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Why have a Product Owner anyway?

05.25.2009
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I can’t stress enough just how important the role of the Product Owner really is. This job is not for the faint-of-heart. In fact, the Product Owner is probably the most important individual on the Scrum team since he single-handedly is responsible for driving the direction the team is taking.

The Product Owner And The Team

The team is responsible for how they are going to implement the functionality. The Product Owner, on the other hand, is responsible for WHAT they are going to build and in what priority order. Although, there are times that Architectural elements will be prioritized ahead of business functionality, for obvious reasons. So, the Product Owner is like the driver on a bus. He can drive the team around in circles, off a cliff or he can ensure the team is taken to a place where it can make a significant impact – Imagine that!

Who Should Be A Product Owner

The activities that Product Owners are responsible for, require competent individuals who are passionate about what they’re doing, are well informed, have excellent domain expertise and are customer and ROI focused. Scrum is all about producing company value or ROI, so it is critical that the team is ruthlessly focused on THE most important tasks and should be based on over-arching business goals. Remember that more than 60% of all features are never used. As a result, Product Owners have to make sure that they’re not wasting valuable resources (the most significant company cost is people cost) on functionality that is not really required.

The Product Owner And Scrum

The beauty about the Scrum process is that it provides a framework that pressurizes (forces) the Product Owner to sequence work. I use “sequence” purposefully as opposed to “prioritize” as there may be multiple high priority features to work on and the Product Owner must choose which, based on the teams available capacity at the time. This is hard work and careful thought has to be put into this activity. In many cases, the company’s survival depends on the positive influence a Product Owner has over the team. Since Scrum is such a transparent process, you’ll know very quickly if the Product Owner is doing his/her job well.

So choose your Product Owner wisely - a good Product Owner is worth his/her weight in gold!

Written by: Jack Milunksy - COO at Brightspark and Co-founder of Agilebuddy (An Agile project management tool, built with rich collaboration features for Scrum teams). For more from Jack please visit: www.twitter.com/agilebuddy and blog.agilebuddy.com

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Jack Milunsky.

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