Product Owner Responsibilities - The Path From Junior to Expert

Author
Maciej Sikora | 5 min read, Business, Agile
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Transitioning to agile software development brings with it a set of new roles and concepts which can be a bit murky at first. One of those roles is the Product Owner.

If you’re looking to hire a software development company, they’ll recommend adding a Product Owner to your team, and for good reason. If you feel like you can do without one, read on; you might change your mind once you discover the many responsibilities that the PO can take over to facilitate development and improve your product.

You can start by closing your eyes. Well, don’t actually close them, but rather imagine…

The role of the Product Owner

Imagine a piece of software - a web app, ecommerce shop, Big Data system, social media service or anything else worth developing - that’s being built by a development team as a Product.

From a business perspective, what do you need to consider for your Product? There’s business goals, a specific group of target customers/users, a set of features, competition on the market, different user cases, scalability, UX and UI, KPIs, and a myriad of others.

In the simplest terms, the Product Owner should be the one to consider such characteristics and act as a “value maximizer”, meaning that their main task is to maximize the value provided by your Product. The Product Owner’s responsibility is to be aware of the business goals that the Product needs to achieve and to help adapt the Development Team’s work according to these goals.

Or, if you’re looking for a short definition, you can turn to our recent article on the Scrum framework created by Jakub and Dominika:

The Product Owner (PO) is responsible for the product, or the “what”. They make sure that the features of the upcoming product are clearly defined for the developers and valuable for the client.

(Make sure to read the full article if you want an overview of Scrum as a whole.)

The PO Development Path

As with any other profession, the Product Owner’s responsibilities change and their skills develop as they gain experience. At STX Next, we have defined a development path for our PO’s using four seniority levels - Junior, Regular, Senior and Expert. Each of the four levels has a strict set of criteria in a number of areas that the Product Owner must meet. With additional skills and more years of experience under their belt, the PO can advance through the ranks. With each rank, their value for your product increases.

Junior

A Junior Product Owner knows and follows the principles of Agile development. They gather Product requirements from you, the Client, and assure that the Team is doing “the right thing” at all times (as opposed to “doing the thing right”, which is the Development Team’s work). A Junior understands the Product vision but still needs to learn how to support the Client in adapting it. At this level, they don’t yet have to follow good UX practices while filling out the Product roadmap. However, a Junior PO is under the mentorship of a more experienced professional who supports them in building the Product and making sure the Client’s needs are met.

Regular

A Regular Product Owner is fully independent. They don’t need any assistance in carrying out tasks from start to finish. They know how to act in different situations while cooperating with various types of Clients. They provide support to the Client and can provide advice regarding the Product requirements. They involve the Stakeholders and/or end-users in the process, inviting them to actively take part in the development of the Product, provide constant feedback and bring new ideas on Product features. Most of the Regular POs are certified by reputable Scrum Training Organizations.

Senior

A Senior Product Owner is an above-average, experienced professional who not only brings top quality expertise to manage project requirements but also introduces new useful tools and practices. A Senior actively supports the Client from the business point of view and provides guidance in assessing Product opportunities and risks. They take advantage of the Product KPIs (and other business metrics) to optimize the Product. Furthermore, a Senior stays up to date with popular trends in software product development and knows how to provide even more additional value to the Client based on this knowledge.

Expert

An Expert Product Owner is a mentor in their field of work. They are renowned for their knowledge not only in their Team but also among Clients and in the Agile community as a whole. They can effectively create a Product, taking it from the Discovery phase to releasing it to the users, optimizing it every step of the way. They perfectly know the business of the Client and act as a true Partner to help them grow.

One Piece of the Puzzle

Having a competent Product Owner as a single point of contact between you and your outsourcing partner is a great start, but it’s far from the end. We know the prospect of hiring external development teams can be daunting, which is why we’ve created a free guide to take you step-by-step through the process. It’s called the C-Level Guide to Software Development Nearshoring. Download it for free and learn everything you need to make the right nearshoring decisions.

Alternatively, if you’re looking to join STX Next’s team of distinguished Product Owners, you’ll find our current job postings on our Career page. We’ll be happy to push you along your Product Owner development path and help you learn the PO responsibilities in practice. If maximizing product value sounds like a challenge worthy of your skills, don’t hesitate to apply.

Thanks for reading and good luck on your way to finding (or becoming) the best Product Owner possible.

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