What Every Product Owner Should Know

Being a product owner can be tough, but with our guide to the competencies you need, you’ll be unstoppable.


We’re excited to dive into the topic of product ownership and the essentials that every Product Owner should know. Whether you’re new to the role or have been in it for a while, we believe that the information in this post will be valuable to you.

We’ve compiled a list of must-have competencies and principles necessary for success as a Product Owner, including understanding the agile methodology, user research, market research, analytics, user engagement and retention, and much more.

Our goal is to empower you — the Product Owners who read Get Agile Right — to be the best they can be, to help them deliver great products, and ultimately to make a real impact in the world.

So, let’s get started!

12 Competencies Every Product Owner Should Have

  1. Be familiar with the agile methodology. Know the ins and outs of the agile framework that your organization and team is working with. Learn how to use agile metrics, such as burndown charts, velocity, and cumulative flow diagrams, to track the team’s progress and identify potential issues.
  2. Understand the concept of Lean Startup, and how to use it to build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Learn how to create customer personas and how to write concise, estimable, and testable user stories to guide the product’s development.
  3. Understand the basic principles of user interface and user experience design. Learn how to run user testing and design sprints to validate ideas and improve user experience.
  4. Make yourself competent in the foundations of accessibility and inclusive design, and identify how they relate to your product.
  5. Familiarize yourself with market research and customer research. Find ways to incorporate them into your decision-making process.
  6. Learn how to create and manage a product roadmap, and how to align it with the overall strategy of the organization. Understand the impact of product development on the organization and how to communicate it to the stakeholders.
  7. Create a solid understanding of analytics, including how to run A/B tests and how to use analytics data to make decisions.
  8. Gain a solid understanding of the basics of user onboarding, engagement, and retention.
  9. Talk to the marketing and sales people. Be able to evaluate and make decisions based on the financial impact of product features and development plans.
  10. Familiarize yourself with the legal and regulatory requirements that impact your product.
  11. Understand the concept of Product-Market fit and how to validate it before launch. Become familiar with the concepts of product scaling and know how to plan, and prepare for, and drive growth.
  12. Master the art of working with remote, cross-functional teams, and how to facilitate the communication between those teams’ members.

20 Principles for Success as a Product Owner

  1. Understand the needs and wants of your customers. They are the ones you’re building the product for.
  2. Create a clear vision for the product. Use that vision as a north star throughout its development.
  3. Prioritize epics, features, and user stories based on their importance to the target audience and their alignment to the product vision.
  4. Get to know your market and the competitive landscape in which the product will be launched. Your customers shouldn’t know your competitors better than you do.
  5. Continuously gather feedback from customers and incorporate it into the product.
  6. Empathize with your users — walk in their shoes, learn their pain points, and identify the actual ways in which your product can alleviate them.
  7. Make data-driven decisions. Use market research, customer surveys, and analytics metrics to inform your decisions. Know the difference between qualitative and quantitative research.
  8. Communicate effectively with your team and your stakeholders, from Developers to Scrum Masters to executives, sponsors, and customers.
  9. Build a cross-functional, collaborative team grounded in the Agile Manifesto’s principles. Foster a culture of experimentation and learning.
  10. Be flexible. Adapt to changes in the market, customer needs, organizational requirements, and technical constraints.
  11. Have fewer opinions and more hypotheses. Continuously test and validate your assumptions about the product, including its value, its features, and its customers.
  12. A bright spark in your eyes is infectious, and will take you far. Be passionate about the product and its mission — this energy is contagious, inspiring to the team, and reassuring to the customers.
  13. Remember that your role is almost all about making difficult trade-offs. It’s a product of balance, not perfection.
  14. Be the voice of the customer. Always have the end user in mind.
  15. Familiarize yourself with the full product development lifecycle, from ideation to development to testing to launch to operations, maintenance, and sunset.
  16. Be accountable for the product’s success. Take ownership of its failures.
  17. Become acquainted with the needs and constraints of the development process, and work closely with the development team on meeting those needs and removing those constraints.
  18. Continuously identify and pursue new opportunities for growth and innovation.
  19. Never forget about the importance of product design — not just in terms of aesthetics but also user experience.
  20. Improve, improve, improve. As an individual. As a team member. As the owner of a product.

Read this next: The Key Metrics Every Product Owner Should Track

By Dim Nikolov

Jack of all trades and master of none. Dim is a Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) and Certified Scrum Master (CSM). He has a decade of experience as a stakeholder, member, leader, and coach for agile teams.