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Career Path of a Product Owner

March 24, 2021

By Simpliaxis

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Product Owners are one of the most important people that add value to the organization. Many Agile organizations may not have a definite job description for a Product Owner as the work varies based on the needs of the organization. When a company transitions into Agile, it needs experts in the field of Agile to help them adopt the framework. Most organizations begin with Scrum, as it is one of the easiest frameworks to adopt. Scrum Masters and Product Owners play a key role in implementing the Agile environment. Many software development organizations believe that they can progress without a Product Owner. However, this belief is contrary to reality as a Product Owner brings much more to the table by increasing the business value of the organization. The role of a Product Owner is an awarding job as the success of the product depends mostly on how the Product Owner can anticipate various factors. This article highlights the various responsibilities of a Product Owner and lists out the career path of a Product Owner on how the professional can grow into a Senior Product Owner starting from a junior one. 
 

What is a Product Owner?
 

A Product Owner is a professional that maximizes the product value by anticipating various factors such as customer needs, current market trends, etc. They communicate the product information between the Developers and the customers and become the face of the product. The Product Owner is solely responsible for maintaining the Product Backlog as they arrange the backlog items according to their priority. The Product Owner communicates the backlog items and makes sure that the Product Backlog is updated before any Scrum Event. The Product Owner also ensures that the Product Backlog is visible, transparent, and understood. Even if the Product Owner delegates their responsibilities of the Product Backlog, they remain accountable regardless. The Product Owner is a single person who envisions the product before it is developed. They anticipate the needs of various stakeholders associated with the Product. If anyone wants any changes to the Product Backlog, they have to convince the Product Owner as they are accountable for any changes. 

 

Duties of a Product Owner
 

  • Defining the Product vision and goal to the team 
  • Building a Product Roadmap
  • Creating and managing the Product Backlog
  • Communicating between the stakeholders and the team
  • Anticipating customer needs
  • Looking over the process of development of the product
  • Understanding the current market trends
     

Product Owner Career Ladder
 

As the Product Owner gains experience, their roles and responsibilities change along with the tasks that they have to work on. Initially, the Product Owner has lesser responsibilities as they have to adjust to the Agile environment. As they progress, they develop skills and gain experience in the field of product development. The career of Product Owner can be defined in four levels:
 

  • Junior Product Owner
  • Regular Product Owner
  • Senior Product Owner
  • Expert Product Owner
     

The Product Owner starts with being a Junior, and as they gain more years of experience and more skills, they add more value to their profile. Hence, the organization increases their ranking as they provide more value to the product and the company.
 

Junior Product Owner
 

A Junior Product Owner follows the values and principles of Agile development. Their primary duty is to collect the requirements of the Product from the client and assure that the team is building the product as per the requirements. The Junior Product Owner knows the Product vision but still needs time to understand it and has to learn how to explain it to the client. They are learning about formulating a Product roadmap at this point of the career. The Junior Product Owner is mentored by an experienced professional who helps them build the product and ensures that the needs of the client are understood and fulfilled. 
 

Tasks of a Junior PO
 

  1. The Junior Product Owner understands the needs of the customer and stakeholders and communicates with the Developers comprehensively and clearly. 
     
  2. They discuss the Product vision and goals with the customers such that they have an active knowledge about what has to be developed. 
     
  3. They clarify the doubts about the product asked by Developers by thoroughly understanding the requirements of the product.
     
  4. They take part in Scrum Events such as reviewing, planning, retrospectives, and also in Product Backlog refinements.
     

Regular Product Owner
 

A Regular Product Owner is not mentored by any professional as they work independently. They don’t require any support in performing any tasks from the beginning of the development to the end. They learn to handle various types of clients as they have experienced several types of situations. They invite the end-users and the stakeholders to actively participate in the product development process and take their feedback to create the next Sprint. They also think creatively and give ideas about new features that are popular in the market and which would add value to the product. Regular POs are usually certified by reputed Scrum training organizations such as Scrum Alliance, or Scrum.org.
 

Tasks of Regular PO
 

  • Their primary task is to prioritize the Product Backlog items based on the value that they are adding to the product. They are supposed to analyze the backlog items and arrange them according to their importance. 
     
  • They have to understand the general product vision and translate it into a specific product feature that would take a step towards the vision. 
     
  • They have to handle the product road-mapping process and implement long-term planning. They prepare and handle the planning and refinement inside the Scrum team.
     
  • The regular Product Owner makes sure that the product meets the end-user requirements and envisions from the customer’s point of view, how it would add value to them. 
     
