The Scrum Product Owner Role on One Page

By Roman Pichler, 1st November 2010

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

As the name suggests, a product owner should own the product on behalf of the company. The individual is responsible for ensuring that the product creates value for its customers and users as well as the company providing it. You can think of the product owner as the person 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 and which features are released.

The following diagram provides a summary of how I view the role of the product owner for commercial products and it is based on my product management framework.

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 product backlog management and user stories. I have circled the areas, which are required by Scrum—the framework in which the role originated. 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 (or other agile models).

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”. Similarly, if you manage a tech product, like a physics engine, you may want to promote the “Development/Technologies” area and move it to the inner circle, as in-depth technical knowledge is usually required to describe the products and its APIs.

As the product owner, you should directly interact with the customers and users, the development team, and other key stakeholders, as the picture below shows.

Product Owner And Stakeholders

I have circled the Scrum team, the unit consisting of product owner, ScrumMaster and development team in the picture above to indicate that the product owner should have a close and trustful relationship with the other Scrum team members: Scrum views the product owner as part of the wider Scrum team. This makes sense, as great products emerge when the product owner takes her market and business knowledge and collaborates with the development team.

Learn More

You can learn more about the role of the product owner by:

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The Scrum Product Owner Role on One Page
The product owner is a key role in Scrum. Read this post from expert Roman Pichler for a crisp summary of the scrum product owner role with its main responsibilities.
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7 comments on “The Scrum Product Owner Role on One Page

  1. 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: 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.

  2. 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”:

      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”:

    • Roman Pichler

      Thanks Fabrice.

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