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7 Key Product Owner Responsibilities and Roles

02nd May, 2024
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    7 Key Product Owner Responsibilities and Roles

    Product owners have responsibilities that are indeed challenging and fundamental for a successful product development team. In fact, in a product development life cycle, a product owner has more responsibilities to deal with than a product manager. Product owners have to focus on the bigger picture in the development environment. The product owner's roles and responsibilities involve: 

    • Determining the objectives of the product. 
    • Deciding the product's value. 
    • The audience for the product. 

    Not only that, but as a product owner, you also need to make final decisions on the product's marketing tactics. Therefore, the product owners' responsibilities are hard to ignore. If you want to know more about the product owner role, you are at the right place. To know more, check out the Product Owner certificate online.    

    In this article, we will discuss the main responsibilities of a product owner for successful product development.

    Who is a Product Owner?  

    A product owner has crucial responsibilities in agile practices to ensure successful product development. The product owner manages and optimizes the backlogs in the product development lifecycle so that it lives up to their value. In the scrum framework, the product owner creates consistent communication patterns so that the product development team stays in touch with each other during the whole development process. The product owner's agile responsibilities involve specifying the user stories and creating a development backlog. A product owner is responsible for identifying the requirements of the product. 

    As a product owner in the agile scrum, you have to ensure that the user stories satisfy the customer requirements. Product owners are the main character that keeps the agile-based product development team together. They work with stakeholders, development teams, customers, project managers, and business leaders. However, you can participate in Agile certifications to learn about product owner roles. 

    Product Owner Responsibilities  

    Now that we know who a product owner is and how important they are for an organization let's find out the primary product owner's responsibilities. 

    1. Organizing and Sequencing the Product Backlog 

    Organizing and sequencing the product backlog is the primary product owner's responsibility. It is also the most critical task in the agile scrum team. A product backlog is a document for the product scrum team where all the user stories and essential features are listed. The agile scrum team captures the main specifications of the product and notes that down in a document.

    The product owner's responsibilities in scrum involve reviewing the backlog document and the tasks listed. Then, they advise the development team on which task to take up next. Creating a product backlog helps a product owner construct goals and priorities for the product management team. The product owners must consistently update the backlog list and make it available to all stakeholders. 

    2. Creating Product Management Strategies and Tasks 

    A product owner's scrum responsibilities also include drafting user stories and turning them into tasks so that each member of the agile development team can understand their roles.

    For successful product development, everyone has to be on the same page while working for a particular vision. A product owner's responsibility is to create a product roadmap that every stakeholder can understand.

    3. Learning About the Customer Requirements 

    Since product owners must translate the strategies into tasks, they have to understand the market and the customer requirements. Product owners work with product managers to learn about the product more deeply.

    Then they pinpoint the customers' problems and how they can solve those problems with the product. In the next step, product owners create a product strategy based on the assessment. That's why businesses often root for candidates with exceptional domain knowledge while hiring for the product owner's role. You can learn more about agile product development and the roles and responsibilities of product owners by participating in CSPO certification online courses.  

    4. Answering the Questions in the Agile Scrum 

    When a team member is working on a task or assignment, they might have confusion about certain things. For example, they might be unclear about why following a particular design framework in product development is essential. Sometimes the team member might also think that they have a new and better way to accumulate that particular feature. But they are not sure of the product management strategies and goals, creating confusion. In that case, agile members reach out to the product owners with their queries. 

    The product owners are responsible for clearing the confusion and offering proper guidance to the development team. Most of the time, a development project has a specific time frame. It can be weeks or a month for the longest. Thus, quickly resolving the confusion in the development team becomes essential. Therefore, the product owner should be accessible to the agile scrum team and have the answers to their questions ready. 

    Product Owner Roles  

    When defining the product owner's duties, you must look past their responsibilities. Now, coming to the question, 'what is the primary role of the product owner?' A scrum product owner's role demands leadership and communication skills while having expertise in the domain. They need to learn in-depth about the market and customer interests and convey those to all the stakeholders. A typical product owner's role is to

    • Break the product management strategies and turn them into user stories. 
    • Manage and prioritize tasks. 
    • Evaluate the progress of the development at every stage in the agile 
    • Answer the questions regarding user stories and tasks in the development team.

