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Dual Roles Of A Product Owner – The Stakeholders And The Team, How To Balance Them?

By Author: Mrugesh Panchal
Total Articles: 48

A product owner has several responsibilities, and is required to focus upon the two main aspects associated with scrum – the end users, market conditions, and the stakeholders on one hand, and the scrum team on the other. It is not an easy job to carry out. Quite often, the product owner may be faced with a dilemma while carrying out his or her responsibilities on behalf of the stakeholders, and convincing the team members to perform, and act in their interests. It can be a challenging position indeed.

The outward view: Users, customers, and stakeholders
The first and the foremost priority for the product owner is to understand the needs of end users and the customers. The basic purpose of having a scrum project is to develop a product which is acceptable to them. The consumers are important for the project since they determine whether the product is going to succeed in the market, and if so, what the ideal product ought to offer. The person may be required to conduct personal and group interviews to understand their needs in depth, and avail a clear vision as to what kind of product they really desire and expect. As is the case, many times different users have their own ideas as to what the end product should typically offer in terms of features and functionalities. The product owner is forced to review their expectations and ideas at a macro level and decide the practical aspects concerning the product to be developed. If the users have varying requirements or differing perspectives as to what the product should include, it is eventually up to the product owner to decide which of the aspects discussed are really important and feasible, and which can be incorporated into the project.

The stakeholders are important since they invest into the project. The product owner receives the actual product related requirements from the stakeholders, who also have an idea regarding what the end users want. However, their priorities and perspective is centered upon generating a profit out of the project, and it is up to the product owner to deliver the project – nicely wrapped up and ready for sale. The stakeholders also remunerate the efforts of the entire scrum team including the product owner. It is therefore essential that the product owner complies with their instructions and act in their direct interests.

The product owner has to respond to the questions put forward by the users, customers, and the stakeholders. He or she has to advise them, and maintain a vision that can best convey what is important and profitable to them.

The inward view: The scrum team – scrum master and the development team
While the stakeholders and the end users are important, the development team and the scrum master too are important to the product owner since they are directly responsible for developing the project. Scrum supports collaboration, and the entire team collaborates with the product owner while scrum is implemented in the project. Needless to say, without their help, it is not possible for the product owner to deliver anything.

In most cases, the product owner acts as a facilitator and ensures the team is properly working at all times. He or she has to remain close to the actual development work, and be available whenever the team faces any problems or issues with the acceptance criteria linked with the user stories, and resolve the issues when they occur. The product owner has certain responsibilities towards them. Apart from being a product owner, the person also acts as their mentor, guide, and a good friend when his or her role so demands.

Balancing the views: Switching the role and doing the needful
Even though the role played by a product owner is difficult, it is not an impossible one. One does not have to be a superhuman to tackle both the aspects faced while executing the project. It is essential, and very much required to balance both the aspects and switch the roles depending upon the situation you face. Flexibility of the thought processes, ability to communicate in an effective manner, and negotiating with people can go a long way in making your work easy as a product owner. The product owner is required to keep a firm eye, peruse the market conditions, and handle the stakeholders when the role demands. Simultaneously, keeping a humane attitude while interacting with the team members can go a long way in keeping you popular and successful.

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