“He’s just there”, Jeff Sutherland replied to the question where we could find this mythical person. Balancing between business and technology, having the vision and the time to guide the team but also go out there and meet the users, empowered by the business, the one “where the buck stops”, yet with technical knowledge to understand the developers needs. Sometimes it’s easier to spot mythical creatures than true Product Owners.
Over the years I have seen very few persons embodying all these properties, but those I’ve met learned me what to look for. Gave me a reference model so to say. But the best Product Owners I’ve met, all failed this omnipotent description, but rather had built a team around themselves that compensated for their weaknesses.
So rather than having a single Product Owner, you would have a team that acts as Product Owner, a team in which you typically find: Business Analysts, Product Managers, Project Managers, Designers or Release Managers.
And what do they do? well they all have their specific competences, but the focus of the Product Management team should be the business value. What will a feature cost and what is its return on investment, how do we measure this? How does it fit in the overall picture? The problem invariably becomes how to align these people and have them talk with one voice to the team.
More overhead? Yes. Necessary given the complexity of the task? Yes again. We can insist on a single product owner, but in many cases, we’ll fail, and the committee of Product Owners provides a workable solution.
P.S. be careful with committees: “a camel is a horse defined by a committee”