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Scrum – Some tasks carried out by a Product Owner

When speaking to the Product Management team about the transition to Scrum, they face huge challenges just adjusting to the new role. Many people from management have considered that the role of the Product Manager involves the least amount of transition; it is the team and the managers who have to make the maximum adjustment, but at the same time, for the Product Management team, it is not just a name change from Product Manager to Product Owner, but there are other changes that happen – even the process used by the Product Owner in terms of interaction with the team and communication changes. I used to see a Product Owner (formerly the Product Manager) struggling with trying to get the right level of detail in the User Stories that the team wanted for the Sprint Planning, and this was a source of great tension for many Sprints until things got somewhat better.
I am not going to be doing a comparison between the Product Manager and the Product Owner role in this post, instead will just work at pointing out some of the work that the Product Owner is expected to drive / lead as a part of the scrum process:
– The Product Owner is the one responsible for the Product Backlog, and since the Product Backlog is the primary artifact describing the impending list of features, this is a big responsibility. It means that part of the role of the Product Owner is to ensure that features are updated as the environment changes (competition comes out with something new or different; features no longer seem relevant); it also means that the Product Owner has the primary responsibility for figuring out new features as well as reviewing features suggested by others (and even if the Product Owner has help in this process, he/she still owns the process).
– Staying with the Product Backlog, for every Sprint, the Product Owner has to be sure that the features in the Backlog are in a state that they are ready for the Sprint Planning and the number of features so selected are enough to cover the entire duration of the Sprint (which means that the Product Owner should have a rough idea of the overall estimate for the features selected for the Sprint).
– Act as the single point of reference for queries that the team may have on features, and be able to react fast during the Sprint cycle if the team has queries that are not anticipated by the Product Owner earlier.
– Since the project cycle moves from Sprint to Sprint, it is also required that an overall road map be prepared by the Product Owner and features in individual Sprints form part of that roadmap.
– In the end of the Sprint demo, the Product Owner gives the yea or the no (has to decide whether the User Stories developed during the Sprint are as required, and maybe also take the same to the client).
– The Product Owner also has to take responsibility for the release planning and acts as the primary channel to external clients. Even internally, significant and senior stakeholders have been known to want status from the Product Owner about the status of the project rather than working with the team or the Scrum Master.

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