chief product ownerChief Product Owner role

Chooses the right direction.

The development of complex products involves more teams developing multiple parts of the product.

In such case, scaling of product owner role is suggested. Overall strategy and vision should be maintained by the role of Chief Product Owner (Product Manager). All other agile practices and patterns are applied by the Chief Product Owner in the same way as in the product owner’s case.

Who can fulfill Chief Product Owner role?

  • Product manager
  • Project manager
  • Senior business analyst

One product owner collaborates with more product owners and architects at the same time.

chief product owner role, product owner and agile team

The Chief Product Owner, product owners, and teams. The picture is from Scaled Agile Framework.

Split of responsibilities of product owners in product management, chief product owner role

Every product owner is responsible for some part of the product

Who usually collaborates with the Chief Product Owner?

The chief product owner needs the support of multiple roles. The product must be successful from multiple perspectives:

  • a business perspective where marketing, sales, operation, strategy & innovation groups might be very helpful to Chief PO,
  • a system perspective supported by multiple product owners responsible for particular part(s) of the systems being developed,
  • a technical perspective with which enterprise architects or system architects might help a lot.

The chief product owner is a leader the product ownership “circle” is established from the roles mentioned above. This circle prepares strategy, high-level plans, initiatives, epics, and features in regular sessions up to necessary details. High-level details will be provided by product owners responsible for a particular part of the product.

Due to complexity, it is good to not have more than 10 people in such product ownership circle (golden rule of team organization in agile).

This team used to have regular standups. It is not necessary to have them on daily basis, but in case of high risk, it is highly suggested.

Responsibilities of chief product owner role

  • Communication with key stakeholders and product sponsors.
  • Accountability for the product vision and strategy.
  • Very often the Chief product owner is responsible for budgeting of requirements.
  • Coordinates product development on a high level.
  • Accountable for product vision. Product owners are responsible for product’s parts in such case.
  • Responsible for definition of MVPs extending product in multiple versions continuously.
  • The chief product owner coordinates the split of requirements into system parts and into other related products with the support of the architect and product owners.
  • Responsible for business themes, features and sometimes for epics definition. The chief product owner is typically not responsible for user stories definition.

Typical mistakes

  • Chief product owner defines detailed requirements.
  • The chief product owner doesn’t collaborate with product owners on daily basis.
  • Chief product owner doesn’t coordinate technical aspects with architects.
  • Chief product owner doesn’t communicate with business leaders.
  • Missing vision and strategy of the product portfolio.
  • Weak coordination of vendors.
  • Chief product owner role is too much focused on details and not on strategy.
  • Weak transparency of future plans.
  • Project orientation, not a product thinking.
  • Missing economic framework for product development. How budget is defined, distributed in product development pipelines.
  • Weak coordination of the product ownership circle team.