  • They work with UX designers such that they create user-friendly product solutions and also help the team in understanding the UX requirements. 
     

Senior Product Owner
 

A senior Product Owner is in a higher position than the regular Product Owner as they have more experience in product management. They are an above-average professional who employs their top-quality experience to manage the project requirements. They also make use of new tools and practices which would increase the productivity of the team and help them understand the product better. 
 

The senior Product Owner guides the clients by helping them look through a business point of view. They help the client look at the opportunities and risks that their product might encounter in the future and help them navigate to develop the best product. They also make use of Product KPIs and other business metrics to create an optimum product. A senior Product Owner also stays updated with the current trends in the world of software product development and can come up with ideas about how the product value could be increased furthermore. 
 

Tasks of a Senior Product Owner
 

  • The senior Product Owner looks after the business metrics and adds solutions to increase the business value of the product. 
     
  • The align the client’s strategy to the business value delivered by the product. 
     
  • They define the next iterations of the product and participate in release planning. They present the team’s point of view to the client’s side and vice versa and hence, are responsible for building trust between both sides.
     
  • They employ dedicated techniques for product road mapping such as MOSCOW, Pareto, or Kano and also select tools to describe the product vision such as lean canvas, business canvas, vision box.
     
  • They organize several workshops with the users of the product based on the define/discover approach such that they can discover and validate hypotheses. This helps them figure out the best solutions for the product such that it increases in value.
     

Expert Product Owner
 

The expert Product Owner is the most senior in the field as they act as a mentor to all other Product Owners and other professionals. They are known for the skills and knowledge among their team members and also among the clients and in the Agile community. They can create their product starting the phase of discovery to the release of the product to the users and also optimize the product in every iteration. They act as a true partner to the client as they know everything about product growth and management. 
 

Tasks of Expert Product Owner
 

  • Their primary role is to work closely with the client and refine the product vision and business goals based on the data extracted.
     
  • They define creative and functional solutions and boost the value of the product by using their knowledge about the competition and the current market trends.
     
  • Expert POs can also create their Agile trends such as #noestimates or #noprojects as they actively contribute to the Agile community. 
     
  • They have to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of implementing certain features by using specific techniques as per the requirements of the client. 
     
  • They get to decide the existing product development path and have to analyze whether they have to continue on the same path or make a new one when the business goals of the product are fulfilled. 
     

Alternative Career Paths for Product Owners
 

The Product Owner’s roles and responsibilities are diverse, hence, there are many other roles that a Product Owner can easily handle based on their knowledge and expertise. Here are four alternative career paths that a Product Owner can look forward to:
 

Business Analyst
 

Product Owners can become excellent business analysts as they know the business operations and requirements of the clients in the product. They help in better decision-making by analyzing the needs of the customers and help in improving the business value. The knowledge about the product would also help them to anticipate what type of feature the client is looking for and help them decide on a suitable product feature.
 

Project Manager
 

The Product Owner can become a great project manager as they have experience in handling the clients and the Developers. As a project manager, the Product Owner has to be involved in project management and planning. This role is better suitable if the candidate has experience of being a business analyst. Being a Project manager with a Scrum certification is a bonus to the individual’s resume.
 

Product Manager
 

As a Product Owner, candidates can also choose the role of product manager where they have to analyze the product requirements and evaluate which feature would be popular in the market. This role requires the candidate to have experience as a Business analyst and have a master’s in Business Administration (MBA). However, once the person is enrolled, this career path has been one of the most successful careers in Agile. 
 

Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
 

Product Owners with a year of experience in handling product management operations are ideal candidates for the role of CEO of the company. This position requires a lot of hard work, perseverance, and requires the person to invest a great amount of time. The Product Owner should make use of the experience of creating a product and making it successful in the market. The primary duty of the CEO is to make the team work productively such that they have a high return on investment and can engage the customers. By becoming the CEO of the company, they have to always look towards moving the company in the path of success. 
 

Conclusion 
 

Product Owners are one of the most important professionals in an Agile organization as they maximize the business value of the product and the organization. It is a lucrative career for any professional who is interested in the business side of product development and enjoys giving in new ideas and being innovative and creative. The Product Owner’s career ladder begins from being a junior Product Owner who is mentored by another professional and ends with being an expert Product Owner who can independently take care of all product operations from discovery to release of the product. Product Owners could also head on to alternative career paths which are pretty much exciting and high salaried. A Product Owner has better opportunities in every software development field and with learning new skills and techniques, a Product Owner can grow exponentially in their career.

 

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