Nearly 20 years after the publication of the first Scrum book, the product owner role is still riddled with misunderstandings. It’s not uncommon for me to meet someone who refers to her- or himself as a product owner, only to discover that the person owns a feature or the product details but not the entire product. Other times, I meet people who say they are product owners but who manage a whole product portfolio. This article helps you reflect on and improve the way the product owner role is applied at your workplace. It describes six common types of “product” owners. It shows how the roles differ and relate to each other, and it explains how you can effectively apply them.
You can listen to the audio version of this article here: https://www.romanpichler.com/romans-podcasts/six-types-of-product-owners/
The term product owner is commonly used to refer to six different product roles in my experience. These are:
- The original Scrum product owner who owns a product in its entirety and is responsible for maximising the value it creates.
- A feature owner who manages a major capability with which end users interact like search and navigation on an online retailer’s website.
- A component owner who owns an architecture building block like the persistence layer.
- A platform owner who manages a platform as a collection of shared software assets.
- The SAFe product owner who owns the product details.
- A portfolio owner who manages a group of (related) products.
Each of the roles above is a product management role; anybody playing one of the roles takes on product ownership; and each role can be exciting and rewarding. None is per se better or worse. But as indicated, the ownership scope significantly differs and with it, the empowerment and skills required to succeed.
The following pictures provides an overview of the six roles, which I describe in more detail in the sections below.