5 Must-Have Product Owner Skills for Agile Application Development
5 Must-Have Product Owner Skills for Agile Application Development by Maria DiCesare
In Agile application development, everyone on a team plays a specific role. The product owner acts as a liaison between the business team and the development team. They’re responsible for carrying out the vision for the product, defining project criteria, and managing the product backlog. No pressure, right?
The product owner can make or break a project. Teams with multiple product owners, a “bad” product owner, or no product owner at all suffer from miscommunication, a lack of organization, and product delays.
One of the top reasons why Agile projects fail is because the product owner lacks the right skills. Read on for a closer look at the must-have skills every product owner should have.
1. Communication skills
Communication is one of the most important skills for anyone on an Agile team. Everyone should be transparent and willing to collaborate to achieve a common goal, and communication is the foundation that makes success achievable.
Since product owners work closely with stakeholders, developers, scrum masters, and other roles, they especially need to communicate clearly and effectively. Successfully product owners are able to adapt to different teams and personality types while also understanding and executing the vision of the product.
Some of the many topics a product owner is expected to communicate include:
- Product requirements and goals
- Technical knowledge
- Project statuses
- Stakeholder and user feedback
If the product owner’s communication skills aren’t up to par, there’s a high chance that the project will either be full of speedbumps or fail completely.
2. Analytical skills
Analytical skills are critical to the success of a product. In enterprise application development, product owners should be comfortable gathering and analyzing information for timely decision making and problem solving. This information can include everything from user demographics to development resources to market data to stakeholder feedback.
Product owners use their analytical skills to prioritize the backlog, communicate effectively, and organize the many moving parts in a development project. The value of strong analytical skills can’t be overstated enough. In fact, the World Economic Forum lists analytical thinking as the number one job skill of the future.
3. Knowing when to say “no”
The product owner isn’t there to implement everyone’s feedback. Their responsibility is to own the product and make sure it aligns with the project’s vision and goals. Sometimes, saying “no” is the best thing a product owner can do for the business.
Product owners manage feedback from the business to guide the development team, and most of the time they will have to say “no” to certain requests. Maybe the requests will prolong the development process or negatively impact the final product. Whatever the reason, it’s up to the product owner to determine the appropriate next steps and stand by their decisions.
And here’s where communication comes in again. When saying “no,” do so in a way that won’t discourage or upset whoever is on the receiving end. Product owners should explain if certain feedback will or will not be developed for full transparency and move the team towards productive conversations.
Related Reading: How to Be an Effective Product Owner in Agile Environments
The product owner’s responsibilities include ownership of the process and a commitment to the project, vision, team, and business. They need to collaborate with everyone and attend all meetings related to the product.
High levels of responsibility require intense focus. Product owners need to steer the ship forward while aligning the product vision with the company’s vision and needs.
5. Project management
Product owners and project managers have very different jobs, but they need a lot of the same skills to succeed. The product owner on an Agile team is essentially the captain of the ship, which requires some degree of management expertise.
Project Management Institute (PMI) defines the role of project management as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.” Sound familiar? Project managers, like product owners, are laser focused on the overall vision of a project and the delivery of on-target products. With an abundance of tasks to delegate, team members to communicate with, and requirements to hit, management skills are crucial for the product owner.
Throughout all these product owner skills, communication is the key skill that ties everything together. The product owner should be a master communicator and ensure that business and IT are equally aligned to make the product vision come true. Product owners are the key to driving digital innovation and helping their company reach the next level.
This blog post was originally published on August 2, 2016, and has been updated to include the most current information.