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Roles and Responsibilities of SAFe Product Owner

The Scaled Agile Framework shortly referred to as SAFe enables businesses to scale lean and agile strategies. Different roles exist in a SAFe enterprise and among them, SAFe Product Owner is one of the key roles. The person taking this role will act as the voice of the customer and improves the value of the products that an Agile Team makes. Before throwing some light on the roles and responsibilities of a SAFe Product Owner, it is better to know who is a Product Owner in a SAFe Enterprise.

Who is a Product Owner in SAFe?

A SAFe Product Owner is a member of a SAFe Team. This person will work with the product management team and other Product Owners. Also, a Product Owner will work with stakeholders for defining and listing out stories in the Team Backlog. Once the stories are listed out, the Product Owner will also order them based on the order of priority.

Ideally, it would be good for a Product Owner in a SAFe enterprise to work in the same work atmosphere along with other team members. But, nowadays, with most businesses having distributed presence in multiple locations, this is not a necessity.

The good thing about the Product Owner role is that one Product Owner can support multiple Agile teams at the same time. Particularly, the key SAFe Product Owner role is to work with the SAFe Product Manager, who will maintain the overall vision of the product. The key focus of a Product Owner will be on product tactics. 

Types of Product Owners:

Before you know more about the SAFe Product Owner role, it is better to know that this role is classified into different types. Accordingly, the responsibilities also vary. Here are the types of this role to be aware of:

  • The Scrum Product Owner is responsible for a product in wholesome. As his/her responsibility is to improve the value of any product that a business deals with, he/she is often referred to as a value maximizer.
  • A SAFe Product Owner is responsible for owning the product details.
  • A component owner will own the architectural blocks of the product like individual components of a software product.
  • A portfolio owner will manage not a single product but a group of similar products.
  • A platform owner will be responsible for managing a platform as a collection of shared software assets.
  • A feature owner will take care of the key features of a product. Particularly, they will supervise the features that the end-users of the product will be using the most. For instance, when you take an online retailer website as the product, a feature owner will manage the search and navigation of the website.
Who is a Product Owner according to SAFe?

As you intend to know the SAFe Product Owner responsibilities, it is better to know what SAFe defines a Product Owner as. Here is the answer to your question:

According to Scaled Agile Framework, a Product Owner is part of an Agile Team, who is responsible for explaining stories and prioritizing team backlog to contemporize the priorities of program execution. Also, a Product Owner will maintain the technical and conceptual integrity of the features or components for the team. A person taking a Product Owner role will play a considerable role in improving the value of products and making sure that stories meet the needs of users. This is a key role for any organization moving to Agile. This person will support each member of an Agile team. Scaled Agile Framework further adds that this role has  considerable relationships outside the local team like with business owners, customers, product management team and other stakeholders.

Key Responsibilities:

Let us know the SAFe Product Owner responsibilities. Scaled Agile Framework, classifies the responsibilities of Product Owners under certain categories. Here is the list of these categories:

  • Prepare and participate in Program Increment Planning
  • Execution of Iteration
  • Execution of Program
  • Inspecting and Adapting

You can gain a better understanding of the SAFe Product Owner role from the detailed description of roles under the categories above:

Preparing and Participating in Program Integration Planning:

Product Owners are members of extended product management teams in organizations. So, they are hugely involved in the refinement of backlog and the preparation of Program Increment Planning. They will be playing a considerable role in the planning event itself. Before the planning event, these Product Owners will ensure that the team backlog is kept updated. Also, they review and contribute to the vision of the program, content presentations and roadmap. At the time of the event, Product Owners will define the stories and provide clarifications required for aiding the team with their story estimates. Including Product Owners, all members of the Agile Team will work together to identify their team PI objectives for the Program Increment that comes forward.

Execution of Iteration:

When it is time to execute the iteration, Product Owners have a lot of responsibilities to take care of and a lot of roles to play. Here are a few of them:

  • Keeping the team backlog updated: 

Product Owners get inputs from System Engineers and Architects and even other Stakeholders. With the information gathered from these professionals, the Product Owner will be responsible for developing, editing, and even maintaining the Team Backlog. This backlog will encompass User Stories, enablers, and defects. They also prioritize the items in the backlog based on different factors. Some of these factors include time, user value, and other team reliances that are identified at the time of PI planning event and improved at the time of Program Increment.

