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A Day in the Life of a Product Owner

Posted on: 8 Jun 2018

Wherever you look, digital products are popping up: banks, universities, retailers, gyms; everyone’s got one. And that’s thanks, in part, to the product owner role that takes digital items from user requirement to end product via a load of technical decision making.

We explore how a typical day stacks up for a product owner.

Helping Business’ Mature

If you thought product owners simply had to deliver an app or some other digital platform, think again.

Beyond delivering the product itself, the role is responsible for helping the businesses achieve maturity by delivering products that will help existing customers and/or attract new customers in line with business goals.

Projects might be about developing new products or they could be about building a new release or version of an existing digital item.

Depending on the nature of the product, the product owner could be from marketing or another area of the business. They will have a solid understanding of users, the market place, the competition and future trends for the type of system being developed.

This knowledge is used to communicate a clear vision of what’s required and to take decisions as the product develops ensuring that it remains in line with the overall aims of the project.

Cross-Department Working

Digital growth teams are often made up of people in development, marketing, sales and other business areas. Product owners must be able to bring this team together by:

  • building strong relationships
  • leveraging them to get decisions made and action taken
  • negotiating with multiple stakeholders each with different priorities

The role brings a range of benefits to the business by delivering enhanced communication and decision making which in turn saves time, energy and money. In some cases, this also means taking the decision to kill a product if it cannot be delivered or its objectives achieved.

9am – Start With a Standup Meeting

Most digital apps are developed using the Agile methodology that breaks product development down into intensive work periods called sprints. Each day kicks off with a standup meeting (or scrum) that sets the direction of travel.

Each team member should ask and answer three questions:

  1. What did I do yesterday?
  2. What will I do today?
  3. What is impeding me?

As a lead user of the system, the product owner ensures the team is on track to deliver the vision and that any blockers are resolved in line with the end-goal.

9.30am – Update the Product Backlog

A major part of the product owner role is creating and maintaining the product backlog. This is a list of all the tasks required to bring the product to fruition and it’s likely that the product owner will continuously update it throughout the day.

Each item on the list needs to be prioritised and sequenced before the team sprint meeting to ensure the most effective use of time and resource.

A sound understanding of business values is also required to be able to do this as each task should be ordered on the basis of its value to the business and its ROI.

Although the product owner prioritises the work, they let the team decide how much work they think they can do during each sprint and the number of sprints that will be required. The product owner must motivate the team with a clear, elevating goal and the decision making to remove impediments.

10.30 – 11.30am – Sidebar with Developers to Clarify Their Activity

Any emerging issues from the team scrum need to be resolved by developers. Often the product owner is called into side meetings to discuss problems and help them to be resolved.

This could mean clarifying a particular feature and its intended use so developers can take the right steps to deliver the app as set out in the product owner’s vision.

As the project champion, the product owner must be sufficiently business savvy to ensure the product contains the right features that work in the right way. This relies on a solid understanding of the customer and business.

Midday – Update the Product Backlog

With a two o’clock meeting with the big boss in the diary, a product owner needs to know exactly where the sprint is up to. Keeping on top of the product backlog is the best way of clarifying this.

2pm – Meet with Business Owner to Discuss Next Release

Product owners need to ensure they are available to everyone who needs to talk to them. This includes everyone in the sprint team to key stakeholders throughout the organisation and beyond.

As the name suggests, agile development doesn’t stand still so although a product owner might be trying to close out one sprint, they’ll have stakeholders with their eyes on the horizon, seeking the next product release.

Being able to take the long view as well as keeping hold of the detail is central to this role. This could mean having a 20 minute sit-down with the business owner to discuss what’s needed next.

New releases are a typical topic of discussion and the product owner will need to provide technical information in an understandable way.

Stakeholders may want to see later stages of the job brought forwards or they may want changes to be made. In this case, the product owner will need to be up-to-date with the project’s status to know what is and is not possible in the next sprint before making any commitments.

3pm – Work on the Product Backlog for the Next Sprint

Following the meeting with the business owner, it’s time to commit future sprint changes to paper and put plans in place to make sure you have the resources you need.

4pm – Team Member Swarm to Discuss Testing Results

The product owner will often be invited to a team meeting focussed on test results as the product goes through the development cycle. Any hitches will be flagged and the product owner will need to make a call on what to do next.

Minor issues could be turned around quickly whereas larger problems might need to be shifted to the next sprint.

It’s the role of the product owner to take a strategic, high-level overview while understanding and being able to take decisions on detailed decisions like product design.

Got the Skills and Love Being Busy?

Then this could be the job for you.

Being a product owner is a full time role and more. Although it can be intense, it’s also fun and challenging to manage the competing priorities and mix of people required to bring the project to fruition.

If you’re thinking of applying for a role in product ownership, get in touch with We Are Adam and we’ll be happy to help you explore your options.

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