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Home » Articles » What is a technical product owner?

What is a technical product owner?

What is a technical product owner

Digital transformation continues to advance, which means software development is becoming more crucial in modern businesses.

Software development[1]  teams follow through with the latest development methods like the agile scrum framework, which is increasingly popular in organizations today.

The role of the product owner (PO) is critical in product development, yet they are more focused on the product itself and its progress. However, there are instances when things can get technical.

In such cases, companies leverage the function of a technical product owner (TPO), which can incorporate both the product and technical side of product development.[2] 

In this article, we will feature the definition and functions of a technical product owner. We’ll also discuss the essential technical skills needed for the job and its importance for businesses.

Definition of technical product owner

Simply put, a technical product owner is responsible for managing the technical aspect of product development. It bridges the gap between the business and technical aspects of software product development.

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Since not all product owners have a technical background, there is a need to fill the role and serve as a technical resource that deals with technicalities.

A technical product owner has extensive technical knowledge about a product, the overall product development roadmap, and the company’s technology.

This enables them to guide the product roadmap and its strategy and communicate them with the agile team.

Definition of technical product owner

Technical product owner vs. Product owner 

Most often, technical product owner and product owner functions are perceived interchangeably. Product owners are primarily responsible for maximizing a product’s value by defining the product’s vision.

While they also design the product’s roadmap, they ensure that the technical product is on the right track to development. Product owners are not required to have technical skills to do their job.

On the other hand, technical product owners don’t handle backlog or expand the product value. They are responsible solely for adding technical elements to the product development.

In a particular agile team, technical product owners collaborate closely with designers, the development team, engineers, testers, and other stakeholders to ensure the plan becomes a reality.

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Functions of a technical product owner

A technical product owner is critical to the success of product development. In some instances, a client’s large-scale infrastructure project requires highly technical capabilities. In these cases, a technical product owner would suffice.

Typically, technical product owners have a wide range of responsibilities. Here are some of the key functions of the technical product owner role.

Technical assistant and consultant 

Technical product owners also act as technical assistant advisors for POs, stakeholders, scrum team, product manager, product management team, C suite, development team, other departments, and clients.

As a technical advisor, they have the necessary technical background to offer expertise in the following areas:

  • Support technical decisions of the product development team
  • Offer a piece of advice and technical assistance in sprint planning
  • Helps define, manage and accept technical stories
  • Assist product owners in stories concerning technical debt
Functions of a technical product owner

Technical resource 

Aside from being an assistant and consultant, they also act as technical resources.

Developing a product requires comprehensive long-term planning and mapping. Thus, having an expert that has an understanding of technical capabilities is a must for product development.

A technical product owner is a strong partner of a product owner.

TPOs are capable of doing the following:

  • Understanding what the customer needs 
  • Work with the development team in creating a technical product strategy
  • Assist and advise the product owner in product roadmap planning and technical decisions
  • Ensure that user stories are prioritized and incorporated
  • Help in sprint planning and backlog prioritization and resolving project dependencies

Customer Liaison 

Some clients are not technically knowledgeable. Thus, technical product owners fulfill the gap that will communicate with customers.

This allows them to understand their needs, explain to customers technical aspects and jargon, and provide them with solutions and dependencies in an understandable way.

Some specific functions included in their role are:

  • Explain technical acronyms to client’s stakeholders
  • Go over the technical side of the product
  • Explain technical requirements needed for the product
  • Act as a bridge for the customer-development team
  • Prioritize product dependencies and engineering complexity
  • Offers solutions to complex technical problems

Essential skills of a technical product owner

Being a technical product owner requires a combination of hard and soft skills. They often deal with complex projects. Hence, advanced technical training and years of experience are necessary.

Here are common skills required from technical product owners:

Technical skills 

As digital transformation constantly progresses, technical product owners must also have knowledge of the latest trends in technology and market offerings.

They should possess the following technical knowledge:

  • Proficiency in software development (programming languages, architecture, backend infrastructure management)
  • User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) design
  • Agile scrum methodology
  • Software engineering
  • Creation and management of user stories
  • Coding
  • Web designing
  • Technical product development
  • Expertise in using software development applications and tools

Project management skills 

Project management is the ability to complete deliverables within a specific timeframe. As a technical product owner, project management skills are essential to help the product development team to stay on track.

Moreover, using project management skills, technical product owners help the team plan, set goals and visions, and monitor the development process.  

Effective communication skills 

The ability to communicate is one of the important soft skills that technical product owners must have. Effective communication, not just in written or verbal but also visually, is the key to collaborating effectively with different stakeholders.

For instance, they are experts in presenting ideas, have a knack for selecting the right sources, and can listen to feedback.

Analytical skills 

This is another essential skill for the technical product owner. They analyze data that provide insights to solve complex business problems.

Being able to think critically and make critical technical decisions is crucial to identifying technical issues and providing solutions to meet business goals.

Problem-solving skills

Technical product owners must be able to solve problems and help the product development team make informed decisions for products and overall business operations.

This includes finding ways to improve the product while saving time and money for organizations. Technical product owner decisions and solutions align with the company’s goals and objectives.

Why is outsourcing technical product owners worth considering?

Technical product owners help businesses in several ways. The role arises when companies need in-depth and extensive technical knowledge.

The technical product owner role role may seem straightforward since it is more focused purely on the technical aspects of a product. However, they still have a unique job in enhancing and bringing great value to the organization. 

Article References:

[1] Software Development. Highsmith, J. and Cockburn, A. (2001). Agile software development: the business of innovation. Computer, 34(9), pp.120–127. 

[2] Product development. Griffin, A. (2002). Product development cycle time for business-to-business products. Industrial Marketing Management, 31(4). ‌

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