    A product owner's responsibility is to complete their tasks and take care of or complete their roles. The scrum product owner is the leader in different areas of agile development. Therefore, they have many roles to fulfill.

    1. Defining the Vision for the Project 

    The agile product owner uses their knowledge regarding the customers' needs and market situation to create a clear vision for the development project. They talk to the customers, stakeholders, business managers, development teams, etc., and ensure that the project's vision meets the company's objective. A product owner with a high perspective of the whole project will help the development team create the project within the deadline. They keep the organization together and motivate the team to become more flexible and work in a first-paced environment.

    A product owner's role is also to keep or maintain the vision. They create a product development roadmap that defines the project's vision and mission. 

    2. Looks After the Development Stages 

    The product owner has a vision for the product, strategies, and priorities defined for the product. After this, the product owner spends significant time looking after the development stages. They create planning, refinement, review, and the agile sprint. When the product owner is in the planning stage, they collaborate with stakeholders. Talking to the stakeholders helps them identify and manage the steps required for the refinement stage. Then they talk to the development team to refine the development process. Together they find out the areas for improvement, review the improvement, and then the sprint. 

    3. Evaluating the Performance of The Product at Each Stage 

    The product owner's role is to look after each stage of development. However, their roles and responsibilities do not end after the product is developed. A product owner's role is to inspect and evaluate the performance and progress of the product at every stage. A product owner will judge the product's performance, considering the customers' needs. If any confusion comes during the development stage, they will sit with the team and talk it out. 

    Agile product owners work with solutions and tools that will help them adapt to the changing environment of the product. A product's requirements or vision might change when the market changes or the customers' interests change. Therefore, the product owner needs to adapt to those changes to make the product as efficient as possible.

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    Product Owner Responsibilities on Various Stakeholders  

    Reviewing Stakeholder Management Process  

    As we got an idea that Stakeholder could be someone who would either support or someone who would either oppose. The process of managing these stakeholders is Stakeholder Management Process. It involves managing their expectations, communication, requirements, etc.

    It involves 4 different steps which will talk about: 

    1. Identifying the Stakeholders 

    The very first step that comes in the Stakeholder management process is “Identifying the Stakeholders”. This can be anyone who is involved in the project or is affected by the project. Let us have a look at different aspects for identifying the stakeholders: 

    • Someone who has an impact on the project.
    • Someone who has an opinion or a point of view on the project.
    • Someone who has a decision-making power.
    • Someone who would like to see your project successful.
    • Someone who would like to see your project fail.
    • Someone who has an impact over your team.
    • Someone who can help resolve conflicts or remove challenges.
    • Someone who simply have an interest in the project.

    Once, we list down and identify the stakeholders, it is easy for us to categorize them based on different aspects. This whole process is identifying the stakeholders. Once we know them, it is easy for us to manage them. 

    2. Analyzing the Stakeholders 

    There are several ways to analyze stakeholders. We will have a look at the two most important ones. The first one is Power-Interest Graph.

    Power-Interest Graph  

    i. High Power, High Interest 

    These stakeholders are mostly the decision-makers or the key-players. They can impact in a way that can make the project successful or fail. They are very easy to identify. Now, when it comes to communication, they should be actively engaged! These stakeholders are highly powerful, so we must try to meet they're each and every requirement, otherwise they can even cancel our project if not satisfied. 

    ii. High Power, Low Interest  

    These stakeholders again have decision-making abilities, but they are not so much interested. A lot of communication can make them disinterested in the project or product. They lack interest and therefore, they should be kept satisfied!

    Do whatever it takes to keep them satisfied.

    iii. Low Power, High Interest 

    These stakeholders are the ones who have less power over the project, but they are keenly interested in what’s going on. They might impact the project, so it is important to keep them informed!

    iv. Low Power, Low Interest 

    These stakeholders are the ones who are merely present and don’t expect to be involved much. They might not be interested and might not be expecting any sort of communication. It is important, you just monitor them! 

    Now that we saw the Power-Interest Graph, another interesting way is the Stakeholder SWOT Analysis. Let us have a look at that one as well. 

    Stakeholder SWOT Analysis  

    Another way is to analyze the stakeholders based on their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. What will be their Strengths and Weaknesses? What will be the opportunities and threats they would bring to the project? This will help analyze them better.

