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This is What a Product Owner Does & Why They're Key to Project Success

February 21, 2024

Key roles, responsibilities, what a Product Owner actually does and why you need one on every agile project

Is your product as valuable as it can be?

I.e. does it help users achieve their goals, attract interest (and investment) AND make you money at the same time? Your Product Owner should be able to tell you that; as well as what they’re doing to help ensure that your product is growing in a direction that realises those results. 

The concept of “product ownership” is relatively recent and was first founded in the Agile Software Development space in the early 2000s.  While it's seen as one of the most important roles in any tech startup, there is still little to no formal training for it in traditional education systems.

Yet, everyone who’s ever built a successful digital product will tell you you need an excellent Product Owner on your team. (See the 9 things you need before you even start developing an app, how to build an app development team and why your team needs need a scrum master.)

Here’s why…

What is a Product Owner?

Not to be confused with the actual owner of the business building the digital product, a Product Owner is a role fulfilled by a team member in your team whose job it is to “maximise the value” of your product. 

They are there to champion the interests of every stakeholder in a project: 

  1. The Users: ensure that the direction of the product aligns with what the users need to solve their problem and are willing to pay for.
  2. The Business: ensures that the direction of the product aligns with the vision, goals, and business model of the business.
  3. The Dev Team: ensures that the dev team understands exactly what needs to be built, and most importantly: why it needs to be built.

(Because, our experience shows, it’s only when all 3 of those stakeholders are happy and realising value that you get a really great, investable product.)

The Product Owner will thus:

  1. Understand the product vision and turn that into an actionable roadmap for development.
  2. Take a user-centric approach and understand what users want and need from the product, in order for them to to use it and to gain value from it.
  3. Ensure that the development team prioritises features that users want and need, to optimise the investment of resources against the 
  4. Champion your business goals by ensuring the team prioritises the aspects of your digital product that drive conversions so that you can generate revenue.

Why you need a Product Owner on your team

Software development is a highly complex, time- and resource-consuming process. It requires remarkable planning, project management, collaboration, and the ability to adapt to new circumstances and feedback in order to do well.

As a founder, especially in the early days of building, you might be familiar with the effort it takes to keep people aligned (working towards the same goals), keep everything on track (managing time and resources), and – most importantly – ensuring that you ask the right questions so that you can make the right decisions to keep realising the business value for both the user and for your business, to ensure a return on investment.

Well, that’s what Product Owners at Specno specialise in. They step in and take ownership of the coordination of teams and development resources so that you as the founder can focus on the areas where you can create the most impact; namely the business vision, strategy, user acquisition, and distribution of your digital product.  

It’s almost like having a mini replica of yourself (the founder) on every project, and you do that by giving the Product Owner key responsibilities and deliverables related to the delivery and management of direction of your digital product. See what an average week for an agile development team looks like.

What is the role of a Product Owner in an Agile framework?

The role of the Product Owner is to define and champion the overall product vision, and to break that down into goals, which they then use to create and iterate on the project roadmap. 

Throughout your building phase, they help your technical resources prioritise what to do day-to-day so that your product ends up exactly the way you envisioned it.

So how do Product Owners do all of this?

Product Owner responsibilities in an Agile Delivery team

1. Crafting the vision

The Product Owner is the visionary behind the product. They craft and communicate the grand idea, aligning the team and inspiring them to create a product that not only fulfils customer needs but also aligns with business objectives. Think of them as the conductor of an orchestra, setting the tempo and guiding every instrument toward a harmonious melody.

2. Understanding what's needed

Gathering and managing requirements is like putting together the pieces of a puzzle. The Product Owner talks to stakeholders and users, understands what they need, and translates those needs into a well-organized plan called the product backlog. It's a dynamic task that requires empathy, organization, and keen attention to detail.

3. Choosing what's next

Picture a busy kitchen with many dishes being prepared. The Product Owner must decide the order, what gets cooked first, and when, based on the importance and relevance of each dish (feature) to the menu (product). This prioritization ensures that the most valuable features are developed first, creating the perfect meal.

4. Setting standards

Defining acceptance criteria and the “Definition of Done” is about setting the quality standard. The Product Owner works with the team to outline what ‘finished’ looks like for each feature, like a chef ensuring every plate is perfect before it leaves the kitchen.

5. Being the customer's champion

Acting as the voice of the customer, the Product Owner ensures that the product aligns with what the users want and need. They are like the customer's representative in the development team, advocating for their interests and expectations.

6. Making crucial decisions

Should the team add a new feature or enhance an existing one? The Product Owner's decision-making ability helps navigate such critical choices. They assess the situation and make informed decisions that balance the project's scope, timeline, and features.

7. Facilitating communication

The Product Owner acts as the bridge, linking developers, stakeholders, and customers. Whether it's clarifying doubts or keeping everyone informed, they keep the communication flowing smoothly, ensuring that everyone's on the same page.

8. Verifying the work

Like a quality inspector in a factory, the Product Owner checks and validates the completed work during Sprint Review meetings. They make sure that everything aligns with the vision and meets the predetermined criteria.

9. Adapting to change

Markets change, customer needs evolve, and the Product Owner is there to adapt the product backlog accordingly. It's about being agile, flexible, and responsive to the ever-changing business environment.

10. Driving value

Ultimately, the Product Owner's goal is to maximize the product's value. By focusing on high-priority features that resonate with business goals and customer desires, they ensure that every effort translates into tangible benefits for the business.

By combining visionary thinking, strong communication skills, and a relentless focus on value, a Product Owner is an essential part of any Agile delivery team. They guide the development journey, making sure that the end product not only delights users but also achieves business success.

To move even faster, discover the benefits of low-code development.

Why we recommend you have a Product Owner on board

Whether you're a startup founder or an established business leader, a Product Owner is not just a role on your team; they are a partner in your journey, a co-pilot in your quest for innovation and excellence. With them on board, you're not just building a product; you're crafting an experience, a solution, a legacy.

In the dynamic world of today's tech landscape, having a Product Owner is no longer a luxury; it's a necessity. And at Specno, we make that necessity a rewarding and enriching part of your development process.

Do you have an important project you want to maximise?

Let's talk about
your next project

Specno Team