The 6 characteristics of an effective product owner
At the heart of the scrum framework lies the Product Owner. A visionary and a doer, paving the path for a product-market fit. The product owner understands the customer and development process well, collaborating with both, makes decisions that bring the product to life!
So you want to be the world’s greatest product owner? Here’s what we found are the characteristics of the most effective product owners:
The product owner is a visionary who can envision the final product; a solution that meets the customer’s needs. Spend plenty of time with your customer to understand their problems well, and envision a solution that is elegant and simple yet solves all their needs. You can get help from your team by facilitating creativity and encouraging innovation with your team. Most of all, be comfortable with change. Scrum is designed to embrace change, and so you should leverage that advantage. Changes to market and to customer demands translates to steering your product development to the right direction.
The product owner makes decisions when there are ambiguities, unknowns and uncertainties. You need to be confident, and comfortable with experimentation and informed risk taking. You also need to be right most of the time. Great product owners have amazing instincts for their target customer’s sensitivities and their ideal target use-case. When faced with critical choices about product design, positioning, and pricing, you need to make the right call most of the time.
To be able to do your job, you also need to be empowered. You need to have the proper decision making authority, and be trusted. Prove that your are qualified and committed to the development effort to deserve that trust.
While as a product owner you make decisions and own up to them, you don’t dictate them. You need to be a leader and a team player at the same time. You need to encourage the innovation process and leverage the team’s expertise and creativity in the decision-making process. This will ensure your team feels empowered and involved; it translates into team buy-in and commitment, as well as better decisions. Effectively collaborating while providing direction is a delicate skill set that you must possess.
As the product owner you will negotiate priorities, scope, funding and schedule. You will be educating stakeholders in the development process, organizing milestone reviews, communicating status, announcing releases, and demonstrating the solution to stakeholders. All this requires strong communication skills, as you will be representing the stakeholders to the team, and the team to the stakeholders. You need to be a good negotiator, comfortable with debate and conflict. A sense of playfulness can also help!
A good product owner is committed to see the vision through to completion. In addition to being a visionary and a good communicator, you must also be a doer. You need to spend time capturing ideas, analyzing market and customer feedback, collaborating with the team, and maintaining the product backlog.
In addition to all the skill sets described above, an adequately qualified product owner must possess an intimate understanding of the business: the customer and the market. That deep understanding is essential to analyzing their feedback and envisioning a solution to their problems.
Moreover, as the person who collaborates with the development team and represents the customer to them, you must understand the development process well and be passionate about providing the best user experience.
Do you have what it takes? Share with us in the comments below.