How to Be an Effective Product Owner

It actually took us many years to understand how vital this role was for the success of the project. For a long time, we thought we could handle it all from a project management perspective, but continually ran into miscommunications about how and why decisions were made and who was responsible for them. Without a clear product owner, there is room for a lot of finger pointing.

What is a product owner?

Product OwnerThe product owner is the person who, at the end of the day, makes the final decision when a project is at a crossroads and who is responsible for the outcome of that decision. This can be the project manager, this can be the CEO, or this can be someone else entirely. In the case of Bixly, we define who that person is in the organization of our client’s company so we know who is the point person when a decision needs to be made. We are always happy to advise on technology or architecture decisions, but its important for the client to know that this will be their software when it’s all said and done. There are some decisions that only the owner can and should make. Sometimes its a scenario where you have more than one good option before you, and you can’t really go wrong. Sometimes its a scenario where the right way to do something is a lot more expensive, but there may be legitimate business reasons the client wants to do it on a tighter budget. Either way, determining who is responsible for making these decisions before the project gets underway is essential.

Avoid Finger-Pointing

When people don’t know who is ultimately going to take responsibility for essential decisions on a project, it can lead to a lot of miscommunication and finger pointing. It can be an unseen underlying problem until a feature goes sideways. At that point, we begin questioning how we got to the point of using a particular tech stack or building a feature a particular way. In the absence of a clear product owner, maybe a developer made a decision based on a ticket she received. In the absence of a clear product owner, maybe the project manager made a call just to keep the project on schedule. If the cracks start to show as a result of one of these common mistakes, don’t point fingers at team members who did what they had to do in order to keep the project moving forward. Instead, make sure everyone is clear who they should go to when it comes to these decisions. And let’s be frank, we’ve all made the wrong call before. The main thing is to learn from it and move forward.

Project Planning

This is equally true for internal projects as it is for projects you’re building with an outside firm like Bixly. Only under special circumstances would we at Bixly have a product owner be a person from our team rather from our client’s team. The reason for this is that while we are experts in software and while Bixly partners and executives are available to consult on your project, you are the expert in your field. What decision Bixly may present for tech reasons may be the wrong decision for your project for business reasons. You are the only one who will be able to weigh and consider what works best for your company in your vertical. Along the way, the Bixly team will be by your side to present the options clearly and advise where necessary!

Want to get our input on your next idea? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us today!