The job of a product owner is no walk in the park. People assume that being a product owner consists of listening to customers and then doing what the customers ask of them.  There is so much more to it than that.  If you’re building a new product, you had better innovate and think of things that they didn’t even know they needed.  This is one of the things that separates good product owners from great ones. So, what are some of the key characteristics of a great product owner? I’ll share with you.

First, you have to understand that a product owner is not just a messenger for the business.  They are not simply a go between who is relaying requirements of the product to the team.  A great product owner is the face of the business for the development team, has vision and ownership of the product, is responsible for the product, and is involved in all facets of the product. 

Think of it this way, a product owner owns the responsibility for all aspects of the product. A great product owner is more strategic than tactic.  It’s their job to come up with what to do next because they own the vision of where the product is going. They have their hand in every component from marketing to customer and sales input, from their own expertise to development.  The product owner has to see the big picture and care about the why.

Having a vision for the product is key because the product owner should be a subject matter expert and understand the business of the organization very well. A great product owner should have a vision for evolving the product into a viable, long-term solution to address specific business requirements and beyond.  They have to decide if any given feature is necessary or needed, what the release schedule should be, how to prioritize (and reprioritize) requirements,  and how to make crucial decisions.

This work is teamwork and, as a result, a great product owner has to be able to delegate and work together while still maintaining responsibility and accountability for the product and developments that come up along the way. They are working closely with the developmental team and are able to provide visibility to management on where in the development cycle the product is and what to expect next.  This is an essential communication.

Because the product owner works so closely with the development team, a great relationship with them is necessary. They have to understand the team’s strengths and areas that could use improvement. They should use this understanding of the team’s strengths and weaknesses to give them confidence in certain areas. A great product owner should make their team understand the value of their work and how much they appreciate their successful efforts and the impact those efforts have on the final product. A good working relationship translates into a motivated team who are able to deliver what is asked of them.

As I said before, being a great product owner is about being strategic.  It is about looking at the bigger picture and seeing all the moving parts at once. Product owners who get too caught up in the small minute details end up with clouded judgment or scope.

What have you found to be the most important aspect of a successful product owner? What separates the good from the great? What do you think is the most common misconception about product owners and what they do? Comment below!