Last updated: Omnichannel implementation: Who is the perfect product owner?

Omnichannel implementation: Who is the perfect product owner?


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The product owner is a vital role in any e-commerce or omnichannel implementation project.

In the most successful implementations, they groom and manage the product backlog with authority, and are accountable for ‘bringing the product to life’ by ensuring that new features and benefits are fully realized and the business is satisfied.

It’s a concept that comes straight out of the scrum/agile best-practice playbook. But all too often, when it comes to the rough and tumble of an actual e-commerce implementation, best practices get thrown out of the window, and the role of product owner gets watered-down, or – in worst cases – gets jettisoned altogether.

Hippos and committees

Typically, instead of using a product owner, key product and roadmap decisions get made either via the ‘HiPPO’ method (i.e. Highest-Paid-Person’s-Opinion), or they get bogged down in multi-person steering committees (AKA: well-intentioned hot-air-generation sessions). And as a result, the product experience that gets delivered falls way short of expectations.

The project manager tends to get the blame for this, but really, the underlying issue is that Hippos and committees do not make good product owners!

I see two main reasons why the product owner role is dropped or diluted. First, it’s a term that comes with agile connotations and misunderstandings, and no matter how much an established enterprise says it has ‘gone agile’, typically they haven’t gone all the way – particularly when it comes to backlog management. So, the product owner role doesn’t really fit in.

Second, the notion that a single person, often mid-ranking and without big-management “clout,” is getting to call the shots on something as important as the product roadmap is really tough for hierarchy-led organizations to comprehend. So the product owner gets shouted down/side-lined.

The perfect product owner

Despite this, I urge anyone embarking (or already underway) on an e-commerce implementation to push back, and demand a fully empowered product owner role to be enabled within their project.

Here are four characteristics you need to consider as you search for your perfect product owner:

  1. Someone who truly gets the business context.
  • The perfect product owner has knowledge of your end to end operations; can see things from an end-customer point of view, and a business-user point of view.
  • They know your core product really well (whether its insurance, cranes or swimwear) – and love it.
  • In short – your perfect product owner is someone already inside the business, but ready to make a change to a new discipline.
  1. Someone who knows the details of what, but not the details of how.
  • The perfect product owner stays focused on Features and Experiences, does not get side-tracked architecture and solutioning.
  • This can be hard if their background is in coding or architecting.
  • In short, your perfect product owner is able to put on the blinkers, and stays 100 percent focused on “what good looks like,” rather than “how good is built.”
  1. Someone who is truly empowered
  • Ideally, the perfect product owner has a dotted line direct to the MD / CEO / Most Senior Exec on the project, and can represent them full-time on the project.
  • They act as this person’s ‘representative on earth’, meaning they are trusted to make backlog and feature prioritization calls; and QA and PM management calls, on a day-to-day basis.
  • Your perfect PM needs to have the backing of a big-hitter and the confidence to use their authority, but does not let this power go to their head!
  1. Someone who is able to delegate
  • If they are doing all of the above, they will be busy.
  • If there are anything more than 2 scrum teams, they will need to be supported by additional/assistant Product Owners
  • Hence, your perfect product owner must know how to delegate.

Bottom line: an awesome Product Owner can convert your “OK” implementation project into a great one. Get yourself one today!

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