Product Owner – the one who controls the chaos. Why do you need them?

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Project management and further work on its development are undoubtedly a challenge for the entire team, as well as for the client who wants to realize his vision. The issue of building such a team and division of tasks is not without significance here. Many software houses are currently working using Scrum, which offers a specific work framework and division into roles.

Contents:

  1. Who is the Product Owner?

    1. Product Owner role is not the same as the Product Manager
  2. Product Owner = successful project development

    1. Decision-makers
    2. Connecting two worlds
    3. Controlling the chaos
  3. Product Owner's point of view

  4. Wrap up

You’ve probably heard about the Product Owner. You may have even wondered if you need them for your project. Is it worth it? We think so! As we also work using Scrum, the PO is a key person for every project. Here’s how you can get a better understanding of his role and learn how to achieve more with them.

Who is the Product Owner?

A question that many ask themselves – what does the Product Owner do exactly? Ken Schwaber in the Scrum Guide wrote such a short definition:

The Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the Development Team. How this is done may vary widely across organizations, Scrum Teams, and individuals. 

 

This very brief description, however, doesn’t clearly express how important this role is. Product backlog management involves a lot of optimization, taking care of transparency, timeliness and clarity about tasks in the sprint. The responsibility that such a person has to bear is really big. They usually make the most crucial decisions acting as the voice of the customer and take care of the final product resulting from the work of the development team.

The Product Owner is something like a link between the project team and the client. PO completes the client’s needs, knows the product well, understands the client’s work enough to be able to make decisions about the product. Then he/she passes all these needs to the development team and he also gets to know the perspective of what we can and cannot do. Also, the Product Owner decides what will be easier to do, what will be more complicated and how it can be simplified. The person in that role communicates such conclusions to the client and presents the prepared solutions.

Kamila Herezińska, Product Owner

It should also be mentioned here that the Product Owner role is not the same as the Product Manager.

The Product Manager discovers user’s needs, focuses on a product roadmap and decides on the further development steps. The Product Owner, on the other hand, is responsible for maximizing the value of the product by managing the product backlog. They create user stories for the development team and communicate the voice of the customer in the Scrum process. As you can see, Product Owner vs Product Manager comparison is somewhat blurred, but these roles must focus on different aspects and differ from each other.

 

Product Owner at Inwedo combines the roles of Product Manager and Project Manager.

Kamila Herezińska, Product Owner

 

At Inwedo, we have several Product Owners dealing with different nuances of the projects and, as they say, an individual approach is needed for each project and the way of working may change, but attention is always paid to the quality and achievement of the goals. For this reason, PO largely focuses on communication with the customer and good relations among team members.

The Product Owner looks at the product from two perspectives: from the perspective of the client’s business needs and the needs of the end-user. Together with the team, he/she tries to constantly improve and optimize the product, make it user-friendly, and at the same time keep it in the business area. It is definitely a balance between what is worth implementing and what is real. At Inwedo, we are strongly convinced that we are not alone in the team and we have the same goal. We are planning it all together and in agreement with the client.

Paulina Lenkowska, Product Owner

Product Owner = successful project development

 

The entire process of creating and developing dedicated software requires a lot of commitment from both sides and mutual trust. As already mentioned, fine relations are crucial. A good Product Owner is empathic, they will treat the customer as a partner and act as his representative to the scrum team. They know the client’s needs and want to meet them, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t listen to the team’s opinion. Knowing all the pros and cons, as well as the wanted goal, they find solutions in the best interests of the business. Therefore, it all comes down to proper communication of the sides with the Product Owner at the forefront.

Decision-makers

Another strategic factor affecting the success of the project is the Product Owner’s assertiveness and confidence. Projects are often complex, requiring thoughtful steps. It is the PO that has the last word, which contributes to greater efficiency. Imagine a situation where no person is connecting the client and the IT team. There is, of course, a chance that the project will be implemented, but where is the place for the value based on a need stated by the business. Gradually, the risk that the project will not meet expectations is very high. Having the Scrum Product Owner ensures the flow of information and is critical to linking development teams to the business. This is to make sure that the business side, even without meeting the team every day in the office, will keep track of the steps taken and know the status of the project.

Connecting two worlds

It is worth mentioning that having an idea for a project, we do not always know what technical aspects to pay attention to or we have no technical knowledge at all. Fears that we will not understand the team of developers will help us dispel the fact of the existence of the role of Product Owner. It is a person who will learn about business needs and take care of their implementation, explain all project development processes to you if needed and help in communication with these IT guys. There is no need to worry about possible misunderstandings, PO will manage all of these problems.

Controlling the chaos

We also value our Product Owners for their multitasking and planning skills. Every single day is full of meetings, calls, answering emails, managing product backlog and the work of a development team. Despite the number of tasks and all the Product Owner responsibilities, they can do it perfectly. Thanks to frameworks and templates they developed based on experience regarding conducting workshops with the client, lots of written user stories, project kick-offs or offboarding (stay tuned, we will write more on these topics soon), they can always stand up to the tasks and care for the quality of the final product.

Product Owner’s point of view

So how is it on the other side of the barricade? A lot depends on the trust and openness of the business with which PO works. At the beginning of the cooperation, the Product Owner is first to ensure that trust is earned and maintained. In turn, being open is very desirable for the PO role, who always strives to achieve the best results for the client and their products.

  • Feedback is very important – Product Owners expect the client to share his thoughts and opinions that affect the course of the project. Be honest with them – they are here to listen to you, support and ensure the quality of the product. It is also worth taking feedback from the stakeholders’ position. Suggestions from the PO who has the experience and after numerous user stories they often know which solution may be more effective, customers friendly or less risky.
  • Creating a bond between both the PO and the team, as well as between the PO and the client, is something that the Product Owner cares about. Being the first person the client or team members turn to is a big responsibility, which requires not only a lot of knowledge but also empathy and the right approach. PO is not the bad cop, but a guide, partner and friend who looks after both sides working on the project.
  • Thanks to the presence of the PO, other people from the team can focus strictly on their tasks. They don’t have to participate in every meeting with the client, because it is the Product Owner that will provide all the important information. They don’t have to make every decision themselves as the last word belongs to the PO, which after hearing everyone’s opinion will decide the best solution. We are sure that the product will be delivered on time and that it will be of the highest quality.

The Product Owner – who knows the product and knows how to use it consciously – is like a compass for the customer. The customer doesn’t have to know the technology and has no direct connection with the development team, so the role of the Product Owner is invaluable here. He/she suggests interesting solutions to the client that will make his life easier on a daily basis, he/she can indicate what will not necessarily work, and why it is worth going in a different direction.

Paulina Lenkowska, Product Owner

Wrap up

Product Owner responsibilities are very broad. It can be said that, after all, they are not completely defined. It’s not only creating user stories, managing backlog items and sending reports to the client. This role is very demanding and difficult, but it gives a lot of satisfaction and benefits. At Inwedo, every team values ​​PO role and can’t imagine working without it. Considering all the advantages and aspects mentioned earlier, breathe a sigh of relief when you start working on the product development with a Product Owner in the scrum team.