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What does a Product Owner Do?

Updated: Jan 3, 2022

Most companies have canceled their yearly holiday party and extended their return-to-work dates given the recent rise in COVID cases. This holiday season has been different for many of us or some of us feel like we are reliving Winter 2020. Instead of attending different corporate holiday parties and dinner parties, my family has opted for smaller family gatherings. This has given my visiting parents an opportunity to watch me work in action. These observations have led them to more questions about my job than answers. Maybe you’ve also realized that it’s not easy to explain who a Product Owner is and what a Product Owner does. The conversation goes a little something like this:

· So, what do you do?

o I’m a Product Owner.

· So, you own products? How’s that a job? I own products too.

o No, Mom, not that kind of owning, and not that kind of product. I am responsible for the success of a product at my company.

· Ohh. So, you create a product. How can you do that sitting at your desk here?

o Well, I don’t actually create the product. I figure out what the customers want, and I create a list containing all the needs of the product. I then work with developers who do the programming.

· Ohhh. So, you’re their boss and just tell them what to do from your desk.

o Not really…The Product Owner sets the priorities and proposes a goal for the next couple of weeks. We call that the Sprint Goal. The developers decide how much they can get done and work on delivering what they committed to for the Sprint.

· So, who’s in charge?

o No one on the team is in charge, we are all equal partners to get the job done. Each person has their own managers, but the managers let us work independently.

· Well, how do you know they are working, if no one is watching them?

o Mom, we are getting into advanced topics here.

· Oh, I see, so you don’t think I can understand it.

o No, that’s not what I’m saying. Ok. Let me try to explain what the Product Owner does in a Scrum team.

The Product Owner is one of the roles in a Scrum Team. The person works with the Scrum Master and the rest of the developers in the team. The PO is responsible for maximizing the Return on Investment (ROI) value of the Product Increment produced by the Scrum Team. The Product Owner does this by devising business strategies to maximize product benefit and by working with other business groups such as sales and


The PO represents the customer on the team so there should be only one Product Owner per team to avoid conflicting priorities. This means that the PO should have continuous interaction with customers. The PO also tries to reduce dependencies between requirements by defining independent Product Backlog items. These items are refined by the PO on an ongoing basis. Product backlog refinement consists of:

1. Decomposing complex products requirements into smaller functional elements.

2. Capturing and distilling emerging requirements and customer feedback.

3. Ensuring that enough PB items are truly “Ready” when they reach the Sprint Planning event.

Product backlog items must be ready for development by the time the team is ready to take on more work in Sprint Planning. At minimum, having ready product backlog items means:

1. The items have been clearly defined and are understood by everyone

2. The effort has been estimated by the developers

3. The value of the items has also been expressed

4. The work has been prioritized by putting them in the right order.

5. The team understands how they are going to demonstrate the work when is done.

The Product Owner also creates the Product Goal and proposes the Sprint Goal to be ratified with the rest of the Scrum Team during Sprint Planning. The Product Owner is responsible for release planning and for projecting likely targets based on progress to date.

· Does that make sense Mom?...Mom?

o Sure…I’m going to go help your dad.

The product owner Infographic



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