Product Owners


Exploring this Job

The Agile Alliance is a great place to start if you’d like to learn more about the Agile methodology, Scrum and other frameworks, and the work of product owners. It offers a glossary of terms, introductory videos, a blog, and other resources at https://www.agilealliance.org. Another good way to learn more about Scrum is to read the Scrum Guide (https://scrumguides.org). You should also participate in information interviews and/or job-shadowing experiences with product owners. Ask your school counselor or a business teacher to help set up one of these learning opportunities.

The Job

The product owner serves in a leadership role on the product development team and functions as the liaison between the team and the customer. Although there is no universally defined role for product owners across employers or industries, all workers in this profession are responsible for maximizing the quality of the product created by the Scrum team. The product owner meets with the customer to obtain an understanding of its needs for a product, and then takes this information back to the Scrum team.

Each portion of the Scrum development process features a sprint, which is a fixed-length (one month or less) event in which actions are taken by the team to meet a specific goal or goals. A new sprint begins immediately after the first sprint ends. The product owner may work with the team to create a sprint goal (or may trust the team to do this on its own) and collaborate with the customer and team to create user stories. A sprint goal is the main goal that the Scrum team is trying to accomplish during the sprint. User stories organize the sprint tasks into functional increments. Each story is placed on an index card or sticky note, which also includes a short, descriptive sentence that summarizes its value in the process. These stories are placed on a Scrum board, a physical resource that visually represents completed tasks and work that has yet to be completed. Some companies may use a digital version of the Scrum board.

One of the main areas of responsibility for product owners is managing the product backlog, which is a list of revisions to existing features, new features, bug fixes, infrastructure changes, and other steps during a sprint that a team must complete in order to achieve a specific outcome. The product owner revises the product backlog when necessary to prioritize the most-important tasks that need to be completed or for other reasons. He or she is the only member of the team that has the authority to make changes to the product backlog, although team members and the Scrum masters can lobby for changes.

Product owners spend much of their workdays managing the product backlog, but they have many other duties. Throughout sprints, they meet with the customer to ensure that they are happy with the Scrum team’s work on the product and convey any concerns to company executives and the team. Throughout the development process, they are available on-site and via telephone, e-mail, and Web technology to answer questions from the Scrum team, address problems, listen to suggestions for changes to the product backlog from team members, and revise the backlog, if necessary. After an individual sprint and when the entire project is complete, product owners assess their management of the product backlog and identify ways that the process can be improved.