The Product Owner role for a software product in an industry where the core business is not IT is a business enabler, a business transformation agent and an innovation partner. Someone who his success depends on the success of the business he supports. Sometimes it reminds me a marriage, an alliance.
In this post I would like to share my thoughts about the required skill set we should look for, when hiring one.Nowadays we read everywhere, software is one of the main company assets, directly and indirectly contributing to the company business, enabling efficient tools and working processes. But to produce better software products in a period of Digital Transformation we need to create a formal collaboration between IT and Business areas.
And this alliance should work very well, otherwise we will never accomplish a successful product. A spirit of collaboration, trust and respect must be developed in this relationship. Collaboration to build the product in quality and time, synchronizing requirements, effort and road-maps. Trust and respect in the individual area of expertise.
Between the business and IT an alliance must be created. In this scenario, representing the business side we have a product manager or business product owner. But we also need a product owner in the IT side, otherwise who will think the product in the IT perspective? Who will coordinate or moderate the different areas of expertise to produce technical and functional requirements? I’m considering in this group areas of expertise like User Experience, Architecture, Security, Testing, infrastructures, Build and Release Process, etc. And in a continuity perspective, who will be concerned regarding improvements and optimizations? The need for an IT Product Owner I think is understood by this time.
Now the question is, if I’m hiring an IT Product Owner, which skill set should I be seeking for?
In my opinion, a Product Owner is not a deep expert but a senior, experienced IT professional bringing into production IT solutions, with high quality standards and high value to the end-user. He/ She must have:
- Awareness for solution design and architecture;
- IT business analysis skills to gather requirements and moderate the dialogue with the Product manager;
- Some UX know how to be able to discuss feature concepts or application workflows;
- Identify potential Proof of Concepts. Which type? To learn about what?
- Experience all over software development life cycle phases;
- Expert discussions moderation skills, getting agreements, estimations;
- Capacity to moderate discussions and get inputs from key-users;
- Capacity to identify road-map dependencies and design workaround solutions for intermediate phases outlining road-map constrains.
And of course, capacity to do all regular product owner work: to write stories, to prioritize backlog, to plan sprints, to write Definition of Done and Acceptance Criteria, etc.
The required soft-skills
An IT Product Owner must be a trustful partner for the Business inside the IT department, or close to the Dev Team. He/ she must be reliable in the technical opinions, accurate in deliverables and milestones.
Must have moderation and negotiation skills to bring into a common goal different interests and opinions.