Have you ever thought about transitioning into the role of Product Owner? Now might be the time.
For those who might not be aware, a Product Owner is a relatively new position for the information technology profession. While the role is now almost standard for many software companies or IT departments that has not always been the case.
As a provider of IT resources, I feel it’s important to discuss the variety of roles out there for IT talent to consider when enhancing their careers. My goal today is to provide some insight into what this position entails and why there is no better time than now to consider transitioning into a Product Owner.
Below is a breakdown of Product Owner 101: 5 Things to Know About the Role.
1. What is a Product Owner?
The role of a Product Owner varies from organization to organization. However, the best way to summarize it is someone who is responsible for the design, creation and execution of digital software products. Product owners utilize a unique blend of business analysis, software development standards, marketing and project management. In essence, they are a jack of all trades with solid understanding of software project management and the basics of application architecture. While this may sound technical, it is not overly so. As long as you understand how IT systems work together, are familiar with a few programming languages at a base level and are passionate about technology, you will find success as a Product Owner.
2. How is this role different from other roles within a tech department?
For those familiar with the tech industry, the summary above may read akin to something like an IT Project Manager. Product owners and project managers share similar responsibilities and skills, but there are a few differentiating factors.
Compared to project managers, product owners are responsible for the design and direction of a company’s software or digital offerings. For example, if a health care company wants to add a new registration and sign-up application to its technology ecosystem, the company would rely on the Product Owner to visualize that piece of software and figure out the best way to bring it life. A Product Owner’s role has major design implications on how that product is built and brought to market. After that software is available, they are then responsible for maintaining it over time plus creating new enhancements to improve the product.
Project managers on the other hand are primarily concerned with the execution of the project. In the example above, a Project Manager would be the task master to ensure the product is built and delivered on schedule. It is possible for project managers to weigh in on design matters, but for the most part they defer those decisions to the Product Owner. In addition, project managers have a more externally-focused role. They work with multiple stakeholders within their company as well as the client. The Product Owner role is an internally-focused role based on the construction and delivery of new products and experiences.
3. Why the demand for this role now?
Product Owners help to deliver projects and new software features faster than before. As software design shifts away from waterfall project planning (i.e. long, complex projects with large milestones for each phase) towards agile project planning (i.e. short, simpler, more frequent and flexible milestones), IT projects became more difficult to manage.
Breaking projects into shorter and more flexible units requires more daily attention from project managers. Having project managers weigh in on every product decision or design change is too much. Creating a Product Owner role to oversee and own those decisions allows a Project Manager to do what they do best, which is execute the completion of a project within a designated timeframe.
In addition, project managers are not as responsible for overseeing an entire software platform. Having product owners handle the design and improvement of the software makes this more manageable. How a product is built and maintained falls into the product owner’s territory. Having a team of product owners dedicated to the evolution of a company’s software offerings ultimately increases innovation and the ability to keep creating excellent products for its clients.
4. What is the typical background of a Product Owner?
Since this role has only been in vogue in the last five to 10 years, there is a wide variance in the work history and experience of a Product Owner. However, it’s most common to see product owners come from previously held roles such as business analysts, project managers, software engineers and even technical writers. Business analysts or project managers seeking more input on the creative or design side of software development often find great success in this position. Software engineers are also very well-equipped to handle this position due to their technical knowledge of software construction.
5. What is the average salary of a product owner?
The salary range for a Product Owner is usually between $95,000 to $125,000.
Have anything to add on the role of Product Owner? Let us know in the comment section below!