and vision for the features is a leadership role that helps teams decide on how to deliver a function. Knowing where the project needs to end up provides the team with knowledge that supports making technical decisions.

The product owner is leader, do’er, a visionary and a team member. As the voice of the customer the product owner describes the value proposition for the project from the business’ point of view. As part of the team the product owner interprets and synthesizes information from other team members and outside stakeholders. This is reflected in decision and priorities that shape the project and the value it delivers.