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The Product Owner Importance and Role in Software Development

Product Owner as the center of technological universe

The term of Product Owner originates from the Scrum approach to project development. However it’s now being used widely and applied to all software projects, even those that aren’t Agile. Who is this person? Well, basically it’s a one-man band that prevents the development process from becoming a chaos. In other words, he acts as a middle man between the development team and stakeholders, taking care of meeting the deadlines and providing functionalities that are really needed.

But his responsibilities don’t end here, they also include business skills and knowledge of the end user’s point of view on a particular freshly-developed product. He knows what the business wants, what it really requires and finally, what is will accept in terms of the software.

All of the above boils down to one essential reason why tech companies should have the Product Owner and he better be good. He is behind the product’s success or failure. He’s a dealmaker or a dealbreaker. He’s the center of IT universe. That’s why he should be the best at fulfilling his responsibilities and get his role right.

Software Engineers - development team

5 key tasks of a good Product Owner

  • Communicating the vision

Defining the vision of the product at the beginning is not enough, since it easily becomes blurry and vague after a few weeks or months of developing. Small backlog items, adjustments and corrections of the entries, changeable conditions of project implementation, all of these make it difficult to stay faithful to the original purpose.

Numerous projects with no Product Owner fail as a result of losing the sight of vision. That’s why the Product Owner should not only define the vision and keep it compliant with the company’s perspective and requirements, but also constantly communicate all those things. He should be like a captain, able to see the vision of the project in any conditions and steer the team towards it.

  • Managing the Product Backlog

Since in the IT world everything is changing at a rapid pace, tech companies need a tool ensuring seamless and effective communication. It’s the Product Backlog – a transparent team’s to-do list, which should be up-to-date and available to all stakeholders in order to serve the purpose. The person held accountable for it is the Product Owner – he keeps the backlog and adapts it to any occurring changes, whether they are the result of client’s needs or market demand.

In addition to it, it’s vital to prioritize the backlog content according to the business goals and ROI, as well as outline any dependencies, so that all of the involved project members are in the swim.

  • Prioritizing needs

Within a single project, a variety of needs and demands intermingle and influence each other. Ordering them is like juggling three balls of scope, budget and time and deciding, which one is on the top at a given time. The Product Owner weighs up those priorities while taking into account goals and needs of the stakeholders and decides what steps should be made next.

An inherent part of it is a word “No”. The Product Owner should be able to pronounce it skillfully, so that neither party feels offended or discouraged. Otherwise, accepting all the proposals and ideas might result in the loss of focus and failure to meet the deadlines.

  • Overseeing the project development

The product owner has a final say when it comes to the development stages of a project. He accesses his deep well of business knowledge and works closely with stakeholders so that the following iteration meets their requirements. After that, he sees the team, rolls up his sleeves and collaborates on the issues needing improvement, so that the goals of the next sprint are met.

He has the authority to accept or reject the work done or propose changes if necessary. At the end of each sprint, the product owner weighs up all the efforts made towards turning the project into reality. Including the time devoted and product quality. Being the key player during the product development process, he’s also the one communicating both good and bad news to the stakeholders.

  • Reading client’s mind

As if all of the above wasn’t enough, the Product Owner must exceed his expertise in project development and act as the voice of the team to the outside world (read: client) and the other way round, he should also anticipate clients’ needs and explain technical issues to them. He should always be one step ahead and ensure smooth communication between a client and the team.

The transparency of this process is vital since it allows to immediately address any mishaps and give the client the product neatly suited to his needs.

In a nutshell

The Product Owner is someone indispensible in most companies, especially those working in Agile methodology. No wonder there’s a significant growth in demand for this profession. A good Product Owner drives technological innovation and paves the way towards reaching the next level.

However to do this the Product Owner takes on a few roles. Including a market analyst, project manager, business strategist, customer liaison and very often, a psychologist and mind reader.

cto - Chris Gibas

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