Which tasks does a Product Owner have?

Depending on the status of the product and the Scrum Team, the tasks change. While with new products and teams, in addition to team finding, basic processes such as defining a product vision and creating an initial product backlog are among the main tasks of the product owners, with increasing maturity of product and team it is more likely to be things like:

  • Formulate the requirements and ideas of the stakeholders regarding the product from the user’s point of view, e.g. in user stories, and refine them together with the development team (product backlog refinement)
  • Analyze and assess: What business value does a user story have and what development effort is behind it?
  • Making decisions again and again: Which user stories are realized, which are not?
  • Prioritize: According to which order should the development team draw the requirements in the next sprint
  • Compare development results with acceptance criteria: Was the right thing built correctly?
  • Ensure fluent & functioning communication with and between stakeholders and team
  • Continually optimize the value of the work done by the development team and ensure that the product goal and missions are achieved in the best possible way

By focusing the Product Owner on the “what” in product development, the Product Owner’s daily tasks can influence the team’s work. This often leads to a natural tension between the roles. By following the processes in a neutral mediating role, the Scrum Master makes sure that the Product Owner “What” and the “How” of the Development Team go hand in hand in the best possible way.

What does a Product Owner not do?

A Scrum Product Owner is not a project manager in the typical (waterfall) sense. Rather the role is responsible for all product decisions. However, tasks such as the control, distribution and implementation of requirements are the responsibility of the development team and are accompanied by the Scrum Master in terms of process technology.

Thus there is a clear division of responsibilities (similar to a separation of powers) and a certain sequence of rituals and tasks. Thus the activities are far away from typical project management.

Classical overhead tasks such as management presentations, lengthy budget negotiations and target agreements are not described by the Scrum Framework, but are nevertheless often tasks that product owners take over.

Which Requirements are Placed on a Product Owner?

The product-related approach requires a holistic view from the product owner. Depending on the type, scope and maturity of the products, the time spent on certain things may vary, but as a rule, the demands on a Product Owner are above all:

  • Maximizing the product and work value of the team. That means above all the constant examination of economic efficiency, resource use and feasibility, or to put it simply: Return on Invest
  • Optimize and complete the product requirements within the product backlog
  • Creating transparency between the requirements and the given possibilities and personnel resources
  • Prioritize features and sub-products within the Scrum process
  • Refining and formulating team tasks
  • Tracking the product vision and product maturity
  • Participation in the Scrum Rituals as well as stakeholder communication and stakeholder management

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Photo of Sohrab Salimi

Sohrab Salimi

Scrum Academy GmbH

Sohrab is a long-standing Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) and CEO of the Scrum Academy GmbH based in Cologne. He is a trained medical doctor and worked for Bain & Company as a consultant and as a CIO at SE-Consulting, among others, before founding the Scrum Academy. As a consultant and trainer, he has been supporting companies from a wide range of industries for over a decade on topics related to agile transformation, innovation and organizational development.