May 26, 2021 | 3 min read

Why Every Scrum Team Needs a Great Product Owner

By: Jack Goodfriend

Why Every Scrum Team Needs a Great Product Owner

The success of a Scrum team’s project rests on the shoulders of the Product Owner. This unique, collaborative role is often the first to be overlooked or diluted when an organization implements Scrum for the first time. Desired outcomes will be affected, and general frustration with the Scrum framework will arise. Here we outline the importance of the role, and some common pitfalls new Scrum teams should avoid.

The Role

The Product Owner plays a critical role on a Scrum team by representing the interests of all stakeholders and coalescing them into a coherent product vision. They are responsible for the work of the development team and maximizing the value of the product.

While this role can change from project to project, the key responsibilities stay the same:

  • Define the Product Roadmap: Set a clear vision and actionable goals for the product. Ensure they are aligned with business objectives and clearly conveyed to the team.
  • Maintain the Backlog: Create and continually update the list of backlog items. Prioritize tasks based on scope, budget, value, and stakeholder needs.
  • Monitor Project Budget and Scope: Manage scope creep, create a clear financial forecast, and assess the development of the product.
  • Communicate with Stakeholders: Serve as the primary conduit between the Scrum team and key stakeholders. Understand the stakeholder’s values and priorities and translate them into the backlog.
  • Evaluate Progress: Ensure the Scrum team’s work continuously provides value and the product being developed meets the needs of the business.

Collaboration with a cross-functional team and stakeholders to understand and communicate what to build, who it’s for, and why they’re building it is essential to maximize the flow of value.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

The Product Owner role entails far more responsibilities than many new Scrum teams understand. There are a few common pitfalls to avoid when first implementing Scrum.

Poor Product Management Allocation - It can become an issue when Product Owners are responsible for managing multiple products at once. Ensure they are managing a single product and are at the team’s disposal.

Undefined Roles - Make sure a single person isn’t handling both the Scrum Master and Product Owner roles, which have very different responsibilities and skillsets.

  • The Scrum Master’s primary responsibility is to the Scrum team. They oversee daily processes and ceremonies to confirm they’re working smoothly and that Scrum principles are being followed.
  • The Product Owner’s primary responsibility is to the product and the stakeholders. They ensure that the Scrum team continuously delivers value to the stakeholders and the product being developed meets the business’s needs.

Product Owner not taking the initiative to build a product that fulfills the needs of the stakeholders - The Product Owner shouldn’t be forced into following a roadmap defined by others. Don’t tailor Scrum to fit into your traditional processes.

When a Product Owner effectively does their job, the development team aligns with the business. The development team is shielded from distractions and can focus on the right things at the right time.

Without a Product Owner and an adequately managed backlog, priorities will be unclear. The team will spend precious development time analyzing rather than creating value, leading to the Scrum team missing delivery deadlines, creating a product that doesn’t fit the need, and frustrated stakeholders and team members. If you need help making Scrum a success in your organization, contact the Agile experts at DragonSpears.

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