What Every Product Owner Should Remember on Agile Product Management

As a product owner, you lie at the core of every product development cycle. Additionally, you’re the primary individual in charge of maximizing the value of the products.

Scrum is one type of agile framework where typically the Development Team consists of three to nine people. Each member of the team will have distinct strengths in various areas of expertise, which can be combined to solve multifaceted problems to accomplish projects.

With so much to manage, agile product owners need to remember the essentials during the product development cycle.

What product owners should remember while managing a project

It’s important to note that product owners are the face of the product. That means they’re responsible for presenting big picture strategies to product teams and stakeholders, analyzing the market, and discussing the primary benefits of the product to the user community.

Let’s dive into what every product owner should remember during agile product management.

1. You must define the vision

It’s your responsibility as the product owner to share the vision of your project, focus the work into actionable steps, and maintain clear communication amongst all stakeholders.

It’s also the product owner’s responsibility to ensure that all parties have the information they need to complete their assigned duties successfully. For instance, a developer may require feedback directly from the end-user to help them fix an issue they may have discovered while coding.

That doesn’t mean you need to be an expert at coding to provide this information. Instead, you need to facilitate the transfer of information from one party to another to keep the cogs of the project moving forward smoothly.

2. You must convey ideas using User Stories

A user story is a tool used in agile software development to describe software features from the perspective of end-users. A user story should communicate the type of user, what they want, and why they want it.

Depending on the project, user stories may be written by a range of stakeholders that include users, clients, members of the development team, and managers. 

Product owners must know how to convey their ideas through user stores, as it helps to shift the focus from writing about the requirements of a project to talking about them and eventually taking action.

User stories allow product owners to reduce the time spent writing long-winded documentation and instead shift the focus to customer-centric conversations. In turn, user stories enable development teams to produce quality software at a much faster rate.

3. You must prioritize

The product owner is in charge of providing information that informs marketing strategies, pricing, features, sales forecast, and more. As a product owner, you should have enough business sense to help you make crucial decisions throughout the development process.

You must also strive to satisfy your customer base by understanding their needs and giving them precisely what they want.

While not required, it helps to have some experience with product development. At the very least, you should understand prioritization techniques, such as MoSCoW, which is generally used to help key stakeholders understand the significance of initiatives in a specific release.

MoSCoW stands for four separate categories of initiatives, including must-haves, should-haves, could-haves, and will not have at this time (the “W” sometimes may stand for “wish”).

The MoSCoW method is most effective when teams intend on including representatives from the entire organization in their process. This allows them to capture a much broader perspective overall. 

Possessing a general knowledge of what goes into the process of product development will make it possible for you to develop streamlined workflows, realistic schedules, and reasonable stakeholder expectations, allowing you to better prioritize customer and market insights.

Experience with existing products (or at least the overall product category) will help you to recognize the needs of your audience.

4. You must have full authority

Organizations must empower their product owners to make the decisions necessary to perform their jobs successfully. If bureaucracy or stakeholders are undermining your authority as a product owner, you will find it difficult to stay on schedule.

The success or failure of a project is often determined by whether or not the product owner has a strong network of support behind them. As such, you should ensure you have the full support of key leadership in your organization before starting a project.[1]

Additionally, product owners must have an in-depth knowledge of both the stakeholders and the needs of the customers, allowing them to make meaningful decisions at a moment’s notice. This includes in-depth domain knowledge of the market and the environment of the product.

5. Leadership skills are required

As the product owner, you must have a strong voice to provide clear, actionable feedback to direct the success of your development team.

Product owners will determine what their teams build, the needs of their customers, and whether or not there are market gaps that need to be identified. You must also show commitment to the product by being constantly engaged and committed throughout the entire development cycle.

6. Stakeholder management is vital

As you’ve likely determined by now, product owners wear many hats. This includes stakeholder management. A good product owner will focus on meeting the needs and objectives of stakeholders.

You will also need to focus on creating clear expectations and milestones to help projects along the path to completion while ensuring that it falls in line with stakeholder expectations. [6] 

Final Thoughts

Product owners play an important role in agile product development, and must know the needs of the customers and prioritize them so scrum teams have the tools needed to complete projects successfully. With a clear understanding of your role as a product owner, you can successfully guide your team to success.

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