5 Things the Product Owner Can Learn From Project Management

The role of product owner was introduced by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland in their creation of Scrum as a lightweight project management method in the mid-1990s. Since then, after literally thousands of Scrum projects, the product owner role has come to be recognized as both the most critical role for the success of the product and the hardest role to do successfully.
Simple Scrum Team Icons_Artboard 1

In Scrum, project management is divided between the product owner, the ScrumMaster, and the team. These are the three recognized roles in Scrum; there is no one project manager role. The various needs of every project must be understood by one of these three roles, and someone, whether team member, ScrumMaster, or product owner, must take responsibility for management of these needs.

The project manager role has been well defined and is supported by published standards, and it can be used to inform and enhance the role of the product owner. Here are five ways that the product owner can benefit from studying the project manager role as understood by the Project Management Institute.

Project Manager
Product Owner
1Responsible for delivering the project on time, on schedule, and on budget. The project manager is to work with the team to ensure that value is delivered according to the plan in Traditional Project Management (TPM).Responsible for the delivery of the product. The focus is on value, quality, time to market, and return on investment. The key here is responsibility.
2Manages project scope, including the ongoing change control process to ensure that the scope is contained and that impacts to schedule and budget are identified and made visible to stakeholders.With the help of the team, stakeholders, architects, SME’s and analysts, creates the prioritized product backlog. This is the scope of the project with change management done every sprint through re-prioritization of the features/user stories in the backlog. The key here is scope management.
3Works directly with the team to ensure that it is working on the right items in the right order to accomplish the project goals.Works directly with the team to ensure that it understands and is working on the right features in the right prioritized order to deliver value at the end of each sprint. The key here is close team collaboration.
4Works closely with the stakeholders to ensure that their interests and concerns are balanced against each other, that they feel heard, and that their requirements are part of the project.Engages the stakeholders to ensure that their requirements are a part of the backlog and that they are included in the sprint review when their features are demonstrated. The key here is good communication and stakeholder management.
5Manages the budget and monitors the progress of the project against the expense of both personnel and material resources. Earned Value Management may be used to understand if the project is on track or is slipping.Responsible for managing the project budget and for tracking expense against return. The product owner is always looking to deliver early and often, in line with Scrum’s interactive approach to value delivery.

These five areas, which are a part of the project manager’s approach to projects, can help the product owner to perform his or her role more effectively. Some have argued that the product owner role is merely an extension and recasting of the traditional project manager role. That debate will continue, but for now the lessons we can share and learn from each role can enhance our delivery of value to our customers.