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Hiring a Freelance Product Owner

Product Owner, an ever-evolving role

The constant rise of cross-functional and product-focused teams leads to a high demand for Product Owners. For most companies which are in the middle of an agile transformation or starting to work according to agile methodologies, the agile Product Owner (PO) is a new role with a new set of skills and competencies. 

What is the measure of success for a Product Owner?

In general, a Product Owner is successful when the team ships products customers love to use (or new features and solutions that users love to use). In detail, the degree to which customers love the solution can be assessed with the help of different achievement areas:

  • How many new users have been acquired for the company?
  • After users have been acquired, do they perform the desired actions?
  • Are the newly acquired users engaging with the product?
  • Are these people convinced by the value proposition and therefore refer it to others?
  • Are users willing to pay for it?

How can the Product Owner help companies?

Especially in larger organizations it is efficient to have a dedicated contact person per product or application, he or she will own it end-to-end. Regardless of whether it is a website, app, part of the customer journey, feature, API or a backend system - the PO role solves the problem of fragmented ownership. It is the go-to-person for all stakeholders and drives the cross-functional development from conception to launch.

The most important thing is to solve problems in ways customers love.

One area in which a Product Owner can help a company immediately is the focus on customer value. One of the role's core responsibilities is to determine the correct order of product backlog items (or priorities to be worked on) and therefore ensure that the team works on the highest value issues for the company's customers.
The underlying hypothesis is that customers in a highly competitive environment make their purchase decision based on the value proposition the product offers them. Thus, the focus on customer value in product development is the basis for growth and customer loyalty.

An area with a longer planning horizon is the creation of a product vision.

All stakeholders are involved in formulating a conclusive vision and in developing the strategy on the way there. To have a product strategy in place is essential because it describes what the company plans to accomplish and is the foundation to prioritize the product roadmap.

The importance of the Product Owner role

One of the main duties is to ensure that each product delivered meets the customer's needs. From an organizational point of view the PO is a team member of the product development team which consists of developers, designers, testers and additional roles necessary to ship a product with the maximum value for the company's customers.

Certified Product owners in the Network

Because a Product Owner works as the interface between many departments, the role requires soft and hard skills, of which analytical, technical and communication skills are particularly noteworthy.

Must have Product Owner skills

Product Owners work in a fast-paced technological environment and have an entrepreneurial mindset as they are responsible for the economic success of the product. Therefore, the role requires a variety of different skills:

  • Analytical skills: rational decision making based on data.
  • Communication and interpersonal skills, especially with technical team members, leadership and customers.
  • An eye for user interface and user experience design.
  • Qualitative and quantitative user testing.
  • Deep knowledge of the Agile methodology used by the team.
  • Technical expertise: in-depth domain knowledge of the underlying technical functionality.
  • Business administration knowledge: able to judge requirements based on their value contribution for the company's customers.
  • Marketing: able to determine the target audience and define a value proposition that customers are willing to pay for.
  • A clear and brief writing style. This is particularly important in a remote working setup.
  • Empathy to moderate conflicting interests of different stakeholder groups.

Product Owner Certifications

If a company is currently in the process of hiring an agile Product Owner, a certification helps to assess the candidate's knowledge of the scrum framework and the underlying agile values. Particularly when trying to find a suitable external or freelance Product Owner, it is important that the candidate knows the scrum framework and can quickly fit into an existing team.

The two most widely recognized certifications are:

  • Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) by the Scrum Alliance
  • Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO) by Scrum.org

Responsibilities of a Product owner

Be it as a Product Owner for telecom, insurance, banks or another industry, agile Product Ownership is a diverse role with very different responsibilities: 

  • The PO is in charge to manage the Product Backlog in terms of content and priority.
  • By defining the correct order of backlog items, the Product Owner maximizes the outcome of the engineering team's work.
  • Continuously evaluate market opportunities and industry trends and determine what the engineering team will build.
  • Perform road map planning in alignment with all stakeholders.
  • Run discovery and ideation sessions to identify new sources of value for the company's customers.
  • Create the product vision and define the strategy to make it become reality.
  • Define the go-to-market strategy.
  • Fulfill the role within the Scrum framework.
  • Ensure product-market fit so the delivered offering meets the needs of the target audience and the business.

Challenges of the Product owner role

The Product Owner role, especially in a rapidly changing technological environment, brings many challenges:

  • Establishing an outcome over output mentality: focus on user problems to solve rather than features to build.
  • Ensure that customer feedback from company-wide stakeholders is captured and incorporated in the development process.
  • Speed up technical and organizational innovation cycles to keep up with market developments and competitors.
  • Establishing company-wide processes to work with departments across the organization, for example to organize sprint reviews.
  • Manage the challenge between iterative and incremental product development and the waterfall model in software development projects.
  • Work in truly empowered cross-functional teams, which can decide on the best way to solve user problems.