What makes a good Product Owner great?

Consider the Pragmatic Marketing Framework below. Assume for a moment that this framework adequately outlines the skills, tasks, and tactics that a Product Owner may be responsible for while managing a technology product. What type of person would be able to do it? Aside from the vast number of skills needed, what core competencies would be required to juggle, multitask, prioritize, coordinate, collaborate, and otherwise orchestrate to work into a valuable product adored by users?

Marty Cagan1 suggests that successful product management requires:

  • Customer empathy
  • Intelligence
  • Work ethic
  • Integrity
  • Confidence
  • Attitude

Roman Pichler2 describes the desirable competencies of a Product Owner as being a:

  • Visionary and doer
  • Leader and team player
  • Communicator and negotiator
  • Empowered and committed
  • Available and Qualified

Finally, after reviewing this list below, is there a single word that wraps it all up neatly in one concept or idea?

  1. Curious
  2. Creative, innovative, even maverick
  3. Visionary, passionate
  4. Effective communicator
  5. Strong leader, with high integrity
  6. Manager of risk but ready to take action, willing to fail
  7. Tenacious, competitive, persistent
  8. Drawn to seek value from their peers and networks3

If you thought of Entrepreneur, you get a gold star.

In the Scrum Guide, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland state that “[t]he Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product and the work of the Development Team. How this is done may vary widely across organizations, Scrum Teams, and individuals.”

Indeed, whether juggling numerous roles within a small startup or collaborating with large bureaucracies within a state or federal agency, the concept of a Product Owner is unparalleled; and the type of person, their competencies, are quite unique. It takes someone with an entrepreneurial spirit, who is empowered with the sole authority and responsibility for delivering a valuable product that customers love to use.

The Product Owner role is unique to Agile Teams. The Product Owner role is not a modified Project Manager, a mini Product Manager, nor an “empowered” Business Analyst. As such, careful consideration should be given to who fills the role and how that role is located within the organizational structure, and ultimately, protected against external, unhealthy influences.

1 Inspired, How to Create Product Customers Love, Cagan

2 Agile Product Management with Scrum, Pichler

3Energizing Entrepeneurial Communities, Make, Markley, Fulwider, page 102