29.09.2021 | 4 min

Why does the Product Owner play the most crucial role in the software development process?

Did you know that “With great power comes great responsibility” is not only a popular saying among superheroes but also product owners? Well, we actually don’t have any facts to back that second part up, but we believe it should be because the role of the product owner truly is critical. They navigate the project, adjust the speed, and oversee every aspect of the development, from back-end to design and UX. So yeah, that’s a full-time job (at least).

Why does the Product Owner play the most crucial role in the software development process? - 2021 57
Table of Contents
  • Who’s the ideal Product Owner?
  • So what exactly are the qualities of a model Product Owner?
  • What does the Product Owner do on a daily basis?
  • Product Owners aren’t miracle workers

Today, we’ll shine some light on the most significant person in the software development process, the Product Owner.

Who’s the ideal Product Owner?

The role of a Product Owner is a combination of several positions, and it requires a set of interdisciplinary skills, specific expertise, and even certain personality traits. They have to deal with the business side, analytics, design, customers, marketing, and more.

So what exactly are the qualities of a model Product Owner?

1. Knowing the industry

In order to steer the project in the right direction, it’s necessary to know the competition and target audience, understand the community, and how the product will be used. You could argue that anyone can learn all those things about any particular field, but it’s never as natural and valuable as being in it on a daily basis. Product owners that have a real connection with the industry are able to foresee potential mistakes and dead-ends before they come up. As potential users, they also create more customer-friendly software.

2. Empathy, leadership, and interpersonal skills

Being familiar with the specific industry is necessary to understand the vision of the product, but it takes advanced communication skills to explain that vision to devs, designers, and other members of the project. A perfect understanding between all participants ensures everyone is on the same page and going in the right direction. A product owner is in the center of it all, having multiple conversations and giving precise, constructive feedback on the technical, business, and visual side of the project.

Therefore, being a talented leader with fluency in soft skills is a must.

3. Availability

As we said in the beginning, being a product owner is a full-time job. A person in that position should be dedicated to this particular role and ideally shouldn’t have any other responsibilities. Being a Product Owner is usually more than enough.

Of course, that doesn’t have to apply to smaller, straightforward projects or software after a launch and initial bug fixing phase. In that case, it may be perfectly doable to handle 2-3 products or any other side-tasks simultaneously. It also depends on the product’s phase in the lifecycle. For any regular project in the main development stage, we highly recommend having a person assigned to only one product.

4. Ability to make crucial decisions

A product owner is a person that should always have the last say in the project. Someone in that role should have not only expertise and knowledge but also the authority to make them. A situation in which a product owner has to consult and get approval for his decisions is usually time-consuming and counterproductive.

Values of Product Owner

An ideal model for the development process

All the aspects mentioned above bring us to conclude that a perfect product owner is usually on the client’s side. In smaller companies, the best candidate usually is a person who has the most knowledge about the project, whether it’s a CEO, CTO, or CPO (Chief Product Officer), or any other person with Product Owner skills necessary expertise. Corporations, on the other hand, usually have a large number of product owners to choose from.

Most importantly, a project won’t end up being as you wish unless you’re an active part of the process. A product owner on the client’s side assures that both sides are actively participating in the process. Just giving feedback every two weeks after the demo is never enough. The best software is always a result of the commitment and constant communication between an agency and a client. As the instrumental link that connects the two, a product owner plays the most critical role in the software development process.

Of course, the model in which a product owner is on the agency’s side is also possible. It may be a completely valid option for straightforward or short projects with precise requirements. Still, the scenario requires a certain amount of trust for the agency because a product owner will surely have to make significant decisions during the process.

What does the Product Owner do on a daily basis?

The significance of the product owner for the development process should be pretty clear at this point. So let’s go through some of their everyday responsibilities.

The most significant one is creating and managing the product backlog, which is a list of tasks that eventually will have to be done and setting acceptance criteria. Essentially, a product owner has to decide who does what and when they do that. Of course, with that responsibility comes the efficient communication of the product’s vision to developers, designers, and other team members. The ability to answer every “why?” question that comes up. Then comes the control of the process, making sure that everything is going according to the plan and schedule.

One of our clients who was a product owner, Gustavo Zaera Holo, explains how the process should look like in his Clutch review:

“We set quarterly milestones, broken down into smaller epics, and further broken down into stories to be taken into sprints. We worked in an Agile mindset, with Scrum sprints. They have a very high completion grade consistently delivering what they take on. It’s impressive.”

You can read his full review (and a few more) here.

Product Owners aren’t miracle workers

No matter how tech-savvy, available, industry-oriented, and communicative product owners are, they still need a talented team to execute their ideas. A wrong choice of a software development agency will put the product owner and the entire project in a difficult position. So if you’re looking for an agency for your project, make sure to read our 7 tips on how to find the right vendor for your software project.

Or you can even skip that part and contact us right away.

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