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The IT Product Owner: A Make or Break Role for Digital Transformation

By Bradley Clerkin
CTO, BreakFree Solutions

The role of the IT product owner is required for doing cloud and digital at scale. Enterprise companies that successfully develop digital products know a critical success factor is having a cloud-native platform that’s built as a product for developers and engineers. Whether it’s AI, machine learning, software development, or any cloud-based initiative, a cloud-native platform developed and operated as inner-sourced products are the common thread. This has led to the realization that IT organizations need IT product owners who are internally focused on building cloud-native platform products.

Enterprises looking to establish IT product owners must understand that it’s not simply a title you bestow on high-performers interested in leading cloud initiatives. When we work with leaders in establishing the role of IT product owners, we take the following approach:

1. Establish a governance framework for IT product owners that ensures they are appropriately supported in their roles and held accountable to clear metrics-driven results. Most of the time, this means having a quarterly meeting between stakeholders and IT product owners to review budget and metrics in addition to organizational challenges and barriers that stakeholders may need to assist with resolving.

2. Establish a new job description that clearly articulates the criticality of the Product Owner position, and the responsibilities, requirements, and competency required to be effective in the role.

Example Product Owner Job Description:

3. Provide coaching and pairing from BreakFree subject matter experts in IT product ownership to shore up your team’s skillset gaps. We train our IT product owners how to effectively co-own the platform and help potential client IT product owners develop skills and fully take on the role.

4. Work with stakeholders and finance leaders to align budgeting processes with our governance framework. This is fourth on our list as it typically takes the longest, and the conversation isn’t worth having until you’ve made impacts with platform products and can demonstrate why funding models need to change from project-focused to product-focused.

The IT product owner is a make-or-break component of digital transformation. The platform product(s) IT product owner leads the development and gives enterprises a competitive advantage against start-ups and other competitors. The IT product owner is the key to enterprise-scaled cloud adoption and digital transformation. To ensure this role is effective you need to establish a new governance model, job description, support model, and funding model.

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