Do you know how to be a good Product Owner?

Last updated by Gordon Beeming [SSW] 3 months ago.See history

The client is generally the Product Owner (PO). They should read the Scrum Guide and watch the Product Owner video to understand their role. It is so important to the success of their project:

Video: What is a 'Product Owner'? - Scrum Guide (2 min)

What should I do in order to be a good Product Owner?

  1. Be available for Sprint Reviews, Retrospectives and Sprint Planning meetings (approximately half a day for these 3 meetings, for each 2-week Sprint)
  2. Prioritize the Product Backlog. The important things will be done first, in order to maximize the ROI as the budget will run out one day
  3. Be available (at least remotely) to unblock a developer if they have questions/impediments. A good PO has a feeling of urgency
  4. Ideally, listen in on Daily Scrums. This is optional but means that the PO will have daily insight into the team’s progress.
  5. Understand Product Backlog Items (PBIs) and be able to explain what they want using Acceptance Criteria. This is the main way that developers and POs sync their understanding of what needs to be done.

Note: It is helpful for developers to distinguish acceptance criteria between what is considered "essential" and what is merely "nice to have," as this can prevent them from investing excessive time in meeting non-essential criteria.

  1. Set a Product Goal (the "why" of the Product)
  2. Agree on a Sprint Goal for each Sprint (the "why" of each Sprint)
  3. Not influence (or anchor) developer estimates with comments like “this one will be easy” and allow the team to come up with converged estimates
  4. Respect the Sprint Goal by understanding the team will only work on things in the Sprint Backlog. Don’t expect other things to be done on top of it. Most things can wait for the next Sprint

Who should be the Product Owner?

It’s hard to give guidance on who in the company would make a good PO. The usual candidate is often extremely busy. It should be someone:

  1. With a personal stake in the success of the project
  2. Who is available
  3. With a clear vision of the product
  4. Who has authority with the budget. E.g. they could authorize adding a designer to a Sprint for a couple of days
  5. Who has read the Scrum Guide, watched the Product Owner video, and understands the role

It’s possible to outsource the role of PO to someone in the development consulting company, but this is not recommended ("don’t put the fox in charge of the chickens").

“Most dysfunction I see in Scrum teams is caused by a bad Product Owner” Adam Cogan - Professional Scrum Trainer,, during a TechEd session

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