Product owner

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A product owner (hereinafter, the Owner) is an individual, group, and/or organization that provides a product developer or developers with the vision of the work product to be developed, improved, sustained, or retired.



According to the Agile Extension to the BABOK Guide (preview),
Product Owner. The product owner represents the interests of all stakeholders, defines the features of the product and prioritizes the product backlog.

Owner vs sponsor

Both the Owner and effort sponsor represent the customer's interests, but the Owner is usually closer to the developers than the sponsor. First, the Owner has to be available to the developers all the time; this may or may not be true to the sponsor. Secondly, the Owner leads the development of the backlog; the sponsor usually just approves the product and project scopes.


In order to provide developers with the product vision, the Owner shall (1) develop the vision for the product and (2) communicate that vision to the developer or developers.

Lead user

The Owner is commonly a lead user of the system or someone from marketing, product management or anyone with a solid understanding of users, the market place, the competition and of future trends for the domain or type of system being developed.


In the agile methodology, the Owner is typically a project's key stakeholder. Both having a vision of what he or she wishes to build and conveying that vision to the development team are keys to successfully starting any agile development project.

Backlog developer

The Owner has final authority in development of the product backlog, which is a prioritized features list for the product. The Owner is responsible for maintaining, prioritizing and updating the product backlog.


On the one side, the Owner represents the customer's interest in backlog prioritization and requirements questions. On the other side, the Owner must be available to the team at any time, but especially during the Sprint planning meeting and the Sprint review meeting.

Common duties

According to the DREPD, the Owner's duties can be divided in four groups.


With respect to enterprise discovery, the Owner:
  • While engaging the stakeholders, especially the customer and the developers,
    1. Acts as the primary liaison. The Owner is the vital communicator and link between stakeholders and teams.
    2. Attends team coordination meetings. The Owner may participate in the daily Scrums, Sprint Planning Meetings and Sprint Reviews and Retrospectives. These Scrum ceremonies is a chance for the Product Owner to inspect and adapt. And as a result being present at these ceremonies can be tantamount to learn first-hand.
    3. Meets with stakeholders to identify their requirements for the product, its features, and its development.
    4. Monitors the actual development of the product.
  • While willing to be aware of the environment,
    1. Follows the competitors and the industry, particularly to keep abreast with Agile/Scrum best practices and new trends.
    2. Researches the market especially looking for customer behavior and best practices applicable to the product.
  • While representing the customer,
    1. Inspects the product development progress at the end of every Sprint.
    2. Tests the product and its features both directly and indirectly, through other testers.


With respect to enterprise research, the Owner:
  • While finding problems to solve,
    1. Compares the project performance, the project requirements, and best practices.
    2. Contrast the deliverable functions, the product requirements, and the competitors' products.
    3. Identifies the value-growth and cost-saving opportunities.
    4. Maps out project dependencies in order to find bottle necks and to test the tentative sequence of development.
  • While understanding the project performance and challenges,
    1. Anticipates the customer's needs and market trends.
    2. Evaluates the project progress through each iteration.


