Product Owner Value and Role in Startups
Developing a product for your startup can get complicated. You need the right people and resources to ensure that your vision is being followed. If you want to learn more about the key roles of a software team, you can listen to Startup Hustle’s discussion about building your own software team.
If you’ve been immersed in the Startup culture, the Scrum framework is not alien to you. The process elements and resources may seem familiar. One of these key elements is the Product Owner. When talking about them and their roles and responsibilities, there are numerous terms we associate with including presumptions, observations, and definitions. This may lead to various questions on the nature of their work—Are they the same as project managers? Can a person be both a product owner and manager?
This time, we will dissect the product owner roles and responsibilities in the Scrum framework. This will help us distinguish them from other managerial roles that surround a project.
What is a Product Owner?
A product owner is mostly present in Scrum projects. Scrum projects are based on the Scrum framework of product development. The main goal of the framework is to adapt to changes in features that the product meets along the way. The product owner comes in to evaluate these changes and define the Gos and No-Gos of the product.
Moreover, the product owner is the main stakeholder of the product. Product owners develop the vision of the project and relay this to the entire team. Expectedly, the product owner is the main user of the product. They represent the customers and users of the product which also makes them the high-level communicator of the product to the market/industry.
If it’s still unclear, let’s discuss the key roles and responsibilities of product owners one by one.
Product Owner Key Roles and Responsibilities
Defines the vision of the product
A product owner’s main role is to define the vision of the product so the rest of the elements will follow. This comes with their ability to identify objectives and features on a higher-level perspective.
One of the product owner roles is to communicate with all the product stakeholders. They relay the vision and goals of the product to the team so everyone is following the direction. Because of this, the product owner also keeps the product in check despite the fast-paced and evolving development process. This helps everyone in the team to be on the same page.
To keep the vision of the product intact, product owners design the product road map, the high-level documented summary of the vision and direction of the product over time.
Manages the product backlog
In scrum, a product backlog is a documented list of features and priorities to be done. This record helps keep track, manage, and sustain a product. Maintaining and managing this document is one of the major responsibilities of a product owner.
To do this, a product owner creates a list of all features or activities surrounding the product. They prioritize these items based on overall strategy and /or business objectives. In line with strategizing, the product owner also has to identify the product dependencies and resources. This enables the product owner to make informed decisions along the way.
Acts as the primary communicator/information broker
As the vision keeper, the product owner manages the communication from one stakeholder to another. They liaise the information to the right point persons, linking the connection from the team to the clients. With their expertise in communication, they make sure that clients are always engaged and informed with the development progress.
Manages the priorities based on the needs
As part of managing the product, a product owner prioritizes the needs of the stakeholders based on the triangle of project constraints: quality being the outcome of managing the cost, scope, and schedule.
In context, if the product needs to be done in three months, the product owner has to identify the prioritization of the scope and cost with respect to the schedule. Product owners juggle these three constraints and weigh the priorities accordingly.
Oversees the phases of the development
As the key player of each development stage, the product owner oversees these stages with the product vision, priorities, and strategies in mind. The stages include planning, review, verification, and sprints.
For this role, the product owner convenes with the stakeholders to identify the steps to follow for the next iterations. They will discuss, organize, and prioritize these steps to control the roadmap of the project process. The product owner then confers with the developers to break down the processes and steps. By doing so, they can identify the plans and priorities of the sprints.
Anticipates the needs of the clients
Being a product owner requires a deep knowledge of the product market and excellent skills in communication. With these qualities, a product owner can anticipate the problems or needs of the clients that may be encountered. It would help product owners successfully manage the development when they are prepared for each phase.
Evaluates product progress and features for each sprint
The product owner ensures the product features are aligned with the vision and the goals identified during planning. It is the product owner’s role to inspect and evaluate not only the progress but also the output of every task through each sprint.
It is also the product owner’s role to call out issues and identify how to address them. They realign the product back to the vision and goals. They decide if the team has to go back to the vision board or proceed along with the further steps.
Product owner roles are important and essential in development. Compared to product managers who take care of the processes, product owners take care of each stage of the product. In the Scrum framework where change is almost inevitable, product owners will stand between the adversity of the environment and the identity of the product.
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