Each project needs a business oriented person, aimed at maximizing the value of the product and the work of the Development Team. In Scrum, this person is called Product Owner. Product Owners are normally a person from the supplier company, rather than from an external customer. In other words, Product Owner is NOT the customer’s representative.
They do not need to have application area knowledge of the project; they are focused on the business aspect. In software development projects for example, Product Owners do not need to be developers themselves; they just need to know a little about development, but a lot about how the business operates.
The Product Owner is responsible for the Product Backlog. The Product Backlog is a prioritized list of items (usually user stories) that the customer expects from the project; this is the main planning tool in Scrum. It is also the responsibility of the Product Owner to make sure that each Product Backlog item is easy to understand for the Scrum Team, and other stakeholders.
Product Owners should communicate effectively with the customer (the inevitable success factor in every project), and use the information to keep the Product Backlog updated with all the changes. They also measure the performance of the project, forecast the completion date, and make this information transparent to all stakeholders.
Product Owners understand the business, so they can rank each Product Backlog item based on its return on investment, as well as any other factors they find suitable for the business point of view of the project. The items will be sorted based on their value, so the higher they are on the list, the sooner they will be developed by the Development Team.
The entire organization must respect the Product Owner decisions for the project to be successful. No one should allow themselves to try to override those decisions, and no one should tell the Development Team what item to deliver, except for the Product Owner. A Product Owner’s decisions might be influenced by others, but s/he must have the final say.
A Product Owner might delegate some of her/his responsibilities (such as preparing the list of items for the Product Backlog) to the Development Team, but stays accountable for them.
This role belongs to one person. There can be a committee to handle the responsibilities of this role, but in such a case, there should be one person representing this committee and we call this one person the Product Owner. There’s only one Product Owner, even if you are using scaled Scrum with multiple teams.
- Scrum Guide, a definition of the Scrum framework by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland
- Nexus Guide, a framework for scaling Scrum by Ken Schwaber et al.
- The Scrum Master Training Manual, a free ebook on Scrum, and the Professional Scrum Master™ (PSM™ I) exam
- Scrum Awareness, a free email course on Scrum framework