Product Owners sit at the interface of the business and technology. It’s a tough job and there are lots of things to do: tasks like maintaining the backlog, writing good user stories and managing a whole host of stakeholders to name just a few.
In this position, the Product Owner faces inward to work with the development team and outward towards the business and wider process of Product Management.
I hope the image included goes someway to describe or articulate the rough positioning of the Product Owner in relation to the other stakeholders.
The challenges of being a product owner
The first challenge is for the Product Owner to act as the middle man and act as a conduit for communication between the team and the organization. Translating the needs of the business and breaking them down into something that the team can work with.
The second (and more significant) challenge for the Product Owner is to connect the team with the factors outside of the organization. The Trends. This is the external view of the product and the context that it’s being developed in, beyond the ‘customers’ that are shown in the diagram. These trends shape and influence the product strategy, and are important factors influencing why the work is important for the team.
So how does a Product Owner bring these insights into the team? Well, Product Owners are a lucky bunch. There are lots of templates out there. We use them when we’re teaching Product Owners how to become great Product Owners. Persona templates, user story constructs and even the Business Model Canvas are all focused on answering the question why. But often, there’s a higher-level, contextual, view missing. Even describing the product vision doesn’t necessarily get to the real reasons behind why a product is being built.
Trends and the bigger picture
The Product Trends Canvas we share below is intended to be picked up early on in the development of an idea, and the first box is the connection to the outside world. In this box we suggest you capture the external trends that are shaping the product. This part of the canvas represents a deliberate step in tying the target group and their needs to the external trends.
You may be familiar with tools like the SWOT analysis or the PESTLE analysis. This template simplifies those external trends into a single category and gives a Product Owner the opportunity to make the connection between that and the more familiar Target Group (customers) and Needs that they have.
These trends are important. They shape the product strategy, the product backlog and the work that the development team(s) actually carry out. They’re the inspiration and driving forces for ideas (and the products that those ideas become).
The Product Owner is the interface between the business and the team who makes the product, but that shouldn’t stop them raising their view above the parapet and making the connection with the trends shaping that product. Bringing that view back and sharing it with the team is invaluable in getting them behind ideas, making the right decisions and turning them into world-beating products!