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What is product owner?

Definition: A product owner is a role in Agile software development responsible for aligning the team backlog with customer and stakeholder needs.

They focus on maximizing the value delivered by their product to the customers by prioritizing backlog items and ensuring the team is working on the ones that deliver the most value to customers.

What does a product owner do? 

Their day-to-day responsibilities consist of:

  • Managing product backlog - creating a list of backlog items, mapping out their dependencies, and ensuring that it is kept up-to-date as the product is being developed.
  • Overseeing product development - Monitoring and guiding the development team, so the product follows the overall vision and is done on time.
  • Communicating customer requests - Analyzing customer needs and feedback and turning it into items for the team to work on.
  • Prioritizing needs - Looking at the project scope, timeline, and vision and deciding where new features should be placed on the priority map based on their impact.
  • Evaluating progress - Inspecting each part of the development process and deciding if the team needs to go back or if the development can continue.

Key skills for product owners

A product owner needs to have the following skills:

  • Scrum - Having knowledge of Agile methodologies and Scrum framework is essential for prioritizing backlogs.
  • Customer centricity - Understanding customers' needs and how they want features to be implemented.
  • Communication skills - Working with different personalities in a team, explaining ideas at different levels of complexity, and managing conflict.
  • Delegating - Knowing how to delegate tasks to the right person taking into account other tasks and their timeline.
  • Technical knowledge - Understanding the technology used to build the product and being up to date on industry standards.
  • Storytelling - Being able to turn user requests into features and present their vision clearly, giving users more value.

Product owner vs. product manager

Product managers set the long-term product strategy and create a product roadmap the team can follow. They analyze customer behavior and turn it into the product vision to solve their problems.

Product owners focus on the short-term tactics of turning the overall vision of the product into features the team can work on. They are responsible for ensuring the development team follows the roadmap laid by the product manager and that engineers and designers understand it.

Product owners work under product managers and ensure the manager's vision is seen through to the end.

How do you become a product owner?

You will need to get a bachelor's degree in project management or software development and work in those industries for some time to gain experience, after which you can apply for scrum training programs. Getting scrum certified means you can start working as an apprentice, gaining experience, and establishing yourself in the agile community.

Going from an apprentice and small projects to becoming a product owner will usually take two years, after which you can start looking for high-profile product owner jobs.

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Article FAQs

What is an average salary of a product owner?
It depends on the industry, location, and product they are working on, but the average US salary is $115,000 annually, starting at a $90,000 base and going upwards of $150,000.
Is product owner higher than Scrum Master?
They are on the same hierarchical level and work together in an Agile development team. The Scrum Master helps the team work effectively while the Product Owner prioritizes the backlog. Sometimes the product owner can be above the scrum master, but this is rarely the case and depends on the company structure.

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