The product owner is the voice of the customer and performs a significant of a number of activities, including acting as a conduit/facilitator for communication between the team and the outside world. Other activities include: defining and elaborating stories, prioritizing the backlog and accepting work when the team completes a story. The product owner’s role is related or influenced by the sponsor’s roles (sometimes known as executive or project sponsor). The sponsor is the person that has overall responsibility and accountability for a piece of work. The sponsor champions the project based on whether the work fits the business’s needs and overall strategy, finds and secures the budget and has the overall responsibility for the work to deliver the promised value. This is true even though he or she will probably never write a line of code or test. Sponsors empower the product owner to act for them on a more tactical basis. A comparison of how the sponsor’s typical roles translate to the product owner is shown below:
The role of the sponsor and the role of the product owner are different and require separate points of view. The sponsor owns the purse and faces the outside world while the product owner is more focused on the team. While the roles are separate in small organizations the person playing the role can be the same person; however, in that case split personalities will be highly useful.