A Scrum Product Owner is the key stakeholder of any project. The Product Owner must have a vision of the product and immaculately convey it to the Scrum team. He/she is responsible for the success of the Product and to maximize its value. There are various characteristics that make an effective Product Owner. Let us take a quick look at these characteristics in this article.
1. Be a Product Visionary
Product Owner interacts with customers to understand their requirements and transforms it into a vision of the Product. It represents the customer's voice and other stakeholder's inputs. An effective Product Owner makes the product development sustainable and provides a vivid understanding of the Product to the Scrum team. He/she also keeps the teams true to the Product itself and makes them adhere to the vision.
2. Be Customer-Centric
If you put a Product Owner in a Kano Diagram, it should be in the Customer Delight region. To put in simple words, to be an effective Product Owner, one has to imbibe the expectations of the customer and then should try to exceed it by putting his/her own ideas into it.
3. Make Decisions
Product is the prime responsibility of a Product Owner. Hence, making decisions that benefit Product development while also adhering to the timelines is critical. Product Owners must be empowered to take such decisions that sustain the pace of development of the product.
4. Utilize Product Backlog
Product Backlog is a great way to start a project to identify the prioritization. A backlog generally consists of features, bugs, technical work, risks, and learning opportunities. A typical way to generate backlog is through User Stories. An effective Product Owner should understand the importance of backlog and thrive by using it to the fullest.
5. Communication Is The Key
As much as there have been advances in communication technology, nothing beats a face to face communication. Product Owner in a Scrum model needs to interact with Scrum Team and Scrum Master to drive product development. Effective communication is the only tool he/she has, to perform the job. User stories are best explained in a personal conversation. Hence, a face to face meeting should be the primary way of discussion.
6. Gain And Use Experiences
Product Owners should be able to share relevant experiences with the team and their peers. Experiences are a great source of learning and can provide solutions to some problems during product development. Conferences are also a great platform for sharing experiences. It is also important for the Product Owner to gain experience through such platforms.
7. Business Modelling skills
There are multiple modeling techniques a Product Owner should know which makes him/her more effective. Some of the examples are Lean, IDEF, etc. These models come in handy while working on product development. A Product Owner with ample business modeling knowledge will be able to guide the team in a better way.
8. User Story Mapping Expert
User Story Mapping is a technique made relevant by Jeff Patton through his book. It is a widely practiced method in the Scrum world and a Product Owner will only gain by mastering this technique. This is a tool for visualizing the product backlog and adds a new dimension to it.
9. Functionality Is Supreme
For a Product Owner, the functionality of the product is supremely important. His/her primary motive should be maximizing the value of the product for the customer. An effective Product Owner never compromises on the functionality of the product. He/she is always challenging the Scrum Team and Development Team to adhere to the functional requirement.
10. Knowledge Is Wisdom
This saying is true for a Product Owner as well. Good technical knowledge and functional expertise make life easier for the Product Owner. It also helps the Product Owner to make good decisions throughout the development phase. It is recommended to gain functional and technical knowledge through Product Owners courses and seminars.
11. Need To Fragment
A great Product Owner is able to divide his/her work into categories so that he/she can have focus on all of it completely. The different fragments could be strategic, execution, tactical, etc. Product Owner represents the product at multiple levels in the organization like, Senior Leadership, Middle Management, and to the Development team. He/she needs to ably showcase strategy to Senior Leadership, seek support from Middle Management, and is able to inspire the Development team to overcome hurdles.
12. Availability Is Key
Product Owner needs to dedicate ample time towards the Project. He/she should entertain Customer, Stakeholders, Scrum Master, and most of all Scrum Team. Since one of the primary functions of the Product Owner is to facilitate development, his/her availability should never become a hindrance.
13. Behaves As An Entrepreneur
Product Owner is an entrepreneur in a nutshell. He/she must have a keen eye for opportunities, looks at the bigger picture, and strategizes to achieve the results in a timely manner. He/she must also analyze the risks and proactively work to mitigate those, be it investment risk or product development risk.
14. Backlog Is The Way Ahead
Product Backlog is one of the best ways to start work on Product Development. Product Owner must be an avid user of the Backlog Prioritization Quadrant. It gives an insight that backlog is much more useful than the new features it discusses. Technical innovation, debt, and support also need to be accounted for. Moreover, a Product Owner needs to focus on backlog refinement. It is advisable to use 10-15% of the capacity of the development team to work on refinement. Stakeholders may also be involved in the refinement exercise and the way to do it is under the Product Owner's disposal. But if more people are involved, it makes the exercise a bigger success and increases the quality of backlog with all their inputs combined.
Learning Never Stops
A Product Owner is always open to improvement. There are many ways to do it. The easier way is to read about the concepts and try to implement them in your projects.
Working on the above points will definitely grow you as a Product Owner. Think you have some other qualities? Feel free to mention in the comments section below.
Useful Links:John Okoro Coach