Product Owner Roles & Responsibilities for Software Projects

The role of a Product Owner is clearly defined in the “Scrum Guide” document, which is a bible for this working framework, not only in software projects:

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

Source: Scrum Guide

However, this is only an “encyclopedic” definition of the role of the Product Owner in a software project. It does not exhaust all the obligations and does not answer the question arising from the title of this publication. It is therefore worth pointing out the specific areas in which the duties of a person who, according to the Scrum framework, becomes a Product Owner reveal themselves. 

Read also: Product Owner vs Product Manager – differences

Product Owner’s responsibilities in a nutshell:

  • The Product Owner ensures that the individual elements in the Product Backlog are arranged in the correct order, optimal for the project. 
  • He/She ensures that each element of the Product Backlog is described in a clear and understandable way for the entire team.
  • He/She optimizes the value of work performed by the team responsible for development
  • The Product Owner guarantees that the Product Backlog is created in a clear and transparent way: it also indicates what the Scrum Team has to do in the next steps.
  • He/She ensures that the Development Team understands all the elements contained in the Product Backlog to a level that enables the whole group to work.

Importantly, the Product Owner may perform all these tasks on its own or only supervise them, while the Development Team executes them. However, full responsibility for the results rests with the Product Owner, who is held accountable for all obligations. Nowadays, it is rare to make a mistake to appoint a “product owner team” in one project, but it is worth noting that the Product Owner is one person. If there is a need to change priorities in the Product Backlog, the Product Owner must agree to it, because it represents the interests of the project – it is responsible for its success. 

Taking these requirements into account, the Product Owner must be an open person with high interpersonal skills and impeccable personal culture. He or she should also be stress-resistant and, what is important, assertive, unaffected by external influences, but also able to accept suggestions in a proper way. 

Why shouldn’t a ‘product owner committee’ be created?

First of all, this is inconsistent with the Scrum framework – the Product Owner is one person and there are no exceptions to this rule. This type of approach was developed in the very early stages of Scrum development, whole committees were set up to “democratize” the activities of the Product Owner. However, this inevitably led to conflicts, which in many cases not only slowed down the development of the project, but even caused its “disintegration”. Because of the enormous responsibility of the Product Owner, it is not worthwhile to create conflict situations without taking into account the incorrect approaches from the point of view of the existence of this framework.

Secondly, the Product Owner represents stakeholders and customer groups (the creation of a committee could lead to a conflict of interest). The Product Owner makes the final decision on the order of implementation of the subsequent elements of the Product Backlog. It is impossible to veto the Product Owner’s decision (precisely because the PO is a single person, independent of external influences). This is the healthiest way to manage a project in the Scrum framework. 

All this has its roots in the effectiveness of the Scrum framework. The apparent lack of democratization of the Scrum Team is essential to keep the whole team focused on its goal. 

What else is in the Product Owner’s charge?

We mentioned the very important competencies of the soft person in the role of a Product Owner. At this point, the essential skills that allow a person in this position to carry out their daily tasks become visible. 

First of all, the Product Owner is a person who is in constant contact with stakeholders on current and upcoming requirements. The Product Owner is therefore responsible for maximizing the value provided by the Development Team – and this is a direct result of the Product Backlog. 

The Product Owner, as the “link” between the stakeholders and the Development Team, is responsible for providing the most accurate information on all requirements, as well as having an excellent understanding of the current functionalities. 

In what scrum events is the Product Owner involved?

The simplest answer to this question is: The Product Owner participates in every meeting that requires the participation of the entire Scrum Team. However, he is not a member of the Daily Scrum:

  • Sprint Review
  • Sprint Retrospective
  • Sprint Planning

The Product Owner is, therefore, an extremely important person for a Scrum project and there are several important aspects to bear in mind when considering its role. Effectively and, what is important, a properly functioning Product Owner is a guarantee of the success of the project.

Technical Project Manager in Concise Software with a developer background, especially in mobile apps and automotive systems. Scrum lover, certificated Professional Scrum Master II, Professional Scrum Product Owner I, Professional Scrum with Kanban I & AgilePM, who loves sharing their knowledge with IT communities (e.g. GDG). Husband, father and passionate photographer @ The Owls Photography.

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