The Scrum Product Owner Role on One Page

Roman Pichler

Written by Roman Pichler

on Monday 1st November 2010

TheProductOwnerRole

Summary

The product owner is a key role in Scrum. But many teams and many organisations struggle to fully understand and to effectively apply the role. This post wants to help you get it right by providing a concise overview of what it means to be the product owner.

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What is the essence of the scrum product owner role? As the name suggests, a product owner should own the product on behalf of the company and be responsible for the product success, for making sure that the product creates value for its customers and users and for the company providing it.

You can think of the product owner as the individual who champions the product, who facilitates the product decisions, and who has the final say about the product, for instance, if and how feedback is actioned, or when which features are released.

The following diagram provides a summary of how I view the role of the product owner for commercial products.

Product Owner Role Description

As the picture above shows, a product owner should have strategic product management skills such as product strategy and roadmapping as well as tactical ones including the user experience (UX) and the product backlog. I have circled the areas, which are required by Scrum — the framework in which the role originated — in dark orange. The other areas are necessary in my experience to allow the product owner to do a great job and achieve product success even though they are not mandated by Scrum. You can find out more about the knowledge areas in my product management framework.

If you work as a product owner for in-house applications, you should adjust the picture above. Consider replacing “Marketing” with “Operations” and removing “Sales and Support”. The other areas still apply although your market will consist of the in-house users. Similarly, if you manage a tech product, you may want to promote the “Development/Technologies” area and move it to the inner circle.

I find it a mistake to primarily view the product owner as a product backlog manager and user story writer. Instead, the role should interact with the customers and the users as well as the internal stakeholders.

Product Owner And Stakeholders

The product owner of a commercial product should directly interact with customers and users, the development team, the ScrumMaster, marketing and sales and other relevant business group required, and the senior management sponsor. I have circled the Scrum team, the unit consisting of product owner, ScrumMaster and development team, to indicate that product owner should have close and trustful relationship with the other Scrum team members. Great products happen when the product owner takes her market and business knowledge and collaborates with the team members who know what technically possible.

[This post was last updated on 1st December 2014.]


More on the Role of the Scrum Product Owner

The product owner responsibilities
Which UX skills should product owners have?
Big vs. Small Product Owner
The product ownership test
The Picasso product owner: Balancing users, team, and stakeholders
Two common ways to apply the product owner role
The Highlander Principle
Avoiding common product owner mistakes
Scaling the product owner
Desirable characteristics of a product owner
Product owner = product manager?
Business analysts in Scrum
Every great product owner needs a great ScrumMaster
The product owner’s guide to the sprint retrospective


Product Owner Tools

The Product Vision Board to describe the vision and the product strategy for new products.
The GO Product Roadmap to communicate how a product is likely to grow in the future.
Product Canvas to facilitate the development of a new product.
Persona Template to effectively describe target users and customers together with their needs.
User stories to describe the functionality of the product.
Constraint stories to capture non-functional requirements such as performance.
Design sketches and mock-ups to illustrate the user interface design.
Product backlog to manage the outstanding work to create a product (update).


Learn more

You can learn more about the role of the product owner by attending my Certified Scrum Product Owner training course, and by reading my book “Agile Product Management with Scrum“.


Source: http://www.romanpichler.com/blog/one-page-product-owner/

Source: http://www.romanpichler.com/blog/one-page-product-owner/

36 comments on “The Scrum Product Owner Role on One Page

    • Roman Pichler

      Thanks Fabrice.

  1. Marc Blanchard

    You forgot something…
    With all these responsibilities, the Product Owner is also a chronically stressed individual, perhaps even dead.

    I mean c’mon, give concrete examples of organisations beyond 1 simple product and < 20 employees where it is otherwise.

    The overwhelming truth is that these roles rarely exist in one individual and worse still, it is dangerous to even have them in one individual. If they win the lottery and quit the organisation loses vision, support and product direction in one go.

    I'm afraid to say that this is the type of theoretical dogma that does Scrum a disservice.

    • Roman Pichler

      Hi Marc,

      You are right to point out that product owners are sometimes overworked. One of the reasons is a lack of support from the team and the stakeholders, as I explain in my post “Avoiding Common Product Owner Mistakes”: http://www.romanpichler.com/blog/avoiding-common-product-owner-mistake/

      While Scrum suggests that one individual ultimately owns the product, carrying out the visioning, product backlog grooming, and release planning work should be a collaborative effort – and not a solo act! Scrum suggests, for instance, that the team members reserve up to 10% of their availability per sprint to groom the product backlog and size its items.

      When multiple teams are required to create a product, several product owners collaborate with one individual acting as the overall or chief product owner, as I explain in my post “Scaling the Product Owner”: http://www.romanpichler.com/blog/scaling-the-product-owner/

  2. Sebastien

    Managing a budget, being able to write usable user stories, crafting the vision, managing projects and a roadmap… I’ve never met someone being able to do it alone.

    Shouldn’t we stop talking about Product Owner as a role, but rather as a function executed by different people (UX designer, Product Owner, Product Marketing Manager,…) , led by a Product Director / Senior Product Manager ?

    • Roman Pichler

      Hi Sebastian, The suggestion Scrum makes is that product ownership is ultimately exercised by one person, the product owner. The product owner, however, should closely collaborate with a cross-functional team including a UX designer, developers, and testers. I have written more about single product ownership here: http://www.romanpichler.com/blog/the-single-product-owner/ It’s up to you to decide if a single product owner makes sense or not. What I do find crucial is that the people who create a product are empowered to make the necessary product decisions, for instance, which feedback is taken on board and which is not.

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