As when describing what to look for in selecting or hiring a good ScrumMaster, I've culled the long list of desirable product owner traits down to five must-have attributes.

Available. By far the most frequent complaint I hear from teams about their product owners is that they are unavailable when needed. When a fast-moving team needs an answer to a question, waiting three days for an answer is completely disruptive to the rhythm it has established. By being available to the team, a product owner demonstrates commitment to the project. The best product owners demonstrate their commitment by doing whatever is necessary to build the best product possible. On some projects this includes doing things like assisting in test planning, performing manual tests, and being actively engaged with other team members.

Business -savvy. It is essential that the product owner understand the business. As the decision maker regarding what is in or out of the product, the product owner must have a deep understanding of the business, market conditions, customers, and users. Usually this type of understanding is built over years of working in the domain, perhaps as a past user of the type of product being developed. This is why many successful product owners come from product manager, marketing, or business analyst roles.

Communicative. Product owners must be good communicators and must be able to work well with a diverse set of stakeholders. Product owners routinely interact with users, customers, management within the organization, partners, and, naturally, others on the team. Skilled product owners will be able to deliver the same information to each of these different audiences while at the same time tailoring their message to best match the audience. A good product owner must also listen to users, customers, and perhaps most important the team. Especially as team members learn more about the product and market (as they should over time, especially on a Scrum project), they will be able to offer valuable suggestions about the product. Additionally, all teams will have much to say to the product owner about the technical risks and challenges of the project. Although it is true that the product owner prioritizes all work for the team, the wise product owner will listen to her team when it recommends some adjustments in those priorities based on technical factors.

Decisive. Another common complaint teams make about their product owners is their lack of decisiveness. When team members go to the product owner with an issue, they want a resolution. Scrum puts a lot of pressure on teams to produce functionality as quickly as possible. Teams are frustrated when a product owner responds to a question with, "Let me call a meeting or convene a task force to work on that." A good team will understand that this is sometimes necessary, but teams are very perceptive at knowing when a product owner is actually just trying to avoid making a hard decision. Just as bad as a product owner who won't make a decision is the product owner who makes the same decision over and over but with different answers. A good product owner will not reverse prior decisions without a good reason.

Empowered. A good product owner must be someone empowered with the authority to make decisions and one who is held accountable for those decisions. The product owner must be sufficiently high up in the organization to be given this level of responsibility. If a product owner is consistently overruled by others in the organization, team members will learn to go to those others with their important questions.

Source of Information : Pearson - Succeeding with Agile Software Development Using Scrum 2010


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