Product Owner cheat sheet

The Product Owner is the person that has the business ownership and responsibility for the profitability and success of the product in the market.  In many organisations this person might be called the Product Manager.  Ensure the Product Owner has both responsibility and authority for the product.
Scrum suggests this single Product Owner represents all the various stakeholder groups: customers, sponsors, departments.  Each Scrum team should have exactly one product owner.
List of Product Owner responsibilities (from Practices for Scaling Lean & Agile Development):
  • decides on release date and content (see release planning)
  • is responsible for the profitability of the product (ROI)
  • prioritizes features according to market value
  • can change features and priority every iteration (continuous planning)
  • accepts or rejects work results
  • defines product features

As the overall business owner the product owner is also responsible for the:

  • product vision, business case
  • competitor analysis, customer research, product innovation, market research and market testing
  • sales channels and customer relationships
  • product pricing
Typical Project Manager responsibilities moved to the Product Owner
  • Change request managment: Estimate, Approve, Seek Funding, Plan
  • Scope Management: Activley manage sprint and project scope to meet release and sprint timeboxes
The Product Owner usesthe Scrum Product Backlog to meet many of these responsibilites (from the Scrum Guide):
  • Clearly expresses Product Backlog items
  • Orders the items in the Product Backlog to best achieve goals and missions
  • Ensures the value of the work the Development Team performs
  • Ensures that the Product Backlog is visible, transparent, and clear to all, and shows what the Scrum Team will work on next
  • Ensures the Development Team understands items in the Product Backlog to the level needed.

Typical time required for a Product Owner to work with the Scrum teams:

  • Attend portfolio and release planning (2-20 hours per release)
  • Maintain the product backlog, add product backlog items, specify acceptance criteria (2-4 hours per sprint)
  • Attend backlog grooming meetings (2-4 hours per sprint)
  • Attend sprint planning meeting (1-4 hours per sprint)
  • Attend sprint review meeting (1-2 hours per sprint)
  • Attend sprint retrospective meeting (1-2 hours per sprint)
  • Accept work results and verify acceptance criteria (adhoc, 1-4 hours per week)
  • Answer questions (adhoc, 1-4 hours per week)
  • Attend standup meetings (15min per day)  *where possible 
What if your Product Owner is too busy to do all this?
  • If the real business product owner is not available or uninterested in participating it is common to use a proxy product owner until the real product owner can be engaged. Ensure the proxy product owner is fully empowered and trusted to make day to day economic product decisions.
  • Add a team of people to support but not replace the product owner: e.g Analysts, Assistants.
  • For large products and organisations consider assigning product area or feature teams with associated area/feature product owners that own part of the product
References, furthur reading (via Safari Books Online):
  1. Practices for Scaling Lean & Agile Development: Chapter 4: Product Management
  2. Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process: Chapter 9: Product Owner
  3. Agile Product Management with Scrum: Creating Products that Customers Love
  4. Succeeding with Agile: Software Development Using Scrum: Chapter 7: New Roles
  5. Agile Project Management with Scrum: Chapter 5: Product Owner
  6. Scrum Guide: Page 5: Product Owner