Who are the Product Owners?
In Agile, the Product Owners owns the product vision and is the primary ambassador of the product he builds. They understand the customer needs, and they know how to manage the stakeholdersHe/She is responsible for maximizing the value product. It is a mix of skills between business strategist, marketing, product designer, market analysis, customer liaison, project manager.
Meet Ben. Ben is a product owner in a tech startup that aims to innovate the financial market with a new application based on artificial intelligence.
Ben’s responsibilities as a Product Owner are:
- define strategic goals
- assess customer value
- create the product roadmap
- communicates with the business partners
- help businesses to identify new clients
- promote the application he defines
- describe the product backlog including epics, features and user stories
- be the voice of the customer
- meet or create customer needs
- accept the work delivered
- take decisions
- member of the scrum team
- follow the competitors and the industry trends
- build cross-department relationships
- negotiates priorities with different stakeholders
Ben’s skills as a Product Owner are:
- solid customer knowledge
- technical understanding
- understanding of the customer end to end processes
- entrepreneurship skills
- creative thinker.
- analytical problem solving
- interpersonal, negotiation and communication skills
- attention to details
Usually, Ben divides his day into six main blocks:
- Early morning — get done the urgent and important things
- Late morning — work on the product strategy
- Lunch — product ambassador
- Early Afternoon — communication with the stakeholders and long term decision making
- Late afternoon — update the product backlog
- Evening — networking
Let’s zoom into the details of a day in the life of a product owner — Ben:
9 AM — Standup Meeting First
The standup meeting is the daily alignment point of the full scrum team. Most of the tribes I worked with do the standup in the morning. During this meeting, the team members aligned on the sprint delivery by answering the following questions:
- What did I do yesterday to contribute to the sprint goals?
- What do I do today to contribute to the sprint goals?
- What blocks me from contributing to achieving the sprint goals?
As a PO, Ben’s role during the daily standup is to keep the team on track to deliver the vision, take the decisions the team needs, answer to their questions.
9:30 AM — get done the urgent and essential things
As responsible for the product delivery, Ben’s primary urgency is to unblock the team with any decision, help the team to resolve specific technical issues, clarifications, or prioritization that depends on him. The rest of the blockers are the responsibility of the Scrum Master to unblock them.
The second most urgent task Ben has a Product Owner is answering to client urgent requests or stakeholders’ demands. While performing these actions, most of the time, the product owners need to update the product backlog.
The third most crucial thing Ben must do in the morning is the acceptance of the user stories developed by the team. During the sprint review, it is the Product Owner’s responsibility to demonstrate the work done during the sprint. He must perform the action needed to accept the user stories. This work can be testing or demo from a developer.
11 AM — work on the product strategy
When it comes to product strategy, there is a lot of work to do. The PO needs to ensure short and long term strategy, the definition of the higher level backlog items: epics and features, market research, and the list goes on and on.
Today Ben needs to prepare the product roadmap review meeting he has with the shareholders. Before he can go ahead to update the product vision, he’s doing internet research about a new competitor. All the data he can gather about this new competitor will be critical for the decisions the shareholders need to do during the meeting. Ben structures the presentation in 3-time horizons :
- long term (longer than six months). In this section, he shares the product vision and the high level of the epics (a big chunk of functionalities) he proposes
- medium-term ( 3–6 months). Ben has prepared a detailed list of features, and he needs to get the insights from the shareholders on the business value for these functionalities.
- Short terms (< 3 months). Ben will share with the shareholders the plan of the upcoming releases and what new functionalities are available to the users.
1 PM — Lunch with a potential new client
Yesterday John, the founder of the company Ben works for, asked Ben to join him for lunch with a potential client. John appreciates the passion Ben puts in the TechFin application and wants to share it with the future partners. Ben likes to be an ambassador of the product he’s in charge and has prepared a real-life usage of the application while they are having lunch.
2 PM — Meeting with the shareholders
A big part of the POs job is to communicate with the stakeholders. The communication can be formal — inside a meeting or workshop, or informal — unplanned meeting or call. The role of the conversations is to inform, to get buy-in for futures development or strategic moves. It includes everyone from the scrum team to key stakeholders throughout the organization and beyond.
Part of the meeting with the shareholder, Ben needs to communicate very clearly and shortly the 3-time horizons and get the information and decisions he needs to carry on with the development of the FinTech app.
The shareholders want to deprioritize the features planned for the medium-term time horizon and prioritize the ones scheduled for the long term because they want to raise new funds. In consequence, the shareholders asked Ben to present an updated plan first thing tomorrow morning.
3 PM — informal communication with a shareholder
During the previous meeting, one of the shareholders wanted to get more insights on the FinTech application development because he has identified a new market to expect and wants to check with Ben if the product can be adapted to penetrate this new market. Ben loves to see people who are interested in his product, and expanding to new markets is a challenge he likes. But he doesn’t want to make development decisions without involving the team. It is one of those hard moments for Ben when he needs to commit to a timeline and deliverables in no time.
4 PM — Work on the product backlog
Ben suppose to work on preparing the user stories for the next sprints. But because the shareholders asked him to update the product roadmap today, he has to reprioritize his tasks. Fortunately, he is very disciplined and follows the Agile principles when creating the product backlog. Having independent features allows him now to reprioritize the product backlog relatively quickly.
5 PM — Team member asks to talk to Ben urgently
The product owner will often participate in meetings on testing or technical sessions during the development cycle of the product. It helps Ben to gain insights on how the team decides on different technologies and to always gave his strategic guidance. Today the team has found a blocking issue on the latest user story, and developers need Ben to decide to remove the user story or minimize the scope of the user story.
Product Owners take such kind of decisions every day, sometimes, multiple times of the day. Ben needs to make the decision quickly, apply it, test it, and learn from it, improve. In the digital era, time is critical.
Preparing the user stories for the next sprints is very important as well, and unfortunately, Ben, our PO, didn’t have the time to work on it today. He’ll need to bring this impediment in the standup meeting of the next day and, together with the entire scrum team, find a solution for the team to reach the sprint goals.
6 PM — networking evening
Ben is having a drink with an ex-colleague from the university who is also a product owner — Tom. They think their products are complementary, and they want to explore further collaboration opportunities.
Product Owner’s job is an intensive one with the right balance of communication, strategy, and on defining the product backlog. How is your life as a Product Owner?
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