As a Product Owner of one of my company’s service offerings I am responsible for the roadmap, the planning and realization of software releases for the solution. I have been confronted with the reality of the role and its complexity. Product ownership requires several skills which are just slightly related to each other, and a lot of times it means skills that you won’t often see united in one person. Having an IT background myself, part of my duty is easy: for instance getting information from stakeholders, breaking down this into meaningful User Stories or communicating the work to be done with the development team. However, managing the product from a marketing perspective is a healthy challenge for me. To find out who the main competitors are, where the biggest opportunities in the market lay , what should be offered to beat the competitors etc. Only by working together with others, in my case with sales and marketing team and end-user representatives, I can achieve my goal. If I want to do a good job, I have to think of product ownership as a team effort.

As an Agile Coach, Scrum Master, Business Analyst and Requirements Analyst, I have regularly worked together with Product Owners and I have been able to witness their styles, their strong points and their merits. I have seen how their strong points got them to become a Product Owner in the first place. For example, a Product Owner being very aware of politics in a bureaucratic organization and still managed to get things done, a Product Owner being a visionary in his line of business or a good analyst that is able to align stakeholder needs. A good skill can get you there, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be an easy ride. I have seen a political oriented Product Owner struggled to get clear product requirements right, I have seen a visionary Product Owner struggled to get external work packages delivered. I have seen a very analytical Product Owner struggled to get his message across in the organization. Missing a skill is not a problem, but neglecting it can make it difficult to perform your job.

Scrum doesn't really give much guidance on how to perform the job of a Product Owner. However by looking at the Product Owner role from different angles, it is possible to reuse proven techniques and best practices used for years and years. But we have to make sure that these practices are performed in an Agile manner: Use face-to-face communication and information radiators to make sure the knowledge is available to the team, Inspect and Adapt; Keep it Simple, etc.

This is how I aim to help Product Owners: by giving insights in strong and weaker points, by giving a guidance on how to actually perform the job, and by giving them options to choose for a training, coaching or extra support, which in turn will improve delivering a successful product.