What Do Interim Product Owners Do?
Interim product owners quickly step into the product backlog owner's role, taking on the definition and prioritization of sprints and accepting/rejecting requirements-based outcomes. They often take on this role in companies that do not have a permanent in-house product owner. Due to their extensive experience, interim lead product owners can quickly get a product roadmap back on track or jumpstart a new one, with little time spent with onboarding.
Besides owning the product backlog, other essential duties and responsibilities an Interim Product Owner undertakes include gaining a thorough understanding of the end-to-end customer experience, visioning, concept development, and setting objectives and key results (OKRs). They also represent the product and development team to stakeholders, champion the product, and align product requirements with management's priorities.
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Why Hire Interim Product Owners?
Hiring interim product owners is a mission-critical decision that safeguards product development continuity in the absence of a full-time lead product owner. Companies with products already in the pipeline and those contemplating new products need interim product owners to ensure that product development continues uninterrupted.
Interim product managers bring a host of skills and experience in defining, prioritizing, managing the product backlog, coordinating sprints, and assessing releases. By working with an interim PO, companies can avoid the costly risk of development stalling or development teams losing focus on what matters most within the product backlog.
Moreover, interim product owners offer crucial insights and support in the following areas:
Quick Ownership of Product Roadmap
Interim product owners quickly take ownership of the product roadmap, including themes, epics, stories, and features. Leveraging their extensive experience and top-notch skills, they gain a deep understanding of the product's business requirements, using this to gain a holistic perspective of the product roadmap. As part of their roadmap ownership, interim lead product owners analyze and scope product dependencies while incorporating internal and external customer requirements and priorities.
Product Backlog and Sprint Prioritization
By hiring an interim product owner, companies can ensure that the product backlog, the centerpiece of the entire development process, is prioritized continuously. Working within relevant structures such as Scrum, interim POs manage dependencies and set priorities for cross-functional Agile teams. Through constant sprint prioritization, interim lead product owners also ensure all backlog items remain aligned with the release product's roadmap and vision.
High-Level Acceptance Criteria
Interim product owners define and prioritize acceptance criteria through processes like feature scope detailing, describing negative scenarios, streamlining acceptance testing, setting communication, and feature estimation. As the lead product owner, hiring an interim PO ensures outcomes align with customers' expectations, including management's business objectives. Companies that contract interim product owners benefit from their ability to quickly assimilate user requirement data and synthesize a product roadmap and backlog that generate outcomes that align with all acceptance criteria.
Hiring an interim product manager ensures development teams have the right leadership to keep them on track. As experienced leaders, interim product owners are well versed in quickly taking leadership of development teams, assessing and reasserting priorities, and maximizing productivity. They also assume accountability for the development team's outcomes, representing them to stakeholders and acting as a mediator between customer expectations and team capabilities. Through thoughtful leadership and excellent communication skills, they ensure everyone is on the same page throughout the project.
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