What do I need to know to start being a Product Owner?


What is the basic role of the Product Owner?

http://blog.crisp.se/2012/10/25/henrikkniberg/agile-product-ownership-in-a-nutshell (New)


Starting with user stories:

User stories are the most common way to handle requirements in the agile world. One of the first things you’ll need to do as a product owner is familiarize yourself with them, and start to provide them to the delivery team.

Mike Cohn on Effective User Stories – http://www.mountaingoatsoftware.com/presentations/42-effective-user-stories-for-agile-requirements

User Stories Primer http://trailridgeconsulting.com/files/user-story-primer.pdf

Recommended Book – User Stories Applied by Mike Cohn http://www.mountaingoatsoftware.com/books/2 Cover

User Stories Advanced Techniques

After you got the basics nailed down, go to some advanced techniques for managing and manipulating user stories:

  1. Techniques for splitting user stories http://www.richardlawrence.info/2009/10/28/patterns-for-splitting-user-stories/
  2. Story Mapping Technique  http://www.agileproductdesign.com/downloads/patton_user_story_mapping.ppt
  3. http://scalingsoftwareagility.wordpress.com/category/agile-requirements/

Some material on Agile Release Planning:

  1. http://www.agileproductdesign.com/downloads/patton_incremental_releases.zip
  2. http://www.agileproductdesign.com/presentations/index.html (Patton in general)

Some process-related material:

Product owning also requires effective interaction with the agile process. Concepts like READY and Flow and how to effectively interact with teams are as important as the quality of the requirements themselves. Actually, in some cases, having the right process will help focus on doing the right things at the right time and solve some conflicts and problems product owners have.

  1. Practical tools for the Product Owner: Focus, Value, Flow – http://www.scrumalliance.org/resource_download/1249
  2. The importance of READY Product Backlog for effective teams – http://scrum.jeffsutherland.com/2009/07/ready-dynamic-model-of-scrum.html

Scaling the Product Owner

If you are working in a complex enterprise environment, you might need to look at some advanced materials regarding scaling. I would recommend reading and understanding some ideas, and also seeking professional help by those experienced in these environments.

  1. http://blog.versionone.net/blog/2009/03/the-product-owner-team.html
  2. http://www.westborosystems.com/2010/02/onsite-product-owner/
  3. http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/OfficialHuitaleBlog/~3/q_19u5mfYog/single-product-owner-model-is-broken.html



In general, I recommend to all Product Owners/Managers I’m talking to these days to look at “Lean Startup”  to start thinking about the iterative learning associated with the Product Discovery process. Jeff Patton’s session above is a good introduction into this, but the whole body of work around “Lean Startups” is very interesting to Product people in general. You cannot afford to manage products these days and not be aware of it IMO.



I’m sure there are other great references out there, and I’d love to hear about them. But in the meantime, this is a reasonably comprehensive list, with the risk being a little too comprehensive. I would suggest you go top to bottom unless you have specific burning issues you need to skip to.

If you find this useful, tell your friends (and me!)

If you don’t, I’d appreciate hearing why!

Happy Reading!


Added the “Discovery” section on Feb 2012

Added Henrik’s brilliant short animated movie about Agile Product Ownership – October 2012

1 thought on “What do I need to know to start being a Product Owner?”

  1. The product owner
    is someone who has an in-depth knowledge about business needs for the product
    being delivered. The product owner has to be an
    individual as the decision making power cannot be given to a team. If there is
    a team of stakeholders that helps the product owner, the final decision making
    power should lie with the product owner .

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