Scrum Guide

What Is a Scrum Product Owner?

What Is a Scrum Product Owner?

A Scrum product owner is in charge of maximizing the value of the product generated from the collaboration of the Scrum team. They do this by aligning customer needs with business value so they can ensure the development team meets the requirements of the stakeholders and the end-user. In this regard, a product owner can be seen as a mini CEO. 

In Scrum, there are three significant roles: the product owner, the Scrum master, and the development team. The people in these roles work together to achieve the sprint and overall project goal and deliver value to the customer. 

The product owner doesn’t work in a group like the development team. Instead, the product owner can be seen as a bridge between different groups.

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Scrum product owner responsibilities

The Scrum product owner role has a number of responsibilities including defining and communicating the product vision and goal, managing the product backlog, and ensuring priorities are visible and understood. 

The product owner also needs to understand and communicate market trends, stakeholder and customer needs, and business objectives and goals. Here’s a little bit more about the responsibilities of a product owner. 

Developing, managing, and prioritizing the product backlog
Creating and managing the product backlog is a crucial responsibility of the product owner. The backlog is derived from the product roadmap and acts as a sort of to-do list of user stories, new features, and product fixes for the team to work on during current and future sprints.

During sprint planning, the product owner will work with the development team to establish a sprint goal and determine which backlog items will be worked on. The product backlog is updated as backlog items are completed during the sprint. 

Assessing the product’s progress
The product owner does not have a technical role in the development process. Instead, they have the responsibility of overseeing and communicating project progress to stakeholders. The product owner will also work to ensure the team is progressing according to plan.

Inspecting and accepting the product

It is the product owner’s duty to ensure that the work produced during each sprint meets the product’s requirements. They have the authority to accept or reject the work produced during the sprint.

Researching and understanding customer needs
The product owner should conduct appropriate market research and act as an advocate for the customer, guiding the development team in providing the most value to the end-user.


Product owner vs. product manager - What are the main differences?

You may have some confusion over the difference between the Scrum product owner role and a product manager role. That is understandable. 

In the product owner vs. product manager conversation, there is some overlap. However, there are a few key differences between these two roles. 

  1. Firstly, product owner is a Scrum role, specifically. That means a product manager is an organizational role but can also be a product owner within a Scrum context. Though this is not always the case.

  2. A product owner is primarily focused on delivering value to the customer through fast and effective product development.

  3. The product manager is responsible for more than just the backlog and the priorities of the product’s development. They may liaise regularly with sales, marketing, engineering, and other departments as they bring the product to market.

Characteristics of a product owner

The product owner on a successful Scrum team will possess a combination of soft and hard skills that enable them to effectively carry out their duties. 

While their specific technical skills may vary from project to project, a good product owner should have a general understanding of the knowledge area they are working in. Here are some of the soft skills product owners should possess.

Soft skills of a product owner:

  • Visionary: The Scrum product owner is the person who understands the product completely. Therefore, they should be able to communicate and act on this vision.
  • Team player: The Scrum framework is built around the three roles, none superseding the other. The product owner should cooperate with other Scrum team members to maximize value delivery and ROI.
  • Communicator: The product owner acts as the bridge between the Scrum development team, the product manager, and the stakeholders. They will also need to effectively communicate progress, priorities, and vision in a clear and transparent fashion.

Now, here are some of the hard skills and technical skills product owners should possess.

Hard skills of a product owner:

  • Analytical skills: The product owner will need to process and act on information about customer needs and the wider business environment. That will help them prioritize backlog items and communicate reasoning to the development team if necessary.
  • Project management skills: While Scrum teams do not have a dedicated “project manager” role, the duties of a project manager can overlap with those of a product owner. These duties include planning, timeline and stakeholder management, and more.

Using project management software as a product owner

A product owner may have many tools and software solutions in their arsenal that enable collaboration, communication, and productivity. One tool every product owner needs is the right project management software

With Wrike, product owners can:

  • Increase transparency and visibility of product backlog items using Wrike tasks and folders 
  • Efficiently communicate with stakeholders so conversations remain accessible and in one thread 
  • Integrate with 400+ apps and platforms
  • Capture and share meeting notes for increased transparency
  • Use custom workflows so task status is clear at a glance

A successful Scrum product owner needs to be decisive, have strong organizational skills, and know how to communicate effectively. Wrike helps with all of that and more.

Further reading

How to Run an Agile Project

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A Guide To Managing Agile Meetings

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What Are the 5 Scrum Values?

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