Product Owner Checklist

The Product Owner checklist

From my product trainings and coachings I know there’s a lot of uncertainty around the Product Owner role. It originates in the Scrum framework and is defined in the Scrum Guide. Many companies have adapted the role but often without creating the prerequisites necessary for a meaningful practice of product ownership.. This article collects a few characteristics that I consider important for a comprehensive exercise of the Product Owner role.

But first: what’s the value in answering this question? Well, I personally think that the Product Owner role is the perfect tool for creating successful digital products. And many companies struggle with that, no matter if corporations, SMBs or startups.

Here’s a quick checklist with things I find crucial for the Product Owner role to be successfull.

  • I know what my product is and can describe it anytime.
  • I know (or crafted) the product vision and I’m communicating it actively.
  • I know the value proposition of the product.
  • I follow a product strategy, aligned with the vision, to maximize the value of the product - for the users and the business.
  • I know my users (and customers) and I’m receiving regular feedback from them.
  • I know the impact of the product on the user.
  • I understand my organization’s goals and how the product is contributing to them.
  • I have a holistic view on the organizational system surrounding the value chain of the product.
  • I spend as much time as possible together / co-located with my product development team.
  • My decisions are respected within the organization.

There is a lot more in the life of product people and many books and blog articles have been writing about this:

  • Building a great product is a team sport and should be therefore owned and facilitated by the whole product development team (incl. all roles like UX, Dev, Coach etc).
  • Leadership skills and an entrepreneurial mindset.
  • Feedback cycles on various levels: outcome, user, team, upstream and delivery processes, organization / portfolio strategy. Scrum has created four events for inspection and adaption: Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Revew and Sprint Retrospective. In Kanban you have cadences for that purpose.
  • Strong in analytics and crunching data. Therefore some of us love Excel even more than sticky notes or Dilbert. Personally I prefer Python with Pandas because the Excel UI is not my friend.
  • Empathy with the user, stakeholders and leadership team.

Nevertheless, to distinguish an agile cargo-cult setup from an agile team, the above list should be a good-enough litmus test: Product people hired as Product Owners that find themselves in a role of feature manager, project manager, requirements engineer, Jira administrator or delivery facilitator (disclaimer: there might be value in these roles depending on the product), usually won’t make it beyond 3. or 4. in the list above.

I hope it can be useful for anyone to understand the meaning of this role in their organization or to evaluate the culture of the company during a job interview.

Note: This article was first published on LinkedIn. Edited 08/2019 (removed some click-bait and controversal elements).

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash.

Martin Stahl
Martin Stahl
Head of Product

Digital Product Manager and Product Lead in Startups for over a decade. Now Coaching, Training and Consulting for Digital Product Management.