Product owner responsibilities within a development project
Updated 4 September 2023
A product owner is a critical stakeholder in any product development project. They are responsible for the successful development of a product and are the single point of contact for everyone involved in the development project. Learning about their responsibilities and their role in a product development project can help you decide if pursuing this career would suit you and match your skill set. In this article, we discuss product owner responsibilities and define the different types of product owners.
What are the key product owner responsibilities?
Businesses employ product owners to either oversee the development process of a new product or make improvements to an existing one, and the most crucial product owner responsibilities include negotiating with key stakeholders and keeping them informed about the progress of the project. Their role varies depending on the product and the industry they are in. Although a product owner can delegate some elements of their job, they are ultimately accountable for the project.
A product owner is responsible for realising the maximum value of a product developed by a company. This entails formulating strategies, helping with product design, analysing market trends and implementing the programme. In short, the product owner helps a company to develop its product and bring it to market successfully, timely and within budget. Here are some more key responsibilities of a product owner:
Define the vision
The product owner defines the goals and creates a vision for a product development project. They also ensure that the development team understands this project vision and work towards achieving it. This helps each project team member focus on a common objective, irrespective of their individual responsibilities.
Create a roadmap
A product owner often creates a product roadmap. This roadmap is a strategic outline of the project to help the development team better understand the project vision. Product owners communicate this roadmap to stakeholders, the development team and the business managers and clients.
Manage the product backlog
The product backlog is in the development team's to-do list, and the product owner is responsible for maintaining and managing this list. Product owners create the list based on the requirements of the project and accommodate requests from stakeholders. The items are listed in order of priority, and the list is modified or updated on a daily basis as the project evolves.
With their understanding of the requirements of a project and its objectives, product owners help in prioritising those requirements. They continually examine the budget, schedule and project progress to determine if any adjustments are required and gauge which areas of the project are adjustable and which are inflexible. For instance, a product owner may modify the timeline for a particular development phase in response to an unavoidable delay or add more members to the development team to ensure they meet the project deadline.
Oversee stages of development
Once the vision, strategy and product priorities are defined, the product owner oversees the development of the product from start to finish. They constantly assess and evaluate the development process at various stages to ensure compliance. They also approve completed work before authorising the team to move on to the next stage. The product owner continues to review and refine the development process while collaborating with team members to identify areas where there is scope for improvement or an adjustment.
Understand and anticipate client needs
A successful product owner can understand and anticipate the needs of a client. This enables the effective management of the development process. Product owners communicate with clients, form focus groups and conduct surveys and interviews to gain a comprehensive understanding of their needs. This also helps product owners anticipate any additional needs or problems that are yet to occur.
Liaise and communicate
The product owner is the primary liaison and communication link between stakeholders and the development teams. It's the product owner's responsibility to discuss with stakeholders issues as the progress of the project, compliance with the schedule and adherence to the budget. A product owner may also request that any significant decision, such as an increase in funding, be approved by stakeholders. They also ensure that any updates from stakeholders are communicated to the development team without any delay.
Know when to say no
A product owner manages feedback from the development team and the project stakeholders, but it's often impossible to accommodate everybody's requests. Sometimes acceding to a request would delay the completion of the development project or affect the quality of the final product. If the request does not align with the vision of the project, the product owner is entitled to say no.
Maintain focus on the project
The product owner is committed to a project, and distractions can be disruptive. While attending meetings and collating feedback from focus groups are necessary, product owners ensure that they don't become a diversion. They are responsible for the ultimate success of the entire project and thus maintain focus on the product and the needs and requirements of the client and their team.
A successful product owner remains accessible to both the stakeholders and the development teams to answer questions or clarify instructions. A development team member may not quite understand a particular task assigned to them or may think of a more efficient way of doing something. Likewise, a stakeholder may ask for progress reports or regular updates about the product. In such cases, it is crucial that the product owner is accessible to all concerned to facilitate a quick response.
Types of product owners
There are six types of product owners:
Original scrum product owner: owns and is responsible for a product in every respect
Feature owner: manages a specific feature of a product
Component owner: owns and manages one or more individual components of a product
Platform owner: manages a cluster of shared software assets
SAFe product owner: owns the product details and often manages a group of related products
Product owner vs scrum team
While a scrum team manages the actual development of the product, the product owner assists the team throughout the development process. Originally designed to address product development issues, the purpose of a scrum framework is to manage the product development process. Led by a scrum master, the scrum team supports the product owner, who is ultimately responsible for delivering the project from inception to completion.
Product manager vs product owner
A product manager performs a strategic role while a product owner has a more tactical role. The former develops the business case and the development strategy for a product, while the latter turns that strategy into actionable tasks. There are certain similarities in the two roles, and sometimes they overlap, but each has its own set of functions and responsibilities.
Related: Product manager vs product owner
Essential skills of a product owner
Apart from extensive experience and a comprehensive understanding of development project management, there are a few essential skills that every product owner needs:
analytical thinking and problem solving
communication and collaboration
the ability to work within technological and financial constraints
compliance with best practices and regulations
the ability to delegate
Related: Top 9 leadership skills to develop
Product owner credentials
Product owners don't necessarily require formal qualifications, but some employers prefer to hire those who have recognised certification. A formal qualification, such as a degree in marketing or business management, is a good indication that the prospective project manager is capable, but a degree is not a necessity. Every product owner can be able to successfully design, manage and complete a product development project on schedule and within budget, irrespective of their qualifications.
Remuneration for product owners
Since product owners carry enormous responsibilities for the success of a project and for adding value to a business, a qualified and experienced product owner can command an attractive salary. They often work extended hours to accommodate meetings with clients and development teams or to resolve incidents, and their high remuneration often complements their almost 50-hour work-week. The national average salary for a product owner is about £51,911 per year.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and the candidate's experience, academic background and location.
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