A product development cycle cannot be successful without an owner. They keep a constant eye on the whole process, have a strong understanding of customers' needs, and a clear vision of the final product that they can convey to others.
Product Owners are responsible for every step of the software development process. They are like ambassadors among developers who put everything together to deliver the best product possible. Who are they, what are their skills, and key responsibilities?
We examine in this article how crucial Product Owners are to the success of a software project. What makes their job so vital and challenging at the same time?
Who is a Product Owner?
A Product Owner is a member of the product development team who is responsible for managing the project's workflow and achieving the desired outcome.
A Product Owner is an individual who leads a group of people toward the common goal of delivering a product. Their role goes far beyond managing people, defining user stories and prioritizing activities while maintaining the conceptual and technical integrity of overall features. They handle everything from strategy to product design.
The majority of them work in larger companies. Just 2% of small businesses with fewer than 50 employees hire someone in such a position. Product Owners build significant relationships for businesses and, while implementing a project, keep watch over the competition, legal regulations, and stakeholders. They need to understand all these elements to be able to lead the project in the right direction.
The Product Owner's role in a software project
Thanks to rapidly developing technology, consumers constantly have different ideas about what they would like or need. Companies, therefore, have to find ways to be responsive to changeable conditions and thus be flexible. A noteworthy way to implement the so-called agile working methodology is Scrum.
With Scrum, a team can work flexibly on its product and adapt quickly to changing conditions. This model allows team members to interchange roles and get support from each other. The product owner plays an essential role in this framework, taking on several roles as a project strategist, product designer, and market analyst in one.
Research from Zippia indicates that the Technology industry is one that hires Product Owners most frequently. This isn’t surprising, considering how rapidly the industry changes. A person who is an all-rounder who handles every day-to-day task is undeniably a vital part of any agile team.
What are the core responsibilities of the Product Owner in a software project?
▶ Has the project's vision
A Product Owner can envision the future of the product and devise a strategy to achieve it. They should know the goals and purposes of the project. Their deep market knowledge and communication skills allow them to anticipate and respond to problems and needs. They can communicate that vision and define the business model. They know the answers to such questions as:
• Who would want to buy the product?
• Which features are critical to customers?
• What makes this product stand out from the competition?
▶ Manages product backlog
The product backlog is a list of tasks prioritized by a development team that includes new features, changes, bug fixes, and other activities that need to be completed in order to achieve a specific result. It's an essential tool for communication between the team and the stakeholders. Improper management and optimization of the product backlog will cause delays. That's why product owners update it regularly and make it easily understandable.
▶ Prioritizes needs
Another crucial role of the Product Owner is prioritizing needs. They must strive to balance the budget, time, and needs of the stakeholders with the purpose of the project always in mind. Product Owners must deliver the maximum outcome in order to achieve the goal. Optimal team productivity and efficient decision-making are therefore on the product owner’s shoulders. Such a person gives the product development team comfortable work and allows them to focus on priority tasks.
▶ Listens to customers’ needs
Product Owners act as a liaison between customers and developers. They are responsible for learning about the customers' needs so that they can make the product even better. The Product Owner needs to stay one step ahead of the customers in order to anticipate their thinking. They play a vital role in building trust between a business and its clients by sending messages about developments, proposing solutions, and caring for their interests.
▶ Evaluates product progress
It is the Product Owner's responsibility to ensure the quality of the final product. Thus, they need to monitor the progress at each stage. They analyze performance and decide if changes or improvements need to be made. They work directly with, lead, and guide the development team to support design, development, and testing.
5 things to look for in an outstanding Product Owner for a software project (and not only!)
It's the role that is the most crucial hire for every team. Finding the right Product Owner who suits the position is critical to the success of the product. What qualities should you prioritize in your search for a Product Owner? A great product owner should have the following characteristics:
1. Extremely communicative
A Product Owner needs to be a naturally communicative person. They'll work with customers and developers, hence they must be able to find common ground with both parties. They should be able to communicate effectively with every person who is involved in the project development.
As the primary contact point, a Product Owner must ensure that everyone is working towards the same goal and has all the necessary information to complete their jobs. A Product Owner also serves as a representative of the product, which is why they need to be eloquent if they are to present it well.
2. In-depth knowledge of the product
A Product Owner should have a vast specific knowledge about the product. Only such a person can think about the product as a whole and provide the development team with coherent and helpful guidance. Furthermore, they will be able to envision how the product should appear at the final stage. What is still missing and how can it be improved? What are the product’s strengths and weaknesses? To make this happen, they must know the product inside out from all possible angles.
A Product Owner acts for the good of the team, yet a role of this nature does not only require the ability to delegate tasks well. A Product Owner must resolve all issues that arise in the development process and motivate the team to reach its full potential.
When things get challenging, they should have the capacity and strength to respond in the right way. Their goal should be to balance all parties' interests in order to avoid crisis escalation and find the best solution for the good of the product.
4. Flexible mind
An agile product owner should be able to make quick decisions and adjust to changing environment. They need to accept that sometimes the best strategy is not the one that was originally planned.
There are so many unpredictable and changing conditions in the software development industry that a product owner must sometimes make quick, spontaneous decisions and choose the right options to create a successful product.
A great Product Owner needs to have the ability to make educated and confident decisions. This is not the proper position for someone who takes a long time to choose, doesn't trust their intuition or skills, or is never quite sure if they are taking the right action. Under the pressure of time in a fast-moving environment, this person must be courageous and act with confidence.
To sum up
Great Product Owners must be proficient in a wide variety of skills. They must possess work experience and competencies that help them see the big picture of the final product. This person is the backbone of any great product, so you should take the time to find the right candidate and reward them appropriately.
In today's industry, there are endless opportunities available to Product Owners. Their presence in a development team is guaranteed to ensure early ROI while maximizing business value. Getting the right Product Owner on board can be challenging, but if you do they may deliver surprising results and set your product apart from the competition.