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What Should Be The Focus For The Product Owner?

April 16, 2020

The most straightforward answer would be – value, of course!

But how do you reach it?

Large numbers of Product Owners begin their work by creating requirements. In some situations, these scopes are dictated by others. Their work mainly consists of describing demands, thus apparently appearing as a scribe in their role.

On the what ground these items are ordered in the Product Backlog?

Unfortunately, more often than not, this order is based on “it seems to so..”; “I was told..”; “this is what my stakeholders want..” and such.

How to create valuable requirements?

Start with a vision. Each Product Owner should be driven by vision and be able to inspire an organization and teams that are developing a product. A product vision should be short, understandable, inspiring, and describing necessary information about the product.

For who we are delivering this product, what needs are being fulfilled, and what value it will bring.

There are plenty of vision templates to choose from. In particular, I like the Elevator Pitch template. It is short (30 sec to 2 min), simple and sufficient to convey a message. I would encourage you to experiment with other product vision templates.


Focus on a business strategy. While creating the business strategy, it is worth inviting stakeholders, teams, and everyone who might support this process. At this point, you may choose from many business strategy templates like Business Model Canvas, Value Proposition Canvas, and many more. It is very important to include personas (who is our user/customer), define value, available people, resources (software, hardware, etc.), cost structure, possible revenue streams, competition activities (if any), and other relevant information.

Having all of this data will create an environment where it easier to make business decisions. I strongly encourage creating a business strategy in a workshop-style. Even if your product is internal (for the organization itself), I would treat it as a regular product and make awareness about who is a user, what is the value for them, what the budget is, and so on.


Business goals. What do we want to achieve? What is the impact on our organization? What is the impact on our customers/users (personas)? What will be changed in their behavior? What do we need to reach this? Only at this moment, we can start thinking of requirements (epics, features, stories, generally we can call them “items”). Items are secondary against goals and value. Items are results of goals and value. When it comes to tooling, you may find Impact Mapping or other techniques to be helpful.

Product Backlog. It should be ordered in terms of the following:

  • Value
  • Risk
  • Dependencies
  • When we plan to hit the market (roadmap visualization might help) 

Other possible variables, important from the product and organization point of view should be consistent with: 

  • Business goal(s)
  • Business strategy
  • Product Vision

A problem that I often see is that more often than not, in the organization, Product Backlogs are ordered according to the schedule presented a long time ago. Another possible reason is the pressure coming from stakeholders. Product Backlogs are rarely updated based on value. Moreover, the value idea is hardly used. The most common pattern is the delivery cult (more, faster). The question is if teams deliver anything valuable for users/customers and organizations?  Usually, not. Based on my experience, requirements are coming from different stakeholders, not equally involved in the product creation. There is no single person who takes into account cohesion between vision, business strategy and requirements. Moreover, there is no discussion about the value. Sometimes this approach lies in the organizational culture (deliver me more and more, whatever it is). We need to change this process to focus on value if we are going to truly deliver what stakeholders, customers/user and the organization needs.

What’s next? Product value needs to be measured current value and potential value that is possible to reach. Decisions should be made based on this value. In many organizations, decisions have not been made based on facts. Predictions, comprehensive plans are anticipated while the current state of the product is not taken into account. There is a lack of environment and acceptance for adaptation. In other words, lack of empirical approach.

So, what should be the Focus for the Product Owner? 

Again, on the value that comes from vision, customers/users, organization needs, customer/user satisfaction, business strategy, quantified value, and potential. The Product Backlog should be ordered based on the above elements. Make the use of empirical data as your continue to keep learning and provide evidence for change.


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