6 Things I’ve Learnt In My First Year as a Product Owner

One year ago today I made the move from heading up Sainsbury’s Digital Corporate Affairs to Sainsbury’s Digital and Technology division and started my new life as a Product Owner.

I’d always thought of myself as a bit of a geek with a great passion for the web and digital so I was very excited (and a year later, I still very much am!) to be given the opportunity to tackle this new challenge.

To celebrate my one year anniversary as a Product Owner, I thought I’d list the lessons that have stuck with me.

1. Ask Questions Rather Than Saying ‘No’

Rather than saying ‘yes’ immediately, responding by asking questions is a useful tool. It helps me understand more about the request. I can dig a bit deeper and learn about why they think something is a good idea for my product. What do they think it will achieve? How do they envisage it working? What are they looking to achieve? You get the idea.

If an idea makes it through this kind of positive challenge, I’ve found that it will actually be useful and valuable for my product. As part of the conversation, I’ll have learnt a good amount to craft the beginning of a user story with acceptance criteria. Also, the context and reasoning will help me rank how this new feature compares to existing ones in my backlog and how it should be prioritised.

2. You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

Questions you’ll only know to ask once you’ve launched a product, once you’ve gone through a round of testing, how to build a roadmap, how to run a product demo. As with any other job, experience next to academic learning is key and will only come to you with time!

I was lucky to have join a team with an experienced Product Owner at the helm who has helped me along this journey of experience, introducing me to the right people and processes. As a result, I feel more confident after having launched my first product in my first year and from the many interactions with colleagues across the division.

3. Break Stuff

I’m reminded a little bit of my days in Corporate Affairs where a healthy amount of cynicism helped in separating the good stories from the boring and always preparing for the worst.

Much like producing a robust Q&A document to arm people against tricky media questions, the goal is to get to a place where you have picked apart your product to such a degree that what’s left fits together perfectly, delivers a great experience and meets business objectives.

4. Communicate, communicate, communicate

As a product owner, I am responsible for my product. I get to make decisions — but I can only make those decisions if I take everyone on a journey with me. If everyone understands what the product is about. What it’s meant to achieve. If people don’t understand why I am making a decision, they likely won’t approve it.

5. Too Many Meetings

This is a tricky one and I don’t think I’ve cracked it yet. I try to make sure that Agile ceremonies are booked as far in advance as possible and I also make sure that I have a set amount of time a day blocked to do work.

6. Paper

What about you?

We’d love to hear from you @ www.productmanagerclub.com

The Product Manager Club is a group of super passionate digital product managers that share best practices and their experiences (www.productmanagerclub.com).

The Product Manager Club is a group of super passionate digital product managers that share best practices and their experiences (www.productmanagerclub.com).