Scrum and the Product Owner

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting Inc., an Ontario, Canada-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

I don’t think that I would want to be a product owner. There have been countless times in my project management career when I wish I could have changed places with the sponsor or other major stakeholder. It seemed like their sole purpose in life was to make my life a misery--and they sure were good at it! Just between us project managers though, I wouldn’t want to be the product owner in a Scrum environment…it really can be a thankless task.

What is the product owner?
Let’s start with a brief description of the role of the product owner in Scrum. This person owns the product backlog--the list of features that have to be built into the product. They also own the priority of each of those features, so they establish what order things will move from the product backlog into the product--as well as effectively determining the value that each feature adds to the product.

The product owner is a single person for each product. They may have a group behind them, and there may be processes behind the scenes that help establish the relative priorities. But for the sake of Scrum, they are an individual. When it comes to working with the team, the product owner defines what the team will work on--no one else. They get to take all of the credit…and all of the blame.

Product Owner Responsibilities
At a fundamental level, the development and …

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