5 top tips for product owners

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What is a product owner and why are they needed in delivery teams?

A product owner is an essential role in any agile team.

This is the person in the team responsible for managing the product backlog. Their key responsibility is to prioritise the work in the backlog during sprint planning meetings, to provide clear direction and goals and to answer questions from the rest of the team.

It sounds simple, but in my experience working in a development team - whether as a full stack UX designer, design lead, or in a delivery role - that’s not always the case...

It’s crucial to be on top of your game as a product owner - below are a few tips to make sure you and the rest of your development team are on the path to success.

1) Consult your team and create project specifications together

Before creating a project specification for a team to follow, you need to get a good understanding of the technical details related to what you’re trying to achieve.

Just as you wouldn’t tell a brain surgeon how to operate on you in the theatre room, you have to listen to the specialists in the team when creating a spec.

It’s also important to not set any concrete deadline before this consultation period or assume that things will be easy to do - sometimes it’s the opposite.

2) Define your project scope before development

Get on the same page. Question everything you’re unsure about, to make sure everyone has clarity on what it is they’re going to work on - the team may even have better ideas and solutions to contribute (see above).

You should be asking the following questions:

  • What are the expectations for the defined piece of work?

  • How long will the work take?

  • What are the deadlines?

  • What resources do the team have available?

  • Who are the key stakeholders?

3) Prioritise function before design

Crucial and often overlooked. It’s important to have all angles covered from a User Experience (UX) perspective in terms of ease of use and accessibility.

Make sure the design has been triple checked by the relevant stakeholders before it's sent to the developers.

You can then make their lives easier by having all designs ready, from desktop displays to mobile viewport sizes, ensuring these assets are available for them to use.

4) Use product management tools

They’re there for a reason.

Product management tools help make your job easier. Track current sprints and progress, create backlogs and define a clearer project scope by using management tools effectively and efficiently.

5) Communicate effectively

Perhaps the most important of all. You must effectively communicate and work together as a team when working on any project. If you’re unsure about something - ask, and if you get asked about something, be as clear as possible so that everyone can work together and all relevant stakeholders are kept in the loop.

It’s essential not to surprise the team with new requirements on a spec towards the end of the project lifecycle - don’t move the goalposts.

It’s also crucial to communicate any upcoming absences if you’re able - no one likes being stood up.

The product is the goal

There you have it, five top tips to keep you on path and make sure you’re getting the best out of your development team. It’s not always easy but it’s crucial to effectively communicate with the development team at all times.

Ultimately, everyone is working towards one goal - a successful product.


Christian Williams
Christian Williams
Full Stack Designer

Christian is a designer, and a bit of an all rounder. He's always looking for ways to improve User Experience through digital applications and services.

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