    3. Prioritizing the Stakeholders  

    For a product owner, prioritization is like an ongoing activity. Just like they need to prioritize the backlog, a similar way, they need to prioritize the stakeholders. After the successful identification and analysis, once they are prioritized, they can be taken care of accordingly. This way, product owners can develop the communication plan and can further deliver the right message to the right stakeholder at the right time. 

    4. Engaging the Stakeholders 

    This is the last step where execution takes place. Now that we have identified, analyzed, and prioritized the stakeholders, this is where we will implement the communication plan. Determine different action plans, whether are going to have one on one conversations, meetings, or going to communicate through emails. We define and execute our plan accordingly and keep the stakeholders engaged as required. Thus, managing all their expectations. 

    5 tips for the Product Owners to manage stakeholders effectively.  

    By now, we know how to identify the stakeholders, analyze them, and different steps of the management process. Let's have a look at some of the best practices which Product owners can follow to manage stakeholders effectively:

    1. Don’t treat Stakeholders same. As we have seen the matrix above on identifying, analyzing and prioritizing the stakeholders. It is very important for the Product Owners to treat them accordingly. Based on our analysis, we categorize them and then based on our categorization, Product Owners need to treat them.
    2. Act like an Owner. Being a Product Owner is a great responsibility. It is the person responsible for the ROI of the business. With responsibility comes the authority. It is very important you act like an “Owner”. This not only gives you the power over stakeholders but also helps manage them more effectively.
    3. Communicate Upfront. Never hesitate to say “No” to the stakeholders. Being a product owner, you know what is good for the project and what is bad for the project in order to make it successful. As and when needed, for certain decisions and for the benefit of the project, feel free to say “No” to the stakeholders and be upfront in doing so.
    4. Set Expectations. It is very important that being a Product Owner, you set all the expectations with the stakeholders. Understanding what they need to know and what they are expecting out of the project. Further, you should be communicating with them in terms of their expectations only.
    5. Involve Scrum Masters. We know that Product Owner is responsible for managing the stakeholders, but this is not mandatory that Product Owner should do it all alone. Have your Scrum Master besides you to support you with all sorts of process questions, which can eventually help you manage the stakeholders more effectively.

    These were some of the best tips to manage stakeholders effectively and efficiently. 

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    The product owners are not only experts in the business and industry but also need to be good communicators. They are responsible for motivating the teams to work together while sticking to the best agile practices at the same time. A product owner should be knowledgeable regarding the business logic as well as the technical aspects of the product. They help maximize the product's value and create a vision that serves the customers.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)  

    1. What is the product owner not responsible for?  

    It is important to note that a product owner is not a product manager. Therefore, a product owner is not responsible for the product manager's role. The role of a product owner revolves around creating and delivering value. As a product owner, you don't have to be responsible for HR problems, promotions or any external legal affairs unrelated to product development. 

    2. What makes a good product owner?  

    For someone to make a good product owner, they must be professional and experienced enough to understand the customers' interests and requirements. A product owner needs to have excellent domain expertise and communication skills to make an integral part of the scrum team.

    3. Is the Product Owner in a leadership role?  

    Yes, the product owner is indeed a leadership role. Since the product owner manages the product development cycle and advises and leads the product development team in the right direction, the person must have good leadership qualities. 

    4. Is a Product Owner a stressful job?  

    A product owner's job can be stressful because there are many roles and responsibilities to fulfil in the job description. They are not only accountable for managing the product's development process, but they should also take care of the quality of the project they are handling. 

    5. What is the biggest challenge as a Product Owner?  

    The biggest challenge a person might face as a product owner is the lack of Information and analysis before creating the product. That's why the product owner needs to have prior experience handling customers and stakeholders.


    Lindy Quick

    Blog Author

    Lindy Quick, SPCT, is a dynamic Transformation Architect and Senior Business Agility Consultant with a proven track record of success in driving agile transformations. With expertise in multiple agile frameworks, including SAFe, Scrum, and Kanban, Lindy has led impactful transformations across diverse industries such as manufacturing, defense, insurance/financial, and federal government. Lindy's exceptional communication, leadership, and problem-solving skills have earned her a reputation as a trusted advisor. Currently associated with KnowledgeHut and upGrad, Lindy fosters Lean-Agile principles and mindset through coaching, training, and successful execution of transformations. With a passion for effective value delivery, Lindy is a sought-after expert in the field.

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