I work as an agile coach and I interact with great product owners everyday.
A lot of time during the interaction I ask the PO’s about what they are building and how do they see the solution helping the customer. Basically, what problem they are trying to solve with the solution they propose. Product owners have their own approach in answering this specific question.
When I look deep into their answer I realize most of them have different products, team and stakeholders to deal with and perhaps not all of them would have a similar approach.
Generalizing what makes a great product owner could be difficult. The important traits however can be easily discussed.
If we just go by the definition of product owner perhaps it may be limited to a person who is responsible for maximizing the value of the product and the work of the development team.
Let’s start with value maximization part.
When can we say a product value was maximized. Perhaps a debate can take place on the specifics of what value maximization could be. So in order to be a decent product owner you must be able to make.
Faster Delivery: If a product value is delivered to customer faster. Faster could mean before the expected date of delivery or at least meeting the date of delivery.
Efficient & reliable: If the product is stable, fast enough and can run without interruptions.
Customer expectation: Generally what customers are looking for in the economic marketplace are we able to address that?
Customer Retention: To find a customer is already a difficult catch these days in this competitive marketplace. However, retaining a customer is equally difficult as there are lot of competitions around and there is always someone better than what you are offering.
Stakeholder Expectation: Stakeholders expectations is very similar to own customer’s expectations. They care about how happy customers were in terms of product delivered as well as the revenue followed by the team.
Now Working with development Team
Vision of the product:
Vision: the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom.
Is the product owner clear about the company’s vision for the product?
To furnish a vision a product owner requires some level of imagination and use their wisdom to act according to the changes in the marketplace.
Clarity of the sprint goal: When a vision is clear enough, the assumption of features that would help to deliver value not mercy. Thus, can be translated into goals and worked upon on sprints after sprints.
The Sprint Goal is an objective set for the Sprint that can be met through the implementation of Product Backlog. Sprint goals are the result of a negotiation between the Product Owner and the Development Team. Sprint Goals should be specific and measurable.(Scrum.org)
Clarity on priority: Priority changes with the way market reacts and when the new need arises. However, having a holistic clarity over the priority should be at the core front for the product owner.
Communicator: Communication is at the core. To articulate any requirement a product owner must be able to communicate using all the means possible. Either through verbal communication, or through the representation in the form of graphs, sketches or charts.
Tools used for communication is totally up to the PO. Whether or not a PO must be good at a specific toolset is a bad argument.
Communication: The imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium.
Motivator: We are humans and that makes extremely special. We cannot pretend to take instructions like a computer does. So, whenever a new requirement is discussed with the development team. The PO must find ways to motivate the team.
Not all the sprints team can have the equal proportion of design and development. In order to go two step forward the product owner has to take one step backward. Meaning he/she might decide to focus on just fixing the defects for the entire sprint. Or perhaps spend then entire sprint on research. Not always those tasks are motivating as it might require a lot of effort from individuals who perhaps have not written the code in the first place.
Stable Mind: Agility is a mindset and product owner should truly be a living breathing example for the team to look up to. A product owner should be able to make decisions with data validity and should not be bothered by ongoing request from all corners.
To consider any features to be developed a profitability score should be always assessed. Product owners are basically a person with the responsibility and a ownership of the product. He / she should act as an entrepreneur who makes sound decision for the betterment of product.