18 February 2021

Case Study: The Role of a Product Owner in Your IT Project


From the point of view of the outsourcing company’s client, the role of a Product Owner is both crucial and difficult. Why?

The Product Owner shapes the vision of the product. On the other hand, they try to maximize its value and use technical resources in such a way as to create a product satisfying the customer’s needs.

I would say that the Product Owner is an ambassador among the developers. They represent you or the specialist working for a software company who may represent the needs of all stakeholders in the Product Backlog. I will discuss here a Case Study of a project in which a client decided to outsource their Product Owner.

Scrum Guide describes main Product Owner’s responsibilities, such as:

  • Developing and explicitly communicating the Product Goal.
  • Creating and clearly communicating Product Backlog items.
  • Ensuring that the Product Backlog is transparent, visible, and understandable.
  • Ordering Product Backlog items.

What does it mean?

Let’s see what it looks like behind the scenes when you decide to entrust the role of the Product Owner to someone from the software house.

1. Defining Project Vision

This obligation requires close cooperation between the customer and the Product Owner.

Product Owner should manage product development from a strategic perspective. This means that they should know what their purpose and goals are, without necessarily having to know the way to it from the very beginning.

To know the purpose of your project, the Product Owner needs to communicate with all the stakeholders, sometimes including your customers, your employees, and your business managers, so everyone involved in product development can present their perspective on the product.

Thanks to this, the Product Owner can confirm whether the objective of the project expressed by the stakeholders is consistent with the business objectives of the company.
In the nutshell, the purpose of the product is defined in the product vision and all the knowledge gathered is presented in the form of road maps.

Next, another Product Owner’s responsibility is to communicate the goals to the rest of the Team.

2. Product Backlog Management

This obligation requires regular cooperation.

The Product Backlog is a list of tasks to do. To make the work effective, the Product Owner is responsible for maintaining it. So, they must create stories and tasks for the Team, updating them when it’s necessary.

To create an effective product backlog, they must:

  • Describe features of an application using user stories.
  • Plan the most efficient sequence of development.
  • Create tasks with the Development Team.
  • Create test cases with Testers.

The product backlog can’t be immutable, because it’s not just a suggestion, it’s a signpost. If it is NOT properly maintained and optimised, it will cause inconsistency of work, delays, and confusion. If it happens to you, that means you don’t have a real Product Owner.

Let’s move on to the next responsibility of the Product Owner.

3. Ensuring Backlog’s Transparency

This obligation does not require your effort.

Product Owner must make the backlog accessible to all parties involved in the product development. It means that both the developer and the client should understand it. This is the duty that takes up the most time and requires preparing clear descriptions of intended effects, understandable tasks for developers, and flow characteristics for testers.

And one more responsibility described in the Scrum Guide.

4. Prioritising the Needs

This obligation requires regular cooperation.

Product Owner is responsible for prioritising needs according to the scope, time, and your budget, keeping in mind your main objectives. This is quite a difficult task because priorities can change, which is why Product Owner:

  • Prioritises the user stories by relative importance for each iteration.
  • Defines any constraints.
  • Locates and proposes tasks with fewer constraints.
  • Determines what feature can be deliverable at which time.

Overall, Product Owner must deliver the maximum outcome to achieve goals and missions.

What other responsibilities does the outsourced Product Owner hold?

5. Evaluating Product Progress

This obligation does not require your effort.

Once the priorities are set, a Product Owner should oversee the product throughout the development cycle. So, they are a key player in product development, process refinement, and product review. Their responsibilities are:

  • Working with the Development Team and stakeholders to identify requirements for next iterations.
  • Refining the development process.
  • Inspecting product’s increment to make sure that the Team delivers the expected outcomes.
  • Identifying improvements.
  • Supporting the Team in design, development, and tests to be able to answer or guide the Development Team.

Product Owner can inspect and adapt product participating in Daily Scrum, Sprint Planning Meetings, Sprint Reviews, and Retrospectives. Thereby, Product Owner is updated, informed about priorities, and understands the perspective of any impediments.

6. Liaison Between the Teams and the Stakeholders

This obligation requires close cooperation between the customer and the Product Owner.

Outsourced Product Owner role consists of acting as a primary liaison between the Team and the stakeholders to work on:

  • The information flow, which must be quick and clear with no misunderstandings.
  • Setting goals which should be correctly aligned with the work items on the Product Backlog.
  • Determining whether user stories meet their expectations.
  • Precising any doubts arising during the project implementation.

All relationships should be based on trust between the Product Owner and the stakeholder (client). In my humble opinion, the trust is built on frequent relations, clear messages about the developments, precise communication of needs, demonstrating commitment, suggesting solutions and taking care of the client’s interest.

Establish a Fruitful Cooperation Thanks to the Role of a Product Owner

For cooperation between Stakeholders and outsourced Product Owners to succeed, both parties should respect their decisions and trust each other. The decisions of the Product Owner influence the content, the Product Backlog and Increment at the Sprint Review, whereas Stakeholders’ decisions are necessary when setting the goals. If they manage to find common ground, there’s no stopping them.

Explore All of the Benefits of IT Project Outsourcing

Agnieszka Topczewska-Pińczuk
Scrum Master | Project Manager

I believe that anything I do, I do for the end-user. I maximise value by:

- setting a path to the product's goal, helping developers do what they need to do

- frequently inspecting the result of their work to confront assumptions with reality

- adapting to the changing needs of Stakeholders based on feedback and measurable data.

I manage IT products agilely and know how to make your vision a reality. Would you like to work with me?