A big part of how I see my role as a Product Owner in an Agile environment is to bridge the gap between the business and the developers. On one side of the bridge is the Product Manager, whose primary goal is to hear and relay the voice of the market. Her job is to make sure that what we develop meets real and common market needs in a way that clients will pay for. On the other end of the bridge are UI/UX designers, coders, and testers who make sure that what we build works well. There are no firm barriers keeping us separated (I’ll write another time about why I like the way Agile brings the two ‘sides’ of the bridge closer than more traditional methods tend to) and hopefully there is good and frequent communication among all those on the product team. When this kind of communication doesn’t happen you end up with something like this: http://funnysalescartoons.com/photo/funny-sales-marketing-cartoon?xg_source=activity.
But someone has to hold responsibility for making sure that the voice of the market is getting translated to the language of the developers, and someone has to make sure that the questions of the coders get answered based on the real needs and wants of the market rather than just one person’s opinions.
Hopefully that’s what I do. I stand on the bridge and facilitate this conversation, making sure that the right questions get the right answers at the right time. I keep a foot in the market (especially relying on the Product Manager but also talking directly to some clients and prospects) and a foot in the world of coding and design (relying on lead developers, architects, and testers to make sure I grasp enough of the technical issues). Hopefully I listen at least as much as I talk. When I do my job well the bridge is strong and everyone can do a better job. When I do my job poorly the communication breaks down and the other folks on the product team spin their wheels. It can be a fun and fulfilling role to play with a committed and creative team in a company with the resources and vision to develop the disciplines of great product development.
Of course, in truth it’s not that simple.