Excuse me, what exactly is the Product Owner?

Published on
March 25, 2024

Better to ask the way than to go astray. And there are many, many paths along the Product Owner's journey. That's why we come to the rescue with some concrete answers about the Product Owner in Scrum. Let's start with this:

The Product Owner is one out of three roles in Scrum and is accountable for 100% of the product. Ready for more?

Product Owner as a role

Let's start with the basics. Product Owner is not a position. It is a ROLE or in other words a defined set of accountabilities within the Scrum framework. A very important role, because they are accountable for maximising the value of the product or service. Take a look at the Scrum Guide:

The Product Owner is accountable for maximising the value of the product resulting from the work of the Scrum Team. How this is done may vary widely across organisations, Scrum Teams, and individuals.

_______ Owner

Here we can make our first stop. How does the role of the PRODUCT Owner fit into a SERVICE delivery?

Well, it fits well. The traditional distinction between products and services exists and the most popular distinction is:

  • product - tangible (thing, object)
  • service - intangible (activity, action)

But the truth is that this boundary is becoming increasingly blurred. Services have elements of products and products are improved by services. The person responsible for the product has to find his or her way around this.

Think of a bank, for example. A bank that does what every other bank does: provides mortgages, low-interest loans, personal and business accounts for thousands of people. This is a 21st-century bank, so it also has a mobile app, naturally. The question for the Product Owner: what is the product of this bank? Would it be also a mobile application? Are we talking about a product or service here? The answer is both. And this is a trend that the Product Owner needs to get used to.

Value of the Product (Owner)

The Scrum framework, by definition, focuses on generating value. But it doesn't mean that Scrum exists only to create a product. This framework is there to solve complex problems and deliver value, and that value is the accountability of the Product Owner.

So, what is the product value? It is the Holy Grail of Product Owners. Put simply, these are benefits for the company, its customers, and users.

The maximisation of product value is one of the key accountabilities of the Product Owner. As part of this accountability, the Product Owner should ideate value for the whole trio: user, customer, and company. There are no shortcuts here, as a Product Owner, you invent, you do, and you check if it works. You need to evaluate whether what you have identified as value… is valuable. What gives the most? What gives the least? This is what maximising your product's value is all about.

What falls under the term value maximisation? It is foremost, profound knowledge of the product (or service) itself by:

  • defining what the product is (remember the example of the bank, for which the product may also be a banking application?)
  • awareness of who is the customer (the one who pays) and who is the user (the one who uses), their needs, wants, pains, and gains
  • getting to know the market situation and technological trends
  • market analysis
  • awareness of technological trends
  • competitors analysis

and perhaps many more.

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