An Introduction to Product Ownership, Agile Developent and Scrum

This YouTube video explains the basics of “Product Ownership”, the role of the “product owner” and “agile development” / “scrum” in general. If you are a beginner, this is a good point to get started:

If you are not into videos, here’s Wikipedia’s description of what a Product Owner does (01/2015):

Product Owner

The Product Owner represents the stakeholders and is the voice of the customer. He or she is accountable for ensuring that the team delivers value to the business. The Product Owner writes (or has the team write) customer-centric items (typically user stories), ranks and prioritizes them, and adds them to the product backlog. Scrum teams should have one Product Owner, and while they may also be a member of the development team, this role should not be combined with that of the Scrum Master.

Role of Product Owner in defining and communicating product requirements

Communication is a main function of the product owner. The ability to convey priorities and empathize with team members and stakeholders are vital to steer the project in the right direction. Product owners bridge the communication gap between the team and their stakeholders. They serve as a proxy stakeholder to the development team and as a project team representative to the overall stakeholder community.

As the face of the team to the stakeholders, the following are some of the communication tasks of the product owner to the stakeholders:

  • demonstrates the solution to key stakeholders who were not present in a normal iteration demo
  • announces releases
  • communicates team status
  • organizes milestone reviews
  • educates stakeholders in the development process
  • negotiates priorities, scope, funding, and schedule
  • ensures that the Product Backlog is visible, transparent, and clear

Empathy is a key attribute for a product owner to have – the ability to put one’s self in another’s shoes. A product owner will be conversing with different stakeholders in the project – different people, with a variety of backgrounds, job roles, and objectives. A product owner needs to be able to see from these different points of view. To be effective, it would also be wise for a product owner to know the level of detail the audience needs from him or her. The development team would need thorough feedback and specifications so they build a product up to expectation, while an executive sponsor may just need summaries of progress. Providing more information than necessary may lose stakeholder interest and waste time. There is also significant evidence that face-to-face communication around a shared sketching environment is the most effective way to communicate information instead of documentation. A direct means of communication is then most preferred by seasoned agile product owners.

A product owner’s ability to communicate effectively is also enhanced by being skilled in techniques that identify stakeholder needs, negotiate priorities between stakeholder interests, and collaborate with developers to ensure effective implementation of requirements.


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