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Product owners are at the core of every development project and are critical to their success. However, to be an effective product owner, you need to have the right set of skills. Let’s find out more.

For companies that employ the Scrum framework for product development and delivery, the product owner is an essential component in the process. The product owner is the person with ultimate responsibility for the product’s success. If the product is to be delivered on time, on budget and with all the necessary features, it’s all down to them.

Many techies aspire to reach the level of product owner in their organisation, but do they really know what they actually do? In this article, we’re going to look in more detail at the role, as well as what skills combine to make a superstar product owner.


What is a product owner?

The product owner is the person who, in a scrum development team, takes leadership of the development project. They may even be the person paying for the product development. When a final decision is needed, it is the product owner that makes it.

The website lists a product owner’s responsibility as:

  • Defining the items in a product backlog – the list of tasks that need to be completed by the development team
  • Prioritising the product backlog
  • Creating conditions to ensure the development create work of sufficient quality
  • Communicating the process to the scrum team, ensuring they always know what to do next
  • Ensuring everyone in the development team understands the process and the items in the product backlog

However, in reality, companies may demand more or less from their product owners. In many situations, it is the product owner who will deal with stakeholders inside and outside the company.

What do they do?

The role of product owner requires you to wear many different hats. One minute you’re needed as a business strategist, the next you may be in customer service. You may even need to roll up your sleeves and get coding from time to time.

The product owner’s job starts at the very beginning of the product development process. It is they who will create and define the vision for the project. They will be at the centre of the planning process for the project – what the product is, what it will do, how it fulfils broader business objectives. They will design the product roadmap, which can be easily understood by the development team and other relevant parts of the business.

As mentioned earlier, the product owner will be in charge of the product backlog. This is like the to-do list for the development team. The product owner will list all the tasks that need to be done to bring to product to fruition. Then, they will prioritise it and ensure everything happens in the right order. Of course, nothing ever goes perfectly according to plan, so the product owner will need to keep the backlog updated, making amendments where necessary.

As the development project gets underway, the product owner acts as an overseer, ensuring that everything is progressing to plan, making alterations when needed. They will regularly consult with the team to look for areas to improve. They might help out in sprints if the team are behind. At each stage of the development process, the product owner will evaluate the progress and decide whether improvements are needed, or whether they can move on to the next milestone. They will keep a careful eye on the finances, ensuring everything is within the set budget.

Finally, the product owner is the point person for everyone concerned with the development project. They are the person the development team goes to for guidance or answers to questions. They are the one the client or company leader calls when they want to know what’s happening or request a change. They always need to have a handle on the key metrics of the process.


How to be a product owner

As you can see, a product owner has many different jobs to do. So, to be an effective product owner, you need a broad range of different skills. Here are some attributes of a successful product owner:

  • Communicator – a product owner has to be a great communicator, able to explain their vision to the team and stakeholders alike, motivate the team to achieve and persuade others where necessary
  • A people person – product owner is not a suitable job for someone who likes to stay in the background. The product owner must be there for their team throughout the development process, able to answer questions and help out
  • Authoritative – There are two sides to this attribute: a product owner must be a good decision-maker, who follows through on what they say. However, they must also have the power to make decisions, which comes from within the organisation
  • Strategic – A product owner must know the business reasons behind the project and the decisions they make as it progresses. You need an in-depth knowledge of the market your product serves
  • Collaborative – A good product owner knows that it is the team that delivers, not just them. Product owners should always take a collaborative approach 

Finally, while it is not 100% necessary, you will find your life as a product owner much easier if you have knowledge of product development – meaning you can understand what your developers are producing as they work through the product backlog.


Find out more from Haystack

If you think you fit the bill and want to find your next role as a product owner, it’s time to talk to Haystack.

To find out more, download Haystack today.

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