5 Secrets to Improving Your Product Owner Skills: A Step-by-Step Guide

For the product owner, it’s easy to feel like there’s a lot riding on your shoulders. For the product owner, it’s easy to feel like there’s a lot riding on your shoulders.

You have to balance the needs of your customers with those of your developers, and you need to keep an eye on both progress and deadlines. There are lots of different ways for ensuring that you’re doing everything necessary for success, and we’ll cover them here in a series of tips for improving your product owner skills.

1. Do you lack confidence in your product owner skills?

A good product owner can make or break a product, and it’s important to have a good understanding of what it means to be a good product owner.

Here are a few tips to help you become a better product owner:

  1. Take a free Udemy course on product management. School graduates and non-school graduates can learn this expensive course for free — even if you don’t have prior product management experience. Once you have a basic understanding of the concepts and tools, other course modules can help expand your knowledge.

  2. Beginner’s digest: Take a couple of hours to brush up on the terminology. Be sure to list all acronyms, key terms, and the various ways to present information in the body of your copy. Your customers will appreciate the effort you’re making to explain what you do, how the technology you use works, how your products work, and the essential functions of your business.

  3. Developer digest: Rich lists are a great way to know about features, functionality, and planned features (and of course bugs!), especially for dev teams. Take note of which features are common and which features require reviewing the dev wiki. What are tests? How are you app store and other review metrics scored? What development lifecycle questions do you expect to be asked regularly? What are those questions and when do you plan to have answers? Develop based on the questions, not the features.

  4. Know your market. For example, if you manufacture optical components, you can use this Udemy course to learn about the business prospects in the electronics industry. This course will also help you determine how the supply chain will work, and what is likely to drive growth.

  5. Design a Lean Product. Lean product development focuses on reducing cost and increasing product life cycles, while addressing and addressing customer pain points. In Lean Product Development, you don’t want to spend time on features and widgets that aren’t needed and aren’t essential to your product’s success. Consider the benefits of implementing features you haven’t fully thought through.

2. Make sure your team understands the product you’re developing

One of the most important traits of a good project manager is to make sure the team understands what they’re building. If the team doesn’t understand the product or service they’re building, then they’ll be building the wrong thing. The more they understand, the smoother the project will go.
 
Quick tip: I like to start by asking questions like “What problem is this software solving?”
When developers respond by listing features that the software isn’t solving, it gets my attention. Don’t get caught up in the numbers — focus on what the software is capable of. You may find that the features you plan to add don’t add much value to the product. Keep adding value and ask for more feature suggestion from your dev team.
 
Your team should be actively working on the features for the product. Don’t wait for major feature release or major feature outage. Implement as many features as you can in a sprint. I usually schedule one sprint per week and work on each feature independently in my own time. That means if I discover that a feature is not working as planned, I get to rewrite it from the ground up overnight. Any features that take longer to implement can wait until the next sprint.
 
It’s common to feel overwhelmed during the early days of anything because things are new and you can’t make sense of them. In reality, there are three simple truths that you need to know right away:
 
During any sprint, take note of where features broke feature deadline or missed deadline. It’s okay if the product owner misses deadlines. Let’s say you had an extra week to work on features, but your dev team failed to deliver on features because they were at the pub. That’s an easy nudge to give yourself. Review the rules of that sprint and any team bonding activity, and take action if a team member isn’t meeting deadlines.
Find ways to make yourself available for your team.

3. Set realistic goals and expectations for your team

When you’re the leader of a team, it’s important to set realistic goals and expectations for your team. If you set impossible goals for your team, they’ll start to doubt themselves and they won’t be able to achieve the goals.
 
You need to provide the team with realistic expectations to succeed, and you should share your abilities and what you can do. It’s great if your teammates can help you even if you can do something yourself. When it comes to technological projects, you need to ensure that your product is fully tested, and you have all the right tools to make sure your products are done right.
 
