Information Technology

What does a scrum product owner do?

What is scrum

Scrum is a process framework that guides a team through a product development process and is most commonly used in software development. Essentially, the goal of a scrum framework is to encourage teams to be able to dynamically adjust to new information and demands, to constantly improve upon the product. Scrum is a highly popular form of agile project management due to its relative simplicity and its high-quality outcomes. 

Because scrum is essentially a blueprint for effective teamwork, it is typically most successful when managed by individuals with skills and experience in both management and relevant areas of information technology. Due to the popularity of scrum, such skills are currently in high demand, particularly in the technology industry. It is also important that every member of a development team has the appropriate knowledge and skills to succeed in their role. Experience and professional development coursework are both great options for gaining the necessary skills. Scrum product owners are no exception to this and should be aware of their responsibilities and how to successfully fulfill them.

Scrum product owner responsibilities

The product owner plays an important role within a scrum framework. Although their role should ideally be flexible in keeping with the nature of scrum, there are some typical roles and responsibilities held by the product owner, including:

Defining a vision for the product: While a scrum framework is meant to provide a flexible process for product development, the end goal must be clear. As such, it is the product owner’s responsibility to clearly define and communicate their vision for the final product. 

Prioritizing project needs: Based on the product vision, the product owner will need to prioritize factors related to the quality and function of the product, as well as the costs associated with achieving these goals. 

Managing the product backlog: Based on the prioritized project needs, the product owner will need to develop a product backlog, which is essentially a prioritized to-do list for the project. 

Overseeing development stages: Despite the flexibility of a scrum framework, it is still valuable to maintain some structure by following basic development stages. Product owners should oversee these development stages and ensure that they are completed effectively with the end-product fully in mind. 

Anticipating client needs: While the development team works on details relating to the quality and functionality of the product, it is important for the product owner to constantly look at the bigger picture. Throughout the process, they should analyze how well the product is developing to suit client needs. 

Evaluating progress: Product owners should constantly evaluate progress factors such as whether deadlines are being met, whether the product is functioning as expected at various stages, and where the project is in terms of reaching its end goal. 

Maintaining morale: Product owners need to work along with management to ensure that project developers know their work is valued and empower them to make innovative decisions. 

Managing stakeholder relationships: Product owners will need to work along with management to ensure that stakholders are informed of progress and are treated with professional courtesy. 

Managing stakeholder expectations: Product owners will need to work along with management to ensure that they understand stakeholder expectations, while also not over-promising. 

Making final decisions: Because a scrum framework provides such a flexible process, it is important that there is someone who can make final decisions if a choice or strategy is contested. The product owner should be well-equipped to make such decisions.

However, while these roles and responsibilities often fall on the product owner, it is also important that product owners strategically delegate some of these responsibilities. This can allow employees who are more familiar with individual elements of the project to field decisions in that area. 

Scrum product owner skills

Because scrum product owners should ideally be heavily involved in project management, it will help them to have some specific training in product owner fundamentals to perform their tasks effectively. These skills may include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Teamwork development
  • Leadership
  • Project management
  • Business object development
  • Market analysis
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Expertise in the target industry
  • Decision-making

It is also highly beneficial if the product owner has previous experience with product development projects and product releases. 

Scrum product owner vs. scrum master

The scrum product owner and the scrum master are the two major leadership roles on a scrum team and work together closely. The scrum product owner defines the vision for the project and ensures that the team is effectively working towards that goal. 

Meanwhile, the scrum master ensures that the team understands scrum theory and provides guidance for pursuing product development within that framework. The scrum product owner and scrum master should often touch base with each other to ensure that they are on the same page in terms of how the framework is serving their end goals for the product. 

Scrum product owner job overview

A scrum product owner may hold any number of different positions or titles, as this individual is typically just the project’s key stakeholder. As such, this individual typically holds a leadership role within the company. They will set goals, make final decisions, and act as a liaison with other stakeholders. 

How to become a scrum product owner

Because a scrum product owner is not usually a defined job title in and of itself, many avenues can help you gain this position. 

Education and Training

A wide variety of educational credentials are beneficial for a scrum product owner. These may include but are not limited to education in the following areas:

While any of these degree tracks may be useful for a scrum product owner, this will highly depend on their particular career track and role within the project development process. Individual courses tailored to develop scrum expertise can also be highly valuable.