Key Responsibilities Every Product Owner Should Take

27 January 2023

Maksim Atiutskii

Business Development Manager

More startup founders choose Agile as their main approach to project management. The principle of flexibility implies constant communication with the product owner (PO). Coordination and discussion take place not just once before the project starts but happen continuously on a sprint basis. As a result, the Product Owner (the client, for early-stage startups) becomes a full-fledged Scrum team member.

For the development process not to be chaotic, the Product Owner must take a part in it. The PO determines how the product will look today, tomorrow, in a month, or in a year.

Project management in IT, product owner, digital product development.

Who Acts as a Product Owner?

It can be either the client himself or a hired specialist. And here’s the catch: the one who pays for the product development has skin in the game. If you go for hiring a product owner, you often have to pay with trust.

The PO, in turn, should be aware of the worries and opinions of stakeholders. It is a kind of bridge between the board and the execution team.

The product owner’s competencies should include an understanding of the project’s domain, the ability to lead marketing, product development, awareness of how to talk to customers, and much more. Now I will cover at least the fundamental product owner’s responsibilities in detail.

Goal Setting

It all starts with an idea. The founder must understand the product’s purpose and which customer pains it solves. It becomes the basis of any decision you make.

Therefore, the goal setting is as well up to the founder acting as the PO. They need to understand the definition of the product’s success, set some metrics accordingly, and follow them. Otherwise, the path to success will be endless and unrecognized.

Business Model

Not many people do their job out of a sense of altruism. Even if you have a solid budget for the project, you can not fund it endlessly — the scalability gets hurt. That’s why the PO has to define how the product will pay off. When the project brings revenue, it becomes easy to reinvest and scale it rapidly.

#1 Defining Product Vision and Business Requirements

A competent PO is a guarantee that the team will implement what is expected. The Agile team does not interact with investors and users directly but is engaged in the implementation — they bring ideas to life.

It means the product owner role implies taking the responsibility for the project’s road map. This document reveals how the project will look and function at each stage. It works for short-term and long-term project plans.

However, the roadmap is not a panacea. It is not necessary to rely entirely on planning, especially when it comes to startups. People invented Agile to get away from evil and not to create a new one.

The PO has to be ready to change the plan, sometimes even completely. We live in a high-speed world where long-term planning makes little sense, and it shouldn’t take too much time at an early stage.

#2 Backlog

Of course, the backlog is typically maintained by the whole team. However, epics and user stories are offered and created by the PO. The product owner decides whether the functionality will be implemented and when exactly. The team can only suggest new ones, but the development does not happen without the PO’s green flag.

#3 Prioritizing

The resources allocated to the development are usually incredibly expensive. On top of that, the PO should keep in mind that resources are constantly burning up. Universal advice: start small and never develop less essential functions before the most important ones.

When planning feature release, start small and never develop less essential functions before the most important ones.

This moment is always greatly underestimated. You can start your project developing with unnecessarily complicated registration functionality. While money burns, your product still has no value.

The Agile methodology assumes a useful increment in each sprint. The team can also increment without the PO. However, they are not responsible for the benefit of this increment for ultimate users. So, the product owner (by prioritizing) has exclusive power in decision-making regarding the scope of work (MVP for early-stage).

#4 Value

This point follows from the previous one. The resources should be utilized profitably. To do so, the PO needs to validate the ideas, critically examine them, and define the value they bring to the project. Skip the ones with no value and focus on the useful ones.

Thus, to make the process successful, the PO has to sync their vision with external circumstances. Agile product owners focus on what the development team needs to accomplish for the next iteration. There are many ways to measure — the PO can bet either on theories and logic or on an empirical approach.

#5 Identifying the Needs

To reduce the risks of unnecessary expenses, the PO focuses on validating ideas before they are developed. To understand what is going to bring value and what isn’t, product owners do market research, competitor analysis, and customer development. Although it is possible to delegate some minor tasks, the overall process is better become the PO’s responsibility.

Although it is possible to delegate some minor tasks, the product owner does market research and competitor analysis.

#6 Budget

Following the simple logic, budgeting belongs to the product owner as they are responsible for the scope. It’s crucial to align the workload with money. For instance, let’s assume a client has only 2 months and 20K dollars for realization. First, we should estimate the project and assess risks. And only after that, we can make data-driven decisions about what the developers will (and can) implement within the budget.

We (together with the client) can either increase it or reduce the scope if resources are limited. Always be careful with the second way. Even if you estimate everything very carefully, there are still some risks of exceeding the budget. A good PO should always take this into account, especially if they work with under-resourced startups.

If the budget is limited, you can either increase it or reduce the scope. Following the second way, however, still poses the risk of exceeding the provided limit.

The PO should always be aware of how much each functionality is going to take out of the pocket before they start working on each feature. The PO always makes the final decision to fund this feature or not.

Therefore, the development team and analysts, in particular, have to continuously estimate all tasks and improve the evaluation process. Otherwise, the PO will take extra risks.

#7 Preventing the Out-Of-Sync

Many positions apart from the developers are responsible for the project’s success. We must not forget about marketing, customer support, and other departments. The PO does not necessarily do it all singlehandedly. But there must be no out-of-sync vision for different C-suites.

They permanently provide feedback, look after adjoining parts of the business together, and prevent misunderstandings.

Be on Board

The Product Owner must remember that they are not just a client. First of all, it is about teamwork. In Scrum, the team should respect and be respected. And the more the PO communicates with the execution team, the more they understand the PO’s vision. It will most likely take longer for meetings, but it’s much better than making costly changes in the future.

Agile is about proper communication. Scrum is a framework for efficiency. It’s aimed at creating a smooth process of getting things defined.

In Rocketech, we collaborate with Product Owners from all over the world. Our primary service is building full product dedicated teams according to certain business requirements. And 170+ successful releases speak for themselves. Contact us for more details about our processes and vision.

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