Role: Product Owner
The Product Owner represents the End User's needs and defines the "work" in the project. This team member typically is co-located with a development team.
Performs:Responsible for:
Additionally Performs: Modifies:
Main Description

This role is the one and only person responsible for managing the Product Backlog and ensuring the value of the work the development team performs. The Product Owner has the responsibility of defining what is the right product to build, determining the order in which features will be built, and making sure that the product actually works. The Product Owner is responsible for defining the features of the product to be developed by the team in terms of:

  • Functionality: Identifies each product requirement as a Product Backlog Item and supplies details for those requirements when they are needed by the team, including specifying the acceptance tests for each requirement
  • Priority: Defines the order in which those backlog items will be developed, according to the value that they bring to Customers and users, which provides the team with a Product Backlog ready for Sprint/Iteration planning
  • Goal: Defines the release goals and makes decisions concerning release planning

The Product Owner has the following responsibilities:

  • Define the features of the product
  • Decide on release date and content
  • Responsible for the profitability of the product (ROI)
  • Prioritize features according to market value
  • Adjust features and priorities as needed
  • Accept or reject work results

This person maintains the Product Backlog and ensures that it is visible to everyone. Everyone understands what items have the highest priority, so everyone on the development Team knows what will be worked on.

The Product Owner is one person, not a committee. Committees may exist that advise or influence this person but team members who want to change an item's priority must first convince the Product Owner. In this way, organizational methods for setting priorities and requirements are influenced over time by this role.

For the Product Owner to succeed, everyone in the organization must respect their decisions. No one is allowed to direct the development team member to work from a different set of priorities. Team members are not allowed to follow the direction of anyone whose direction does not coincide with the direction provided by the Product Owner. The Product Owner’s decisions are visible in the content and prioritization of the Product Backlog. This visibility requires that the Product Owner do their best. Visibility makes the role of Product Owner both a demanding and a rewarding experience.

The Product Owner is responsible for the first of the three Scrum ceremonies, Sprint/Iteration Planning. The development team evaluates the prioritized Product Backlog, identifies the top priority items, and commits to completing the selected items during a Sprint/Iteration. These items become the basis for the Sprint/Iteration Backlog.

In return for the development team's commitment to completing the selected tasks, the Product Owner commits that they will not introduce new requirements to the team during the Sprint/Iteration. Requirements are allowed to change but only outside the Sprint/Iteration. After the team begins a Sprint/Iteration, it remains focused on the goals of that Sprint/Iteration. The only exception to this rule is that a similar amount of work can be removed from a Sprint/Iteration to accommodate a new requirement.

Multiple Occurrences

The person who plays this role should have the following competencies:

  • Good knowledge of the business domain
  • Demonstrate leadership and be respected by external stakeholders (Customers and users)
  • Make decisions at the right time (not too soon, not too late)
  • "Open minded" to changes
  • Effective communication skills with the team

A former Business Analyst or Project Manager is a good candidate for this role.

Assignment Approaches

Only one person can play this role for each development team. This person must be assigned to the project (the Product Owner is a member of the development team and should participate in the Daily Stand-up meeting). The workload associated with this role almost requires a full-time assignment.

The Product Owner is:

  • A single person dedicated to the project who must be available to answer the team's questions promptly to define feature tests and provide advice regarding various product aspects (the software UI, for example)
  • An extended member of the team who participates in Sprint/Iteration planning and Sprint/Iteration review meetings
  • Typically someone from a Marketing role or a key user in internal development
  • Can be a Customer representative or a Customer proxy

Suggestions from Ken Schwaber's Scrum Guide:

  • The Product Owner can be a Team member, and in addition perform development work. This additional responsibility may affect the Product Owner’s ability to work with stakeholders. However, the Product Owner can never be the ScrumMaster.
  • For commercial development, the Product Owner may be the product manager. For in-house development efforts, the Product Owner can be the manager of the business function that is being automated.
Key Considerations
The Product Owner's commitment is essential to ensure the project success. By defining the product vision, they provide direction to the team. By externally promoting each Sprint/Iteration result, the Product Owner brings recognition and motivation to the team.