Every digital project needs vision, and in agile projects that vision is led by the agile product owner. Some of us are thrown into the role of product owner without any previous experience, especially when establishing a startup or a new innovative idea. Others may have completed extensive training on Agile Scrum processes. In either case, you can perform as a successful product owner, help your team along and ensure that you perform your role effectively by following these simple principles.
Here are our 7 top tips on how you can be the best possible agile product owner in your digital project.
Our 7 Top Tips for Any Agile Product Owner
1. The Agile Product Owner Manages the Roadmap, Not the Team
People often assume that the title Agile Product Owner is just another term for a project manager in Agile. This is a common misconception.
In fact, one of the core principles of Agile is that teams should be self-organised and manage their own tasks. The product owner’s responsibility is to manage the product roadmap and backlog, decide on which features should be the highest priority, and lead the product vision. This will involve lots of communication with the developers, and making key decisions, but you will not define how features are implemented and who works on which task. Focus all of your energy on ensuring that your team understand the product needs and priorities, and build trust with your team as they help you reach those goals.
You can read more about the role of a product owner here.
2. Embrace the Product Vision
Ensure you have a clear understanding of the short and long-term vision of your product. This is fundamental, as each sprint will be an opportunity to reprioritise the backlog of features that the team will work on, and the Product Owner will need to have a long-term view of the direction of the product, from this sprint and beyond. This will help you to communicate decisions both with the sprint team and with external stakeholders.
3. Understand your Product, Inside and Out
As a Product Owner, you will need to have a clear understanding of not only the product vision but every detail of the product. Make sure you are fully aware of the product’s market position, user needs, business model, risks and any other stakeholders or dependencies. Having a full understanding of your product will ensure you can make decisions swiftly and confidently throughout the project, without causing any blockers or delays for the sprint team.
4. Become Obsessed With Your Users
Your users and customers are your guiding light throughout the project. Make sure that you are completely immersed in who they are and what their needs are. Speak to them, know their names, talk to them about the product and have users ready to test your product as early as possible. It’s all well and good building a product that you think will be a success, but what you want might not be what your customers need. Only through speaking to these users do you know you are building the right features for the right reasons.
5. Learn How to Tell Stories Through Your Customer’s Eyes
As a Product Owner, your role is to understand the needs of your customers and to be able to communicate these needs to the rest of your team. This will mean breaking down the overall product journey into user stories that can be then added to your product backlog. This can then be prioritised throughout the project. Remember that the rest of your sprint team may not fully understand your customer or end user’s needs, and it’s your job to communicate this.
6. Listen, Listen, Listen
The most important tip we can give is to listen and engage with sprint planning session and meeting with your development team. There may be times when technical details feel overwhelming, but it’s very important to understand the impact of any decisions or issues that come up throughout your project. You may be able to help solve problems by talking things through with the team and providing your perspective of the customer’s needs. Don’t be afraid to ask your developers to break things down or explain the impact of technical decisions to ensure that you receive the outcome you need for your product.
7. Don’t Be Scared to Say No
It might be tempting to go along with suggestions from developers or stakeholders if it makes things easier for you, but as the product owner, you need to protect the product vision at all costs. Be prepared to challenge suggestions if you are unsure of the outcome for your product and customers. It’s crucial that you are able to have constructive conversations with your sprint team and developers and discuss approaches and options and their impact on the product so that you are all confident that you have chosen the right path forward.
We hope these top tips give you some insight into how you can be a successful agile product owner. The most important tip we can give you is to find a team that you are comfortable communicating openly with so that you can have constructive and open conversations throughout the process. Read more about finding the right development team for you here.
If you are preparing to manage a digital product, check out our Ultimate Project Starter Kit which contains all the resources you need to start preparing for your digital project. Get in touch today to find out how we can help turn your awesome ideas into a digital reality. Our friendly team of pros will be with you every step of the way, from our initial sit-down chat all the way to releasing the finished product.