What a Product Owner is not

Headshot of Richie Harris, Chief Technology Officer of SingleMind UX Design and Software Development firm

Written by Richie Harris

Not a Technical Lead

A Product Owner is not necessarily an expert in technical matters. They should be able to accept advice and solicit input from the technical lead on a project, but they should not be expected to have the technical expertise to do research or evaluate technologies on their own. A Product Owner is best able to contribute to a project when they can rely on a technical lead to speak to technical challenges and give them informed options and honest feedback.

Not an Engineer

A Product Owner is not necessarily an engineer or direct contributor on a technical project. They should be able to advise on the ‘what’ of a particular feature, but not necessarily the ‘how’. They should not be expected to be writing code or working on systems. When a Product Owner starts getting into the granular details at that level, it can burden them such that they’re not able to properly focus on the big picture and deliver the vision of the product to the team.

Not a Designer

A Product Owner is not necessarily a front-end designer. They should have a sense of how they want the product to be interacted with, and how their users will perceive it, but they should not be relied upon to know the best way to accomplish that. The Product Owner should be able to accept input from a design lead and divorce their personal aesthetic sensibilities from the look and feel that is informed by what they want the product to represent to its audience.

Not a Scrum Master

The Product Owner is not expected to be the master of ceremonies or project manager. They should be a participant in the process, and contribute their vision and oversight in terms of direction, but not necessarily run meetings or manage team members daily tasks. They should inform priorities and scheduling, but not be working with individual team members on process or metrics.

A Product Owner

A good Product Owner can be the difference between a product that lights up the marketplace, and a product that never gets out the door. They’re at their best when they can keep a holistic view of a project with an eye on the overall delivery of the vision. Don’t sweat the small stuff, that’s the job of the design and technical teams. By keeping an eye on the prize and a finger on the pulse a Product Owner can usher the next big product to a grateful customer base and pave way for market success.