The Best Books to Read as a Product Owner

Updated: Aug 9th, 2022

If you ever wanted to know what do product owners do and how to become one, I have the answers! As a product owner (PO), you play such an integral role in developing your company’s products. Not only is it challenging but rewarding as well because not everyone gets to say they helped bring their project or idea into existence.

Jump to the books

What is a Product Owner?

A product owner is the person responsible for the overall success of the product. They are in charge of continuously gathering, analyzing, and prioritizing user feedback, in addition to setting the vision and strategy for the product. Their responsibility is to ensure that the development team is continually working on what is most important to the users.

The Product Owner (PO) is a member of the Agile Team responsible for defining Stories and prioritizing the Team Backlog to streamline the execution of program priorities while maintaining the conceptual and technical integrity of the Features or components for the team.

Who should be a Product Owner?

A Product Owner is the person who decides what product to build and why, how the work gets done, and constantly staying on top of everything else.

The Product Owners makes sure there is a shared understanding for everyone they are communicate with about the vision for the company and ensuring support for their Scrum team members.

You need to have an excellent relation with your users/customers and your team, being able to communicate what you and the users want and look for within your product.

A Product Owner is the person at a company who makes decisions and helps set priorities around what to build and what not to. They also work closely with the Development Team throughout the product development process, helping provide input and guidance so that they can achieve their shared goal.

The Product Owner is usually someone with business sense who understands the needs of the users and drivers for a product.

The Scrum framework seeks to create an active involvement between all parts in delivering value. The Product Owner is accountable for translating that into measurable features prioritized by market need, stakeholder influence, risk, and complexity.

The individual's ultimate goal will be to maximize return on investment (ROI). The definition below explains further:

“Product Owners are responsible for managing the process of determining what should be built—solutions or enhancements generated from identifying gaps or connecting two existing products. They work closely with other teams involved in development processes to coordinate requirements gathering, developing requirements documents which serve as guides for developers working on relevant tasks”

If this matches your vibe, then go for it!

How to become a Product Owner?

Read, read, and read some more!

A Product Owner is an absolute professional at what they do. They have to be able to create the right ideas for value and be expert at communicating those ideas to the Development Team. You can’t do that if you don’t know anything about how to do that. Your goal therefore should be to be reading at least 1-2 books per month that help you get better at being a Product Owner.

Remember a great Agile Product Owner should be expert at the use of an Agile framework such as Scrum as well as being able to set direction to generate valuable products.

So there are at least two areas you need be reading about

  • Scrum (or another Agile framework)

  • Product Ownership

Start reading

First and foremost read The Scrum Guide

The Scrum Guide

Scrum is defined completely in the Scrum Guide by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, the originators of Scrum. The Scrum Guide is maintained independently of any company or vendor and therefore lives on a brand neutral site. The Scrum Guide is translated and available in over 30 languages. You can read and download the Scrum Guide here.

Impact Mapping: Making a big impact with software products and projects by Gojko Adzic

Impact Mapping

This handbook is a practical guide to impact mapping, a simple yet incredibly effective method for collaborative strategic planning that helps organisations make an impact with software. Impact mapping helps to create better plans and roadmaps that ensure alignment of business and delivery, and are easily adaptable to change. Impact mapping fits nicely into several current trends in software product management and release planning, including goal-oriented requirements engineering, frequent iterative delivery, agile and lean software methods, lean startup product development cycles, and design thinking.

Innovation Games: Creating Breakthrough Products Through Collaborative Play: Creating Breakthrough Products and Services by Luke Hohmann

Innovation Games

Innovation Games Includes twelve games that help you uncover your customers' true, hidden needs and desires. This work helps you learn what each game will accomplish, why it works, and how to play it with customers. It then shows how to integrate the results into your product development processes, helping you focus your efforts and reduce your costs.

Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want by Alexander Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Greg Bernarda, Alan Smith, Trish Papadakos

Value Proposition

You'll love "Value Proposition Design" if you've been overwhelmed by the task of true customer value creation, frustrated by unproductive product meetings and misaligned teams, involved in bold shiny projects that blew up, or simply disappointed by the failure of a good idea."Value Proposition Design" will help you successfully understand the patterns of value creation, leverage the experience and skills of your team, avoid wasting time with ideas that won't work, and guide you through the design and test of products and services that customers want.

My Favorite; Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Bird By Bird

Think you've got a book inside of you? Anne Lamott isn't afraid to help you let it out. She'll help you find your passion and your voice, beginning from the first really crummy draft to the peculiar letdown of publication. Readers will be reminded of the energizing books of writer Natalie Goldberg and will be seduced by Lamott's witty take on the reality of a writer's life, which has little to do with literary parties and a lot to do with jealousy, writer's block and going for broke with each paragraph. Marvelously wise and best of all, great reading.

User Story Mapping: Discover the Whole Story, Build the Right Product

User Story Mapping

You and your team will learn that user stories aren't a way to write better specifications, but a way to organize and have better conversations. This book will help you understand what kinds of conversations you should be having, when to have them, and what to keep track of when you do. Learn the key concepts used to create a great story map. Understand how user stories really work, and how to make good use of them in agile and lean projects. Examine the nuts and bolts of managing stories through the development cycle. Use strategies that help you continue to learn before and after the product's release to customers and users

User Story Mapping is ideal for agile and lean software development team members, product managers and UX practitioners in commercial product companies, and business analysts and project managers in IT organizations—whether you're new to this approach or want to understand more about it.

The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Startups That Win

The bestselling classic that launched 10,000 startups and new corporate ventures - The Four Steps to the Epiphany is one of the most influential and practical business books of all time. The Four Steps to the Epiphany launched the Lean Startup approach to new ventures. It was the first book to offer that startups are not smaller versions of large companies and that new ventures are different than existing ones.

Startups search for business models while existing companies execute them. The book offers the practical and proven four-step Customer Development process for search and offers insight into what makes some startups successful and leaves others selling off their furniture.

Rather than blindly execute a plan, The Four Steps helps uncover flaws in product and business plans and correct them before they become costly. Rapid iteration, customer feedback, testing your assumptions are all explained in this book.

Packed with concrete examples of what to do, how to do it.

Agile Estimating and Planning

Detailed, Proven Techniques for Estimating and Planning Any Agile Project Agile Estimating and Planning is the definitive, practical guide to estimating and planning agile projects. In this book, Agile Alliance cofounder Mike Cohn discusses the philosophy of agile estimating and planning and shows you exactly how to get the job done, with real-world examples and case studies.

Everyday Business Storytelling: Create, Simplify, and Adapt A Visual Narrative for Any Audience

A practical, easy-to-use guide to transform business communications into memorable narratives that drive conversations--and your career--forward

In Everyday Business Storytelling: Create, Simplify, and Adapt A Visual Narrative for Any Audience, visual storytelling experts Janine Kurnoff and Lee Lazarus leverage decades of experience helping executives at the world's top brands--including Facebook, Nestle, Accenture, and Marriot--bring clarity and meaning to their business communications. Whether you're building a presentation, crafting a high-stakes email, or need to influence decisions in your next meeting with an executive, Everyday Business Storytelling offers an insightful exploration of how to develop compelling business narratives.

Strategize: Product Strategy and Product Roadmap Practices for the Digital Age

This book has a perfect and a must complement that all Product Owner or Product Manager should know about how to manage a Product in a successful way. It contains how to define and implement a Product strategy, depending on the kind of product and market, it helps in a very practical way to understand the relationship between the Product Backlog and Product Roadmap, that connects Corporative and Tactic strategy.

And finally stay tuned for the next steps!