The path to Product Owner


I have been approached a few times recently by people looking to enter the role of product owner, and they ask me “what should I do to prepare?”. The obvious answer is to go to a training or read up. But I am curious what others think is a suitable response to such a question.


Those are good starting points, especially if accompanied by links to specific resources (I set up an internal wiki page for both existing and aspiring Product Owners with definitions, links to videos and other online resources).

Another suggestion – provided this is possible in their organization – is to seek out or create PO-like opportunities as an extension or supplement to their current role:

  • Articulate user stories
  • Apply a business value lens
  • Evangelize business ownership
  • Establish and prioritize a backlog, even if it’s in the shadow of the waterfall

Most cities have meetups and other opportunities for face-to-face networking with other agilists. These can be a fantastic way of building knowledge (full disclosure: I’m a co-founder of AgileTO).


Read, listen, learn, experiment, share. Rinse and repeat.


I’m seeing many of the teams I work with starting to take ownership of story writing as well as building in systems to manage their work in progress to the product owner can be more engaged with the customers, understanding their problems, and ensuring that work is always ready for the teams to pull. I think this swings the product owner pendulum more towards managing what is next and away from managing what is in progress.


Everything mentioned above. First, ensure leadership understands the role…find this out in the interview. Read voraciously, get embedded with leadership, understand vision and understand the goals of the business, KPIs, VoC insights…always share this with the team. Be the voice of the customer. Important to build shared understanding hortizonally and vertically. Learn how to speak to all audiences, because there are several. Ensure team knows collectively they all “own” the product. Inspect and adapt to improve your agile posture. Write great user stories by yourself but preferably with the team. Acceptance criteria is so key. Pick your spots carefully and learn to trust the team. Its a tough job, maybe the toughest of all roles.


I have noticed that the role ‘Product Owner’ may mean something close to a Sr.Business Analyst (this is what many Scrum Product Owners are in big organizations) or something close to a product manager (i.e. where market-facing interactions are part of the role). The latter represents a wider range of responsibilities.

To prepare for it, I recommend (in addition to some of the suggestions above) that aspirants pick a pet product idea (e.g. a simple mobile app) on the side and develop an MVP all by themselves. It would include product owner functions such as product discovery, user interviews, roadmap grooming, prioritization, success-metrics etc. If they can’t code, the product could be a blog, static website or even a curated Twitter feed on some topic.