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What are the Scrum Product Owner Responsibilities in an Agile Project? Many Companies adopting Agile Frameworks struggle to understand the Role of the Product Owner (the Voice of the Customer). The Product Owner belongs to the Scrum Team. They are selected due to their substantial knowledge of the business in the areas of the Development effort. A good candidate would be somebody who has many years of experience in the Business. Ideally this should be from a Managerial Role in Operations. It is often argued that the Scrum Master is a part-time Role. However it is generally understood that the Product Owner has a full-time participation to the Project. Where the Product Owner is stretched between responsibilities their is a Risk of the Project not realising the expected Benefits.

Scrum Product Owner Responsibilities: Voice of the Customer

The Product Owner has an essential Role in any Agile Development Project. Managing Stakeholder expectations and supporting the Scrum Team are both essential elements of the role. The Product Owner plays the role of the key Stakeholder within the Team. By doing this they can promote the Requirements of the business Stakeholders and represent them. They need to be a great Communicator. It is a requirement to keep the Business Stakeholders notified and as up to date as possible on the development. They are also an authority on the Product for the Scrum Team.

The Product Owner as Custodian of the Product Backlog

The Product Owner is the “go-to person” for the Scrum Team members who write User Stories. As the steward of the Product Backlog (the repository for User Stories), they often do not compose the Stories themselves. However they can play an important role in the shape and significance of the Stories in the Product Backlog. First of all, they determine whether a User Story or an Epic needs to be split, and into what components. Then the User Stories within the Backlog are prioritised. There are several techniques applied to prioritise Stories, which we will discuss in another article. For the Prioritisation, the most critical elements of the Product should be Developed first.

Scrum Product Owner Responsibilities: Specifying “Done”.

The Product Owner has the last say in Release Management. On the road to Developing the end product, there are 3 stages of approval/rejection of Deliverables:-.
– ‘Conditions of Satisfaction’: These are the characteristics that specify, in User terms, what would provide a successful result and ensure Customer Satisfaction, at User Story level.
– ‘Acceptance Criteria’: These are accurate redefinitions of the conditions of Satisfaction that will be used to assess whether the Sprint is complete (a Sprint normally contains multiple User Stories).
– ‘Definition of Done’: It is the Product Owner who will determine whether all the Acceptance Criteria have been satisfied and whether the Sprint is “Done”. Once a Sprint is Done, it is complete and will not go through any changes or revisions.

Scrum Product Owner Responsibilities: The Sprint.

The Product Owner has both a supportive and an arm’s length relationship with the Development Team. While they will take part in Workshops that Refine User Stories and will discuss the Product Backlog in the Sprint Planning Meeting for the next Sprint, their participation in the Sprint is limited. The Product Owner will describe the highest Priority User Stories in the Sprint Planning Meeting, it is the Team who will decide which Stories will be Accepted into the Sprint. The selected user stories should help the team develop the next increment of the minimum viable product.

When the Sprint has been defined, the Product Owner should refrain from requesting any Changes to the Stories. They do however have the authority to cancel a Sprint if the situations require it. There is also some debate as to whether the Product Owner need to be at Sprint Stand-Up Meetings. Our response is “yes” but as an observer, not an participant. If the 15-minute meeting is held correctly it becomes clear that the Product Owner would not have an opportunity to speak.

What the Effective Product Owner needs to Succeed.

The Product Owner has lots of Responsibilities, however even when their authority is recognised, they do not Work in a vacuum. They need support to satisfy their Role. Even in a very large or complex Scrum Project there is only one Product Owner; they can, however have subsidiary Owners in the Team. These will be Feature Owners and Component Owners; they will manage crucial Features and parts and hence provide some relief and assistance for the Product Owner.

Scrum Product Owner Responsibilities: The Essentials

The Product Owner plays an essential Role in ensuring Project success by:-.

  • making sure that all essential Stakeholder requirements are described and fulfilled.
  • assuming stewardship of the Product Backlog and its contents.
  • understanding what is crucial and what is not, and Prioritizing the contents of the Product Backlog appropriately.
  • determining where and how Epics and User Stories might require splitting before they can be selected for a Sprint.
  • Assisting in Planning for the next Sprint by explaining the highest priority User Stories to the Team, so that the team can decide what goes into the Sprint.
  • Keeping abreast of the development of a Sprint.
  • Changing or perhaps cancelling a Sprint when required. Changes to a User Story ought to not take place once it is in a Sprint.
  • Validating that the Acceptance Criteria have been met and that a User Story is complete i.e. the Product Owner decides when Work is “Done”. In other words, the Product Owner is the Release Manager for the Project.

Our Favourite Agile Books

We found these books great for finding out more information on Agile Scrum:

What can Cause the Product Manager to Fail.

The Product Owner has such a diverse job with lots of duties. To help them in obtaining Project success, the Company should make sure that these Principles are applied.

  • Give them sufficient authority. They need to have the power that they require to do the job.
  • Do not overload them. Do not expect the Product Owner to Work full-time on the Agile Project and still perform their normal jobs. They will get tired and experience burnout.
  • The Product Owner becomes part of the Team until the end of the Project, and must be positioned in the same location as the rest of the Scrum Team, so that they keep abreast of the Project.
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  • There is just one Product Owner, not a board of Product Owners. If the Project is of such magnitude that it can not be done by one persone, additional resources who report to the Product Owner can be brought into the Project.
  • There is a window of opportunity to make Changes to User Stories. As soon as a User Story has been added to a Sprint, it should not be modified. Unless the Project will be critically impacted and the Sprint should be cancelled.

If these suggestions are followed, your Product Owner will have enough power to make decisions, assist the Team, and perform as the key Stakeholder.

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