For quite some time, the role of the Scrum Product Owner in Agile products has been the subject of heated debates. The necessity of the role has been discussed extensively, and one thing is agreed upon- Product Owners are extremely important for an Agile project.
Product Owners are not the same as the traditional Product Managers-
A Product Owner has varying roles and duties, depending on the situations and the project. The Product Owner (PO) is responsible for the success of the Project, and is accountable to the Team, stakeholders and to the company. For the Scrum to function, it is imperative that the PO trains his focus on actions that matter.
Every Scrum Product Owner is expected to fulfill certain responsibilities
For the Project to be successful. The Product Owner actively drives the projects- by collaborating with the team, guiding and directing them to the optimum results. The most important duty of the PO will be to create and maintain the Product Backlog. This is essential since this ensures that team do not take their eyes off the ball, and stay focused until the end.
The Product Owner is expected to be responsible for all the decisions regarding the ROI of the Project.
This means that prioritizing and sequencing the Backlog according to their business values is an important task. The Product Owner must have absolute authority in the Project to make hard business decisions, even to cancel the whole project if he deems fit. This involves deciding what must be done, and more importantly, what must not be done for the best possible outcome.
The Product Owner must also help the Scrum Master organize and carry out Sprint Planning and Review Meetings at the appropriate intervals.
Moreover, he must continuously remind the team what they are working towards. He is in charge of motivating of the team, with a clear goal in mind. The Team Members always know what their capabilities are, and the PO provides a yardstick for the team to measure their progress against.
It is also very important that the Product Owner does not set any new requirements upon the team, once the sprint starts. The team must be able to work maniacally towards the goal set during the sprint, and all changes must be made before a sprint starts.
The Product Owner must be a person with certain important skills and traits-
He must be available for the team at all times, and have exceptional communication skills. Being business savvy is also a necessity for an Agile Product Owner- He is expected to make the business-related decisions, and decide what functionalities the product must have.
The Product Owner represents the customer to the team–
So it is his responsibility to ensure that the team is building the required product, and that the expected ROI is being delivered. He is also responsible for letting the team know of their shortcomings, and steering them in the right directions if needed.
Finally, and most importantly, communication is the biggest task of a Product Owner.
He must work closely with the key stakeholders of the organization, and keep them updated about the progress. He must also have a good rapport with the customer, so that he can understand their requirements and expectations from the project- he must also be able to communicate with the team effectively, so that they understand the expectations on the project. He must be able to convey different messages to different people, in the organization and beyond- at any given time.
In summation, being a great Product Owner is not easy- it is important for one to understand the requirements of the role before assuming it. However, a Product Owner is essential for every Agile project, and will go a long way in accelerating the velocity of the project and achieving the goals well within the deadlines.