Who is Product Owner?
31st Mar, 2020
What is a Product?
Every product intends to solve someone's problem. The best way to build a product is to start with the purpose of making this world a better place. People have jobs or activities or chores that they have to do every day. It could be something like dropping kids off to school, staying fit, traveling from one place to another, etc. We face pains and problems in doing those jobs in a specific context or trying to do those jobs better in some other context. These pains and gains turn into needs or requirements.
What an Organization does, be it an enterprise or a startup, is to provide solutions to these problems. Some call it a product; some call it Project when it is a short term; others call it a service, tool, or an application. Irrespective of what we call it, the bottom line is that we are trying to solve a people's problem or help them do their job better. For example, if hunger is a problem, food is a need, and a burger becomes a solution. If tiredness is a problem, then rest is a need, and the chair becomes a solution. They are all products.
Who is an Owner?
Let us assume you are the owner of a hotel. The guest comes and says to you that he tripped over the carpet as it was not laid well and asked you to fix it. Can you say that you are not responsible for it by asking them to speak to housekeeping? No. If you call yourself an owner, you are accountable and answerable for everything that happens in the hotel. While you may not do all the activities by yourself, but as an owner, you are responsible for every activity.
Who is a Product Owner?
A product starts with a vision. To achieve the vision, you have to deal with four different kinds of people.
Users: These people are the reason why you are building your product. These people use your product to get some job done. You have to do user research to understand their job, pains, needs, and what kind of relationship is required to help them.
Buyers: They are the people who buy your product for their users. Sometimes, they could be the same, but not necessarily. If I am purchasing the food for myself, then I am the user and the buyer. If I am a phone as a gift to my friend, then he is the user, and I am the buyer. The users want the best, and the buyers explore all options before buying. You have to do market research to understand competitors, partners, sales channels, and strategically decide the position of your product.
Sponsors: They are the people who invest in your product, hoping that they will be a return on their investment. You have to understand their expectation and design a business model to fulfill their expectations. You will be a crucial decision-maker to decide what's valuable to build from a business perspective and when to pivot.
Development Team: They are the people who build the product. You have to collaborate with them to make them understand what needs to be built. Answer their questions and review their work done by providing feedback. You need to ensure that they are building the right thing.
User Research and Market research are external activities generally facilitated by people like Product Managers. Business Model Design and Product Development are internal activities facilitated by Project Managers. If you look at it from a different perspective, User Research and Product Development are creative and tactical work facilitated by people like Business Analysts or Product Analysts. Market Research and Business Model design is strategic work and done by Marketing specialists and Product Strategists.
A Product Owner is someone responsible for all these activities. You could say that a Product Owner is a combination of Product Manager and Project Manager. In other words, you could say that a Product Owner is a combination of Business Analyst and Product Marketing Manager.
Does it sound like a crazy insane thing to do? Let us get back to the example of the owner of the hotel; you are responsible for everything if you call yourself an owner. You are responsible for maximizing the value of the product. You may do everything yourself or get help, but you own every outcome, every decision, and every activity.