Who can become a Product Owner?
Who is qualified to become a Scrum Master or Who can play the role of Scrum Master, is one of the most frequently asked questions in the Agile community. I believe the more important question and often the one that does not get asked is, Who can become a Product Owner? Why is this question more important? It is because, what you are building (and why you are building this) is often more important that when are you building and how are you building it. The last two questions are important but only after the first two. The first two questions also help frame the vision for the product as well as:
1. Chronologically, Product Owner role starts before any other role in an Agile or Scrum team.
2. Depending on what is your vision for the product, you could outsource a part of whole of it right at start or at a later date.
3. You build the product to achieve a particular purpose. The person responsible for the same is the Product Owner.
If this is such an important question [and correspondingly role], then what are the qualifications one should look for when selecting a Product Owner? I have been a Business Analyst and Product Manager. I have interacted with many Product Owners too. There has been an interesting discussion on who can be a product owner on the Scrum Development Yahoo Group recently too. Based on the feedback collected from all these sources, I have compiled a list of who would make an ideal Product Owner:
1. Product Owner is a part of the team and should hence be available as much as possible to the team [close to 100%]. Hence, PO can only be someone who is available to the team 100% of the time.
2. Product Owner needs to understand the big picture – the philosophical as well as practical aspects of what is being built. This would often require excellent domain knowledge.
3. Product Owner should know what will work – hence, exposure to marketing and sales is important. This is also often called Voice of the Customer. Basically, Product Owner should deeply empathize with customers – their needs, their frustrations and their wishes.
4. Finally, any exposure to technology – programming, UI, QA is an additional bonus [in most cases a required bonus].
The next question is which of these is the most important requirements? I think all 04 and in given order of priority.
One additional requirement, which I believe all people should possess and so should Product Owners and Managers : People Management and Interaction.