The Product Owner role is the person on an Agile/Scrum project who is responsible for establishing and explaining the desired project scope.
When to Use Product Owners
The Product Owner role has important activities before, during and after a Sprint.
The Product Owner role is one of two designate individual roles in the Agile/Scrum process. (The other is Scrum Master.) This individual is responsible for identifying and managing the project scope, including both required deliverables and the level of acceptable performance for all deliverables. The individual has responsibilities before, during and after a Sprint.
- Before a Sprint
- The Product Owner must collect all project requirements from internal and external stakeholders.
- The Product Owner must ensure that each requirement is clearly stated on a Story Card, including the Demo Criteria – or the Definition of Done – for that story.
- The Product Owner is responsible for determining which Stories will be in which Releases and then categorize Stories appropriately for each Release.
- The Product Owner must prioritize the Stories from first to last.
- The Product Owner is the representative of all stakeholders to the Scrum Team. As such, they must interact with many individuals throughout the organization and beyond. There is often an element of organizational politics involved in writing and prioritizing Stories. The Product Owner must navigate through the politics to establish a clean Product Backlog.
- During a Sprint
- The first step in a Sprint is the Sprint Planning meeting and the Product Owner is there to explain each Story Card to the Scrum Team – both the Story and the Demo Criteria. This often requires a thorough understanding of the Story,
- The Product Owner prioritizes the Sprint Backlog – which may be a different priority than the overall Product Backlog for the project.
- As the Scrum Team works on the Stories, questions needing clarification will often arise. The Product Owner answers those questions (or finds the answer) for the Scrum Team.
- The Scrum Team may suggest modifications to a story as they are working on it, either because of the difficulty of the story or because they have uncovered something better. The Product Owner will review the requested modifications and decide whether to change the story or not.
- The Product Owner may be called upon to assist the Scrum Master to remove roadblocks, especially if the roadblock requires negotiation with a stakeholder that the Product Owner has been working with.
- The Product Owner is the prime interface with stakeholders during the Sprint.
- The final activity of the Sprint is the Sprint Demo and the Product Owner is the reviewer of the Stories at the Sprint Demo.
- After a Sprint
- Following the Sprint Demo, the Product Owner will determine which Stories have been successfully completed, and which require more work.
- The Product Owner will rewrite any open Story Cards to reflect only the remaining work.
- The Product Owner will continue to be the primary interface with the stakeholders concerning project work. However, the Product Owner will often invite key stakeholders to participate in the Sprint Demo in order to get their feedback on what has been completed.
- The Product Owner will often add, remove, or rewrite remaining Stories based upon the results of the Sprint.
- The Product Owner will then reprioritize the new Product Backlog as part of the Sprint Refinement in order to prepare for the next Sprint.
Hints and Tips
- The Product Owner is often swamped with internal politics. Especially if there are conflicting requirements from different stakeholders. Ensure the Product Owner is savy about internal politics.
- A Product Owner can change any part of any Story between Sprints. However, during a Sprint, the Product Owner should not change a Story that is part of the Sprint Backlog without a discussion with the Scrum Team so that all understand the new Story and why the change is needed.
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