Who is a product owner: what should he be able to do and how is it different from a product manager


You’ve probably heard of the Agile Manifesto and the agile approach. Within their framework, there are scrum teams whose members perform certain roles and contribute to improving the quality of the final product. One of the members of such a team is the product owner. And it seems a little clear what he does, but, as it turned out, not completely. And people sometimes confuse them with product or project managers.

In this article, I will talk about who a product owner is, what he does, and what qualities he should have. I will also explain how he differs from the other specialists mentioned above.

Product owner is…

…the specialist who manages the product. Literally translated, this phrase means “product owner”. This position is mostly found in digital or IT projects, in particular in teams with a flexible approach. Such an employee is responsible for the creation and management of the product, monitors its development, also records the necessary metrics and is responsible for the result.

Who is the product owner and what does he do?

Why is it needed?

A Product Owner is needed in agile teams to oversee product development. This specialist studies the requests of end users, their pain, as well as the customer’s requirements, and based on this information creates the optimal product option. Moreover, this optimization can continue indefinitely, as long as the product remains in demand and needed.

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Role in the scrum team

Product owner is one of the main roles in the scrum team. It also includes a scrum master and developers. All of this is based on the Agile Manifesto and uses an agile approach with short cycles and prototype testing. By the way, Agile has already been discussed in more detail in the Community.

So, such a specialist is a kind of connecting link between the customer, that is, top management, and the development team. It collects all the information about how these people want to see the final product and what functions they think it should perform.

What is the role of the product owner in the scrum team

Key responsibilities

The most important thing for a product owner is to find ideas to improve the user experience and perform priority tasks with minimal costs. He manages sprints in scrum, sets tasks and monitors their execution. In addition, such a specialist deals with a number of other tasks.

  • Defining the vision of the product. Having collected the requirements of customers, as well as learning about the wishes of end users, the product owner begins work on the vision of the product. That is, it determines how it will look, what tasks to perform and how to implement it. And then this concept must be explained to the team, so that everyone understands it equally and can put it into practice.
  • Development of a road map and product strategy. This involves conducting market research, similar products and their strategies, and even indicators. This allows you to determine how to advance yourself and what you can take from the experience of competitors. And this work also includes finding and evaluating market trends, solving current problems.
  • Product backlog management. A backlog is a list of tasks and requirements. Their product owner collects, evaluates, monitors execution, and also collects and considers the team’s suggestions. All changes made are controlled by this person.
  • Setting priorities. The product owner sets the order of execution of assigned tasks depending on the priority. It all depends on which features or capabilities are planned to be implemented first, and which can be added or refined later.
  • Communication with developers and the customer. I already said that the product owner is the connecting link between his team and top management, and customers, of course. He interprets the task more clearly and precisely, taking into account all the suggestions made.
  • Controls development stages. This person also tracks the progress of each iteration, plans the next sprints, analyzes the effectiveness of processes, and also sets and tracks current deadlines.
  • Collection of feedback. This procedure allows you to understand whether the product has met the expectations and requirements of consumers and customers. Based on the results of the collected information, you can adjust the course, refine and improve the product.
  • Assessment of progress. Based on previously established metrics, the product owner understands whether the goal has been achieved. Such work is carried out after each iteration.

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Basic qualities

The Product Owner must combine the roles of business strategist, market analyst, product designer, and customer to understand the full picture of product development. Moreover, he does not manage the development team, but directs them in the right direction. The following qualities will be useful for this:

  1. Strategic thinking. It will be necessary to plan actions and analyze their results.
  2. Communication. You will have to communicate a lot, especially with the customer and the team.
  3. Charisma. Such a specialist will have to do a lot of convincing, listen, understand people’s feelings and empathize. All in order to get the information he needs and reach a compromise in disputed moments.
  4. Leadership skills. Somehow, in a flexible approach, the activity is a team, and the product owner directs the work of people in the right direction. They will have to be supported and motivated, especially for long-term projects.
  5. Interest. Unfortunately, information has to be literally extracted from some people. This quality will make it possible to make a more accurate vision of the product.
  6. Stress resistance. Plus, you will need the ability to resolve conflicts and rebuild the plan in the event of force majeure, as well as an adequate reaction to criticism.
  7. Self development. Continuous learning is of particular importance today, especially when working in digital and IT. Expanding your horizons and in-depth knowledge in the chosen field will allow you to catch the latest trends and trends, then use them in your work.

Differences from a product manager

In general, there is little difference between a product owner and a product manager. All because they perform similar functions. The difference is only in the approach, because the product manager works behind the technical building, but the product owner accepts part of the functions of the customer with a more flexible approach. The latter has more responsibility, he also works independently on the vision of the product, taking into account the requests of the target audience and user experience.

Difference between product owner, product and project managers

Differences from a project manager

A project manager is a leader, a.k.a. a boss, who sets tasks for the team to deliver the project on time. The product owner stands on an equal footing with the team, he just has more information and knows how to get this or that result. Accordingly, he only monitors the stages of work and the actions of participants, while the project manager is more concerned with meeting deadlines and presenting the finished project to management.

And in conclusion…

…you should not think that the profession of a product owner is not very necessary today. Companies are looking for such specialists and offer decent pay for their work. However, at the same time, the corresponding demands are put forward. For example, in some vacancies, the future specialist must have experience in the field of marketing or project management in the relevant direction.

I recommend to start working at least as an assistant or intern, and after gaining experience and knowledge, look for the possibility of transitioning to similar positions.

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