  • Planning of Iteration: 

As they are responsible for maintaining the backlog, Product Owners will also review and re-prioritize the pending work as an endeavor to the preparation task for iteration planning that encompasses coordinating reliances with other Product Owners. At the time of the iteration planning occurrence, Product Owners will communicate story priorities and details and makes sure that the team accepts and aligns on the closing iteration plan.

  • Under-the-Wire Story Detailing:

When it comes to the implementation, most items in the backlog are detailed into User Stories. In most instances, it happens prior to the iteration. Otherwise, it can happen during the iteration or at the time of iteration planning. Not only Product Owners but any member of the team can write acceptance criteria and stories. Nevertheless, it is the Product Owner, who is responsible for the proper flow. 

  • Application of Behavior-Driven Development:

Product Owners are responsible for applying Behavior-Driven Development. They associate with their teams to create detailed stories along with acceptance rules and illustrations as acceptance tests. 

  • Acceptance of Stories:

The Product Owners work with the team for consent on the completion of the agreed upon the story. This encompasses corroborating that the story rightly meets the acceptance rules with suitable and predetermined compliance tests. Otherwise, it goes in line with its Definition of Done or DOD. With this move, a SAFe Product Owner makes sure of a degree of quality, paying attention basically to readiness for use.

  • Understanding Enabler Work:

Indeed, Product Owners are not anticipated to arrive at technological decisions. Nevertheless, they are expected to comprehend the horizon of the forthcoming enabler work. When they do so, they work and associate with Solution/System Architects and Engineers to aid with decision-making and arrangement of crucial technological framework that will take care of the fresh business process. This can be achieved by instituting a capacity allotment.

  • Take Part in Team Retrospective and Demo:

Product Owners associate with their team. Also, in the team demo, they associate with other Stakeholders. Even, they take part in the retrospective of Iteration. At this event, teams join to enhance their process and are part of Agile Release Trains Inspect and Adapt Workshop actively.

Program Execution:

When it comes to Program Execution, the SAFe Product Owner role is instrumental in the production of system demos for value stream and program stakeholders. During every Program Increment, the Product Owner will have to associate dependencies with other Product Owners in the organization. They will have to do this probably during every PO sync event that should happen every week.

Inspecting and Adapting:

Teams try to find solutions to their bigger hindrances in the I & A Workshops. During these workshops, the SAFe Product Owner responsibilities include working across teams for explaining and bringing improvement stories into practice. In turn, the quality and velicity of the program will increase. The Program Increment System demonstrations will be part of the I & A workshops. Here, the Product Owner will be playing a key role in the production of the demonstration to the PI System for program stakeholders. To make sure that they will be in a position to display the most crucial angles of the solution to the stakeholders. Even, the Product Owners take part when other team members engage in the preparation of demonstration for PI System.

Content Authority:

Scaled Agile Framework holds many artifacts like design artifacts, NFRs, stories, features and many others for guiding the Agile Release Trains with the creation of the solution. The task of prioritizing these task items is taken care of by Team and Program Backlogs. The Product Owner together with the Product Manager will manage these work items besides providing the authority to content of their appropriate backlogs. This relationship is highly collaborative that works efficiently when Continuous Exploration and Design Thinking tools like story, customer journey and empathy maps and personas are used for the promotion of understanding and insight. From the picture below, it will be easy to understand how to distribute the responsibilities among these rules:

Source: ScaledAgile

  1. https://www.knowledgehut.com/blog/agile/safe-product-owner
  2. https://community.atlassian.com/t5/Agile-articles/What-is-the-Role-of-SAFe-Product-Owner/ba-p/1810896
  3. https://echometerapp.com/en/scaled-agile-framework-product-owner/
  4. https://www.scaledagileframework.com/product-owner/



Is a passionate learner and blogger on Agile, Scrum and Scaling areas. She has been following and practicing these areas for several years and now converting those experiences into useful articles for your continuous learning.