The solution owner is a customer-facing role accountable for the features of a solution but does not have the final say regarding the prioritization of rocks for an individual team. A solution owner must collaborate with a backlog owner to get their features into the solution.
The reality of “product ownership” is that many individuals nominated for the product owner role are primarily business people with little or no technical knowledge. Their interests are outward-facing; they are more concerned with what the customers really want from the solution, and prefer to defer technical innovation and implementation details to the technical team.
This leaves the team with a gap: Who will make the key decisions about these technical details? This is why we differentiate the roles of the solution owner and the backlog owner.
The solution owner
- Is more outward-facing and customer oriented
- Typically takes a strategic view and owns a solution roadmap
- Is accountable for the value created by the solution
The backlog owner
- Is more inward-facing and technology oriented
- Takes a tactical view and is accountable for all the rocks in the backlog
- Is responsible for maximizing the value delivered by the team
- Ensures the team is not starved and accepts their work
In some circumstances, it may be possible for one individual may be able to play both the role of backlog owner and the solution owner. However, given the demands made on both these roles in most enterprises these roles will be played by different individuals.
Naturally, the interests of the solution owner and backlog owner need to be aligned; otherwise, there is a potential for conflict.
To learn more about managing the Backlog Owner, Solution Owner(s) relationship refer to chapter 4 of the Rock Crusher “The Challenges of the Ownership Roles”