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The Scrum Product Owner Role on One Page

Published on 1st November 2010 Last Updated on: 13 Jan 2023

The product owner is a product management role that emerged in Scrum in the late 1990ies. But many organisations still struggle to effectively apply it. In this article, I offer an overview of the role including its authority and responsibility.

Authority and Responsibility

A product owner in Scrum is responsible for maximising the value a product creates. The role has to ensure that the product offers the desired value to the users and the customers, as well as to the company that develops and provides it.

To fulfil this responsibility, a product owner has to be empowered to own a product in its entirety—to make the necessary tactical and strategic product decisions. In other words, a Scrum product owner has to have the final say on the key decisions, from setting the product vision and determining the product strategy to developing the product roadmap and prioritising the product backlog.

In practice, however, Scrum product owners are not always sufficiently empowered. A widespread misunderstanding is that they should focus on delivery and execution, write user stories, and ensure that a development team does a good job. But it is impossible to take responsibility for the value a product creates without having the authority to make the necessary strategic decisions.

It’s worthwhile to note that there is another product owner role, the SAFe product owner. This role is focused on the tactics and does not have full ownership of a product. While both roles are called product owner, they differ significantly and have little in common. It’s therefore important to clearly distinguish them, as I explain in the article Six Types of “Product” Owners.

Common Tasks

Here is a list of six common tasks that help a product owner maximise the value of their product:

A common mistake I see Scrum product owners make is to neglect the discovery and strategy work—sometimes because they are not empowered to take care of them, but often, because these tasks are not as urgent as breaking epics into more detailed user stories to keep the team moving forward.

But if you deprioritise the strategic work, you might overlook a market development, get caught out by a competitor, and find yourself struggling to catch up. I therefore recommend that as a rule of thumb, you spend at least half-a-day per week on product discovery and strategy-related tasks, be it interviewing users, reviewing the latest performance data, or monitoring the competition.


You might be wondering how a single Scrum product owner can carry out all the tasks I mentioned, and how the individual is able to make the right product decisions. The answer is: by collaborating with the right people—the key stakeholders, one or more development teams, a Scrum Master, and possibly other product people in case if the product is too big to be successfully managed by a single product owner.

The Scrum Product Owner and its Interaction with Other Roles

The key stakeholders are those individuals that have an interest in the product and whose contributions are required to provide the product. For a commercial product, a key stakeholder might be a marketer, sales rep, and customer service team member.

A development team in Scrum is a cross-functional, self-managing group with up to nine members. For end user-facing products, the team usually consists of UX/UI designers, architects, programmers, testers, and other roles that are required to design, develop, test, document, and deploy product increments.

I find it helpful to involve the key stakeholders and at least some development team members in the discovery and strategizing work. For instance, invite the individuals to quarterly strategy reviews where you inspect and adapt the product strategy and roadmap. Additionally, ask the stakeholders to regularly attend the sprint review meetings, at least once every month, as a rule of thumb.

Carry out the product backlog work together with the development team members. This includes updating and prioritising the backlog and breaking larger items into smaller ones. Some development teams are even happy to carry out part of the refinement work on their own.

Finally, let the Scrum Master take care of process and organisational issues so that you can focus on managing the product, as the Scrum product owner.


Common artefacts a product owner creates and updates include the following:

Desirable Skills

In order to succeed, Scrum product owners require the right skillset: leadership, strategic, and tactical skills, as the following picture illustrates.

Product Owner Skills

Leadership skills include empathy, vision, active listening, decision-making, stakeholder management, and product ethics; strategic skills include product strategy and product roadmap, business model and financial forecast, KPIs, market research and validation, and product discovery; tactical skills, finally, include product backlog prioritisation and management, personas, user stories, product validation techniques, and technical understanding.

Acquiring these skills takes time, dedication, and a supportive management. But without the right skills, it will be difficult to maximise the value a product creates.

Post a Comment or Ask a Question


  • Manisha Mande says:

    Hi Roman,

    We don’t have in internal person who can perform the role of a product owner (PO) due to a lack of time, capacity, training or commitment. But all content I have read including your book “Agile Product Management with Scrum” suggests that the PO must be internal to an organization for all the right reasons – their knowledge of the business, decision making capacity, authority, managing expectations, committed to ensuring value is delivered etc. So what does one do, if an internal PO is not available? Should that role be performed by an external Consulting firm/ Vendor hired for that project? Why or why not?


    • Roman Pichler says:

      Hi Manisha,

      Thank you for sharing your comment. Here are the options I see when you can’t staff the product owner with an employee:

      1. Hire an experienced product owner, either as a regular employee or a contractor, and give the person time to become familiar with the product, market, and business
      2. Ask an agency to staff the role, assuming that you have hired a company to develop the product for you. This implies, however, that the agency is empowered to make product decisions.
      3. Don’t develop a new product or pause the development of an existing one until you have found a suitable product owner.

      Does this help?

  • Mary Laniyan says:

    The Product owner ultimately as the Voice of the Customer is responsible for the product and the prioritization of the backlog to deliver value early and frequently – But from working with the vision statement to the point where items are moved to the sprint backlog from the product backlog, it is a collaborative effort.

    • Roman Pichler Roman Pichler says:

      Thank you for your comment Mary. I would suggest that a product owner should be responsible for maximising the value a product creates, thereby ensuring that the product becomes or stays successful. I describe the collaboration between product owner and team as well as separate areas of responsibility in my article “Product Leadership in Scrum“. Hope this helps!

  • Sebastien says:

    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 Roman Pichler says:

      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.

  • Marc Blanchard says:

    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 Roman Pichler says:

      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”:

  • Fabrice Aimetti says:

    Hello Roman,

    Your post is concise and so… helpful.
    I’ve translated it into french :


  • Agile Scout says:
    You’ve been linked!

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