With respect to enterprise envisioning, the Owner:
  • While establishing the developers' tasks,
    1. Creates and manages (maintains or, in the agile methodology, grooms) the product backlog. Its management is an on-going job and, often, a full-time activity. Nothing is constant in the world of product development and it's important that the Owner keeps his or her eye on the ball.
    2. Develops product backlog items including its use cases, user stories, epics, and themes.
    3. Envisions the product. The Owner is supposed to use their high-level perspective and results of requirements analysis to define goals and create a vision for the product.
    4. Expresses product backlog items in product backlog.
    5. Formulates the product development strategy or roadmap. The product roadmap is a high-level, strategic visual summary that outlines the vision and direction for the product offering over time. It is both a strategic guide for stakeholders to reference as well as a plan for execution.
    6. Prioritizes and sequences product backlog items in the product backlog while aiming to:
      • Best achieve (a) objectives of the project, (b) value of the developers' work, and (c) and missions of the performing organization.
      • Ensure work focuses on those with maximum business value or ROI that are aligned with product strategy.
      In prioritizing needs, the Owner is supposed to juggle the triangle of scope, budget, and time, weighing priorities according to the needs and objectives of stakeholders. For example, if the product under development needs to launch within six months, that constrains the scope of the project. As the project evolves, the product owner will have to gauge which areas have flexibility and which don't to determine how and when each iteration and product element will be developed. In the agile methodology, the Owner is required to have the product backlog items sequenced prior to the Sprint Planning Meeting. This means that each user story must be ordered by relative importance. Multiple highest priorities are rarely used; normal ordering, #1, #2, #3, is common.
    7. Re-prioritizes and re-sequences product backlog items when developers' work is either incomplete or un-done. The product backlog isn't a static to-do list though. It is a live document that should be continually updated based on evolving project needs throughout development. Because the product backlog will change frequently, the product owner must make the list accessible and available to all stakeholders, especially the developers, to ensure optimized performance and project outcomes.
  • While making decisions on the developers' performance and project's future,
    1. Accepts or rejects the developers' work done. The Owner has complete authority to do so.
    2. Changes the course of the project at the end of every Sprint if such a change is needed. The Product Owner is in complete control and can steer the team in a completely different direction at Sprint boundaries. And good Agile teams will welcome this change as long as the Product Owner is confident and knowledgeable. The Owner shall better be one who is quick to recognize and understand change and to ensure the Product Team adapts to the change in landscape, be it competition, target market or other.
    3. Makes the judgment call on the performance, deciding if the team needs to go back to the drawing board or if they can move on to the next steps.
    4. Terminates a sprint if it is determined that a drastic change in direction is required, for instance, a competitor releases a new version, which demands a counter response. This event is serious for the stakeholders. And this literally means that all work done up until that point is lost.


With respect to enterprise planning, the Owner:
  • While bringing the project stakeholders together,
    1. Assists with the elaboration of Epics, Themes and Features into user stories. The user stories that are elaborated at the last responsible moment are granular enough to be achieved in a single sprint.
    2. Communicates status externally. The Owner is the voice of the Team to the outside world and should ensure that all channels of communications are open and that projects have the right amount of support required to succeed.
    3. Conveys the vision and goals at the beginning of every Release and Sprint and further in the project. The Owner is expected to continuously remind the Team of the Sprint and Release goals. This shall help to keep the team on track and serves as an over-arching yardstick for the team to measure their activity and progress against.
    4. Develops directional materials such as demos and memos that may help the stakeholders to get oriented in the project.
    5. Ensures that the product backlog is visible, transparent, and clear to all, and shows what the development team will work on next, as well as the development team understands product backlog items in the product backlog to the level needed.
    6. Provides developers and other stakeholders with directional materials and, if needed, personal advise.
  • While leading the product backlog development,
    1. Drafts what the next iteration shall include.
    2. Plans how development of the product backlog and, specifically, testing and communications with the project stakeholders, occur.
    3. Plays an active role in mitigating impediments impacting successful team completion of Release/Sprint Goals
    4. Prepares in advance an adequate amount of tasks for developers to work on.


On the Owners' side

Challenges of being the Owner are:
  1. Resisting the temptation to "manage" the team. The team may not self-organize in the way you would expect it to. This is especially challenging if some team members request your intervention with issues the team should sort out for itself.
  2. Resisting the temptation to add more important work after a Sprint is already in progress.
  3. Being willing to make hard choices during the sprint planning meeting.
  4. Balancing the interests of competing stakeholders.

On organization's side

Challenges of being the organization that hires the Owner are:
  1. Clear defining who the Owner is -- an individual, a group such as a committee, or another organization. Sometimes, the Owner represents the desires of a committee in the product backlog, so those wanting to change any product backlog items' priority must connect with the Owner.
  2. Respecting the Owner's decisions. In order to get development as efficient as possible, no one shall be able to force the development team to work from a different set of requirements.
  3. Hiring a right Owner. The functions of the Owner are onerous; rarely, there is anyone else to cover for him/her or pick up the slack. Success or failure for the entire project or, in the worst of circumstances, the success or failure of the company usually depend on the Owner more than on anyone else on the team.

See also

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