The product owner plays a key part in bringing new products to live and enhancing existing ones. But many organisations struggle to apply the role effectively. One reason for this is a wrong or partial understanding of the product owner responsibilities. This blog post shares my insights on the role’s duties. I hope that it helps you apply the role successfully.
The post is based on an interview Kristin Runyan and Sondra Ashmore conducted with me for their upcoming book.
The product owner is the person who owns the product on behalf of the company. The individual is responsible for the success of the product, and has to be empowered to make the necessary decisions, as the following pictures illustrates:
In practice, the application of the role varies. It is influenced by several factors including the market, the product lifecycle stage, and the organisation. For instance, working as a product owner of a brand-new mobile app developed by a small team in a mid-size company will differ from looking after an existing healthcare product, which is developed by several teams in a large enterprise.
I find that the product owner role is particularly valuable in the early lifecycle stages when the product is developed and introduced to the market and grows and changes. In these stages, the product owner resembles an intrapreneur, an entrepreneur within the enterprise, as the following picture shows:
What Product Success
A product owner should be responsible for the product success. But what does this mean? A successful product does a great job for its users and customers, and it benefits the organisation developing it. Examples of the latter include entering a new market or market segment, meeting a revenue target, and strengthening the brand. Addressing these two aspects is illustrated by the picture below.
A great way to determine the product success is to carry out some customer discovery or problem validation work including business modelling. Tools like the Vision Board, the Business Model Canvas, and the Lean Canvas help you determine what success means for your product.
The following responsibilities are helpful to create a successful product in a healthy, sustainable manner in my experience:
- Have a vision of where to take your product.
- Understand the product’s business model including its value proposition and the desired business benefits.
- Carry out product roadmap planning – particularly when you work with an existing product.
- Collaborate closely with the development team and the ScrumMaster/coach.
- Describe the desired user experience and the product features, and capture them on the Product Canvas or backlog.
- Determine what needs to be done next and select the right sprint goal.
- Select the appropriate research/validation technique to expose the product increment to the right people including customers, users, and internal stakeholders.
- Analyse the feedback/data gathered, derive the right insights, and action them. This usually results in a changed Product Canvas/backlog.
- Look after the budget, and understand the project progress.
- Coordinate the product launch activities.
Techniques such as user observations, problem interviews, competitor analysis, business modelling, product roadmapping, personas, user stories, scenarios, design sketches, product demos, user tests, metrics and analytics, and release planning help the product owner do a great job.
The product owner role is a multi-faceted job that requires a broad range of skills. But it provides the exciting opportunity to create something new, to develop new products and features that benefit the users and the organisation. It’s a fascinating and rewarding job in my mind!