Expert knowledge | November 22, 2018

Product Owner – Last Action Hero

The agile approach to software development has become very popular all over the world in recent years. More and more organizations, including those in Poland, are moving from a classic (usually waterfall) approach to an agile approach, being seduced by the magic promise of faster software development. Often, however, it turns out that organizations are not fully aware that for an agile approach to make sense and work efficiently, you don’t just need a good, qualified team, but also someone on the “business” side of things. That someone is the Product Owner.

The product owner is the most important point of contact between the scrum team and the organization which the team is developing the software for. It must be someone on the client’s side who not only knows the specifics of his company, but will also be able to get involved in the work of the scrum team, insofar as it is required in order to complete the project successfully.

In this article, I will try to lay out the role of the Product Owner in scrum projects. To do so, I have created a list of the most important features that a good Product Owner must have:

  • Product knowledge
  • Availability for the team
  • An established position in the organization
  • Knowledge of processes
  • Awareness of the role and what it entails
  • A receptive attitude to suggestions and solutions

Each is described in more detail below.

Product knowledge

The scrum approach is primarily effective when the team has as much information as possible about the requirements of a given project. They must be up-to-date and continuously verified. Without this, mistakes are possible, which can significantly slow down the project in the long run. The role of the Product Owner consists of providing the team with knowledge about business assumptions and objectives, as well as verifying whether these assumptions have changed and whether they are being implemented in the project in full.

Availability for the team

During a scrum software development project, team members often need to consult on the business assumptions of a given task. This is the essence of an agile approach, in which actions must be constantly verified and adapted to the real world of business. So a Product Owner must be available to the team to answer questions that will provide team members with the information they need.

An established position in the organization

The Product Owner is a kind of mediator between the team and the organization, and it is his responsibility to explain the variables of each individual project to all stakeholders, both on the client’s side and the team’s side. Therefore, it must be a person who has authority within the organization, which will allow the organization to smoothly implement the assumptions and maintain balance between the team and the client.

Knowledge of processes

Although the Scrum Master is responsible for observing and explaining the principles of the scrum process, the Product Owner also needs to know the rules of this process, to know what should be part of his competences and what he is responsible for. It is especially important to be aware that after accepting the task during the Sprint Review, he assumes full responsibility for the accepted functionality.

Awareness of the role and what it entails

The Product Owner is responsible for the product, not the team, so is not the “boss”. If the Product Owner assumes that he can “order” the team to perform a particular task, despite clear objections, it may result not only in a reduction in the level of self-organization but also slower delivery of the finished product.

A receptive attitude to suggestions and solutions

The Product Owner knows the business requirements, but the team is responsible for providing them. So the solutions proposed by the scrum team should be trustworthy, having been explained in advance. However, the owner of the product may also propose solutions which he considers better – if, of course, his technical and business knowledge allows him to do so.

Conclusion

The role of the Product Owner is often downplayed, but it is crucial in any scrum project. Such a person is the link between a business perspective and the team, whose points of view do not always coincide. It is largely up to him whether the team will be able to fully adapt to the changing reality of the project, and thus provide the greatest value of the agile approach to software development. The Product Owner provides knowledge which is necessary for the effective implementation of tasks and assessment of progress within the project, and ultimately for the provision of a high-quality product.

Igor Karkoszka

Igor Karkoszka

Scrum Master

Experienced Scrum Master. Enthusiast of using an agile approach not only in IT projects but also in other aspects of life.