Choosing a Great Product Owner – the Custodian of Customer Value

Often when we introduce Agile methodologies to a client, we are asked to recommend someone from the business to be a Product Owner. The Product Owner’s role is crucial to the success of any Agile effort – after all, it’s the Product Owner who champions, owns, and maintains the Product Backlog.  The Product Owner also acts as the stand-in for the Customer; assuring that what gets developed is driven by what will produce the greatest customer value.

Based on my experience, great Product Owners have the following characteristics:

  • Knows the Product  thoroughly – and is passionate about it
  • Is well organized
  • Works with and is receptive to ideas from all Product Stakeholders
  • Embraces the Product backlog as key to delivering customer value
  • Is decisive and willing to make decisions
  • Rolls up their sleeves and test each completed story to assure that customer value is delivered
  • Works well collaboratively
  • Effectively manages team expectations

Of this list, the most important is an inherent passion for the product – the rest can be learned.  Starting off with a Product Owner who has these qualities will take you a long way towards Agile (and customer) success.


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