Scrum framework defines three Roles, the Product Owner, the Development Team and the Scrum Master. In this post I will explain who a Product Owner is.

So who is this Product Owner?

Product owner more often than not is the business representative who understands the nitty gritty of the business. This person is the “value maximizer” for the product. As the Scrum guide puts it

The Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product and the work of the Development Team.

Product Owner

Product Owner mostly handles the business aspects of the product. This person goes out in the market, meets customers, end users, stakeholders and understands from them what all should be part of the product. This person gathers all the ideas that can be part of the product.

Product Owner, however is the only person who has the say on what, of all the ideas, that were gathered get to be part of the Product. PO is the visionary and has a solid vision about what needs to be built for the product. It is PO’s discretion; what all, if done, will make the product a successful product. This person in a way is the “single wring-able neck” for the success or failure of the product.

PO is also the owner of the Product Backlog and is accountable for managing, maintaining, ordering it.

How does a Product Owner manages the Product Backlog?

Product Backlog management includes multiple things like:

  1. Expressing the Product Backlog Items in detail.
  2. Ordering the Product Backlog Items.
  3. Ensuring that the Product Backlog is transparent and understood by everyone who would be impacted by the product.
  4. Making sure that the Product Backlog raises transparency to the extent that it is clear what the Scrum team is going to work on next.
  5. Raising the transparency of Product Backlog to the level that stakeholders how value is being added to the Product.
  6. Product Backlog is ordered in such a way that it optimizes the value of work done by the development team.
  7. Helping Development Team refine the Product Backlog Items.

The Product Owner may do all of these activities or may share the responsibilities within the Scrum Team. However, the final say on the order of the Product Backlog Items remains with the PO. PO remains accountable for the Product.

Is PO a single person or a committee?

Product Owner is one person and never a committee. A Product Owner may take inputs, wishes, desires from a committee, a group of stakeholders, and may represent the same on the Product Backlog but anything that needs to be built for the Product has to go via the Product Owner. No one, not even the CEO of an organization is allowed to directly approach the Development Team to get anything done on the Product.

To conclude:

Product Owner is the visionary, accountable for maximizing the value of the product; owns and manages the product backlog. For a Product Owner to be successful, everyone should respect his/her decisions.

Also, have a look at few anti-patterns of the product owner.