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The Nightmare Of Hiring A Product Owner

The Nightmare Of Hiring A Product Owner

On LinkedIn at the moment, there are over 3500 available job positions for Product Owners across Germany. Product Owners are very rare and finding a great one is similar to finding a unicorn, an extremely difficult task for executives like you, that's why this blog post is dedicated to the art of hiring a product owner.

Demand for skilled talents in the digital business space is constantly rising and some crucial and difficult positions such as Product Owners are extremely difficult to fill, more like an endangered species.

We have discussed with several different Product Directors, Heads of Product, and other executives, and they have made us understand how tough it is to find and hire competent Product Owners in the job market.

Skilled and very competent Product Owners hardly leave their current company except if they have to do so for a better opportunity in an attractive company.

Even if you have an attractive position and a great business, the type of compensation Product Owners demand may be well above what you are willing to offer.

Also, many of the Product Owners who are currently available on the job market or within a company may not have the required skills to effectively drive a product development team. Worst still, those who have the skills to do so may not have the basic industry background to deliver as expected.

Hiring a Product Owner who is capable of making a positive impact and initiating business development by offering impeccable customer experience is difficult. In many cases, companies had to hire someone who lacks most of the skills they really need and then invest a lot of resources into helping them acquire and build the necessary skills.

But why is that so? Let’s find out!

Agile in IT

Many of the companies who use Agile only use it for IT. Agile was designed as a solution to the old service-provider paradigm between businesses and IT.

So many things happen between ideation and delivery and a whole lot of time is often wasted before the product ends up with the delivery team.

Agile was designed to provide seamless integration between businesses and technology. However, it didn’t fix the basic challenge, and in the process, it created an alternative solution known as Product Owner. As observed in many situations, the solution is neither the product nor the owner.

Agile’s fundamental focus is delivery, not exploration or business growth.

As such, at best companies boast of teams that can deliver very fast, over and over again and increasingly. But nobody wants the products they're delivering. In the end, Agile only succeeded in creating Product Owners who are only professionals in delivering and implementing instructions.

Project Managers Based on Orders

Many Heads of Product, Product Managers, and Chief Product Officers are interested in hiring people with some specific skills in the job market that are extremely difficult to find. These include skills in Strategy, traditional Product Management, Marketing, Sales, and Business integrated with cutting-edge mindset and procedures from Lean Startup, Lean UX, Agile, and Lean.

As it is right now, many Product Owners have project management or technical backgrounds and they don’t have the skills to design products customers will fall in love with. Their experience and professional background are on delivery, not product development. At best, they are effective at executing instructions. Someone gives them an order and they go ahead to implement it.

At their best, they end up with a Business Case. At worst, they end up with projects. It is not a common case for Product Owners to be assigned strategic objectives and they are the ones responsible for building a business case authenticating it repeatedly with clients and unveiling MVPs until they attain Product-Market Fit.

A New Paradigm for Hiring a Product Owner

Most of the Product Owners have a project management background or an engineering background. As such, they do not have essential management skills.

Nonetheless, many of these Product Owners do not need management skills as a result of how their companies are organized. They are expected to work as instruction takers, delivery managers, or backlog administrators.

So how exactly can they cope if they decide to look for other jobs beyond their current job scope and consider other real digital product organisations?

Or what if the firms they currently work for restructure their business models to become a real customer-centered product organization?

For companies to become genuinely Agile and thrive in the digital era, they have to organise for products and make the most out of the role of the Product Owner by transforming them into real Product Managers with absolute responsibility for building products customers will love to achieve business goals.

If you’re running a digital business, it is crucial to ensure that the Product Owner and Product Manager are the same individual. If you decide to separate this role into two different positions, you may end up stopping your team from evolving and constantly creating value for your company, clients, or customers.

Also, the extra duties of the product manager are what allow effective product owners to make better decisions in a product company and they are what is usually missing in the job market.

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