Do everything you can to get your product feature ready for the release, and make sure you’re properly setup for daily, iterative development. It’s important to have a clear road map for your product, what features are already implemented, and what’s left to be done. It doesn’t matter how brilliant your idea is or how cool your design is if you can’t explain it to people if it has no value.
 
To eliminate skepticism from your team, it’s a good idea to have a weekly status report, and it’s not a bad idea to produce weekly sprint reviews as well. Follow these sprint reviews with a technical road map for each sprint to show what’s left to implement and how you’re going to provide value each week.
 
After your product owner skills are at an all-time high, be sure to celebrate with your team. Give the team a good send-off on an exceptional product, and be sure to thank them for bringing you joy and seeing your business grow.

4. Align your goals with those of the company, and make sure they have buy-in from management

This is the most important thing you can do in order to ensure you get the help you need to achieve what you want to achieve. If you work in a company where the goals of the company are aligned with your goals, then you’ll get the support you need to accomplish what you want to accomplish.
 
That’s really all there is to it. Start by talking to peers in the industry. Try to find out what challenges they face, what features they’re looking for, where the gaps are, and what they need. Having the right people on your team is one of the biggest keys to success — they literally know more than you do about what you need to get done.
 
Here are a few questions you can ask to find this out: Multi-tasking often leads to errors. For example, if you’re trying to debug a new feature, you might be hopping from one app to the other, talking to contract testers, or checking email. While all of this is fine and dandy, it’s important that you focus on one aspect of the code at a time. When you’re developing a new feature, make sure you focus on the functionality of that new feature, and add comments to the existing code that explain your changes so the rest of the team can review. When you’re checking some data, make sure that you only check the currently loaded data. Once you get the hang of this part of the process, you’ll be able to switch to tackling other features without losing any context.
 
Each person has a different role to fill. As a product owner, your job is to make sure the other people on your team are doing their jobs efficiently and effectively. This means making sure your developer achieves their tasks, evaluating the deliverables from all of your contracted testers, and answering any questions that your customers might have.

5. Be aware of new developments so that you know if any changes need to be made to your product or timeline

New technologies are constantly being developed, and you need to stay on top of the latest developments. For example, if it’s looking like a new technology is going to be a game-changer in your industry, then it might be time for your company to adapt to make sure you’re not left behind.

Step 1: Build a product owner tree

Note: Product owner trees are intended to be a catch-all for all tasks involved with maintaining and growing a piece of a product. Any specific responsibilities are obvious from the product’s features and will fit in neatly with the overall responsibilities associated with the tree.
 
Your responsibilities at this stage include:
  • Record-keeping
  • Scheduling
  • Reviewing and delivering reports
  • Promotion
Be accurate and comprehensive in your spreadsheet when recording things like inventories, replies to reviews, and knowledge base updates. You should have lots of data going into your sheet and be able to explain exactly what each column represents — otherwise customer service looks messy.
Your spreadsheet should also have balanced column-structure, with clear separations between features, non-features, closing dates, delivery dates, content calendars, and forum markers. Careful with column headers, as they can be mind-numbingly tricky to manage.
 
Ask your staff and developers to spend some time researching the areas of the tree that you are managing, the problems that you are trying to solve, and any established best practices. This shouldn’t take too long — ideally you’ll find some browsing guides for your industry or local stores, but it doesn’t hurt to throw it up a flag if you need to.

Did you know?

We have the best practice exams (with 1500+ questions and answers) for PSM I, PSM II, PSM III, PSPO I, PSPO II, PSPO III, PAL, PAL-EBM, SPS, PSU, PSD, and PSK.

If you’re a Scrum Master, Product Owner, Developer, or just looking to improve your agile skills, this is for you -> www.scrumprep.com

Before you go

😬 Comment and tell us about how Scrum events that spice up your life!
🙂 Follow me to get updates on my latest article
👉 Check out our freebies at ScrumPrep
📸 Follow us on Instagram for Agile & Scrum tips and tricks
📥 Email hello@heyscrum.com if you have any questions, feedback, or suggestions.