Everywhere you turn, people are talking about data. From its growth in three V’s (volume, variety, and velocity) to the rise of AI technologies such as smart assistants, automated financial investing and self-driving cars, data tops the agenda at many modern businesses.
But when it comes to data and the use of data products, not every business is seeing the same level of success. Dirty data is often the culprit. But there is another factor that prevents businesses from unlocking the true value of their data. They haven’t hired a data product owner (also known as a data product manager).
Simply put, data product owners are the individuals who are responsible for the development and success of an organization's data products. It’s a big job that requires equal parts strategic thinking, technical savvy, and business acumen. Let’s take a closer look.
What do data product owners do?
Similar to software product owners, data product owners play a critical role in the success of data products. The best data product owners have:
An understanding of the modern data stack
Their finger on the pulse of market trends and needs
A clear picture of business needs and desired outcomes that guides the strategic direction for the data product
The technical acumen to translate business needs into technical requirements
Think of a data product owner as a translator between the data engineers, the data analysts, and the end consumers. Through collaboration across the business, the data product owner collects the needs of the business and interprets them into requirements that the data engineers can develop. They prioritize the requirements that are most critical, manage the development of the data products, and drive adoption with data analysts and data consumers once they are released. In addition, data product owners must ensure that the data used within the data products is clean, secure, and adheres to company-wide governance policies.
Why are data product owners important?
In addition to translating business needs into technical requirements, data product owners play a strategic role within the organization. As the leader responsible for understanding the market landscape, the data product owner prioritizes data product requirements that give the business competitive edge. They set the vision and strategy for the data products to ensure that they align with the business goals. And they define the metrics and KPIs the organization will use to measure success.
Data product owners also manage stakeholders. In addition to keeping them informed about the progress of the data products, they also gather feedback and address concerns, translating this information into actionable requirements for the data teams.
Finally, data product owners help to ensure the successful development, deployment, and adoption of data products. By looking across the organization, they help to ensure that the end data product addresses the needs of the business and that consumers adopt it and use it to solve business challenges.
How do data product owners fit into the data organization?
Data product owners are typically part of the data organization, reporting to the Chief Data Officer (CDO). Because their role is equal parts strategic, business-oriented, and technical, they do not fit neatly within one of those teams. Having the data product owner report to the CDO elevates their role, granting them the authority to make strategic decisions, resolve conflicts, and hold the teams accountable for outcomes.
What are the characteristics of a good data product owner?
In addition to the strategic, business, and technical characteristics we’ve discussed above, it’s also important that your data product owner possess a number of additional traits.
Active listener: data product owners collaborate with many roles across the business, from the executive team to the data engineers. By employing active listening, data product owners can build trust by understanding the needs of stakeholders across the business, communicating those needs effectively to others who need to take action, and delivering data products that align with strategic goals.
Detail-oriented: data product owners manage numerous moving parts. That’s why it is absolutely critical that they have attention to detail. After all, one missing - or miscommunicated - requirement could mean the difference between a highly-successful data product and one that sits on the shelf.
Moderator: data product owners often lead meetings and discussions where conversations can veer off track. And while some tangents are productive, and even necessary, to resolve challenges, others are not. Good product owners can effectively manage discussions and know when to divert a conversation that’s gone off track.
Relationship manager: data product owners interact with a myriad of stakeholders from across the business, each with their own set of goals and ambitions. That’s why effective data product owners also embody the role of relationship manager. From managing stakeholder expectations to advocating for data engineering best practices and standards, the data product must balance the needs of all parts of the business to ensure successful delivery of the data products.
While data product owners are a newer role to the data organization, they are quickly gaining traction as a must-have role for organizations who want to treat their data as a product. Look for data product owners who are comfortable working across the organization, translating the strategic, technical, and business needs into data products that help the business to grow revenue, gain competitive edge, improve efficiency, and drive greater ROI.