Top 13 Tips to Become a Great Product Owner

Role of Product Owner is very demanding and requires applying and adapting a wide range of skills, broad view of the subject knowledge and excellent communication, and multitasking skills. Great Product Owners act as a intrapreneurs (they behave like entrepreneurs while working in a large organization), they take full responsibility on maximizing the value of the product, they’re visionaries, focus on creating valuable products that can make a difference on the market.

“The Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product and the work of the Development Team.”
A Product Owner needs to combine business, technology, and design knowledge.

Here are my 13 tips for you on how to become a great Product Owner and deliver breakthrough products:

1. Watch the 15 mins video “Agile Product Ownership in a Nutshell”.

It’s a great overview of the role and responsibilities of Product Owner in Agile World.

2. Be aware what “Business Model Canvas” is.

Use Lean Startup methodology for developing your products. It can be a fantastic source of knowledge about delivering value, defining your customers and understanding what is your value proposition.

Business Model Canvas (the concept from Alex Osterwalder, drawings by JAM)

3. Read Scrum Guide, Agile Manifesto and understand the differences between doing Agile and being Agile.

  • Know what Scrum Master, Product Owner responsibilities are;
  • Know what INVEST acronym stands for, what NFRs are;
  • Be aware of Scrum pillars like: Transparency, Adaption, Inspection;
  • Know the project management tools (like Rally, JIRA) and what ‘velocity’, ‘burndown chart’ are, how to measure the business value i.e. KPIs, Key Differentiators.

4. Be an expert in the field of your product.

  • Know your customers and competitors (“Good Artists Copy; Great Artists Steal.”).
  • Understand what is the problem you’re trying to solve and what is your value proposition.
  • Read blogs, use Twitter and connect with subject matter experts in area of your product.
  • Have understanding of technical limitations and technology. Know what technical debt, engineering practices, TDD, CI, DevOps are about.

5. There’s is no “They” in Agile, you’re one team together with Dev Team and Scrum Master — your goals are the same.

  • Don’t behave like a boss, you’re a part of a team, equal to Dev Team Members and Scrum Master
  • Have regular conversations with Dev Team, be available for them in case of questions.

6. Done is better than perfect; Use MVP strategy.

  • Use Customer Feedback Loop to get information about your product from real users — identify early adopters.
  • Use Analytics for making data driven decision and predict possible scenarios.
  • Don’t be so focused on delivering perfect product in the first release, use inspection and adaptation to iterate through versions and improve your product.
Henrik Kniberg’s graphics from Crisp explaining what MVP actually means

7. Know how to prioritize the product backlog by using MoSCoW technique, Kano Analysis or The 100-Dollar Test.

  • Remember that backlog is a living artifact, items and the order can change.
  • Prepare a product roadmap so everyone is aware what the big picture is and what organization want to achieve
  • Visualize the backlog, dependencies between User Stories and progress of Sprint/Releases.
  • Facilitate a kick off meeting to let everyone meet each other and understand the vision and goals of the project.
  • Learn how to use ‘User Story Mapping’ and write effective User Stories.

8. Keep stakeholders informed about the progress of the project but remember that you’re a sole person responsible for making decision on how to increase value of the product

  • Use Sprint Review to get feedback from stakeholders and have conversations on how the product should evolve.
  • Learn to say “NO” often.
  • Learn about Finance, ROI and your company long-term strategy.

9. Be an intrapreneur.

10. Do not be afraid to remove features.

  • 64 percent of features in products are “rarely or never used.” (Standish Group Research). 80 percentage of users use only 14 percentage of features on website.
  • Check out page
Dilbert’s cartoon

11. Get familiar with below picture and what it represents.

12. Read “Your life is Tetris. Stop playing it like chess.” post.

It corresponds to product delivery. You cannot control everything and be prepared for every possible scenario, focus instead on mastering the maximization of value under any given circumstances.

13. Remember:

There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

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