A Product Owner vs Product Manager – What is the difference? Which one would be better and more important to achieve your goals? Which one would be more foundational and which one functional? Maybe the roles are equally vital to you now?
As the project management methodologies are now understood and needed more than ever, the role of an owner and manager are often mixed up or used interchangeably, like Product Manager, Product Owner, and Project Manager.
Scroll down to find out more about the roles of Product Owner vs Product Manager – their definitions, differences, and similarities.
What we will discuss in this article:
- Product Owner vs Product Manager – the origins.
- One product, two roles: internal and external.
- Why we should always distinguish the role of a Product Manager and Product Owner?
- What if a Product Manager wants to become a Product Owner? That’s possible!
- Experts on Product Owner vs Product Manager.
#1 Product Owner vs Product Manager – the origins
Have you ever wondered what was first when thinking about a product and management in the context of Product Owner vs Product Manager?
Well, it started in the ’80s in the Silicon Valley – where 90 growing tech enterprises focused on product development employed 25,000 people. Managers, mainly in web companies, were indeed Product Managers (firstly called producers). They were hired post-founder in new companies and carried out many tasks like designing, debugging and gathering data.
The concept of a Product Owner emerged just after the introduction of the Agile Manifesto in 2001. Initially, a Product Owner was supposed to act as a proxy for customers and a communicator of tasks to developers. In these twenty years when many product creators were working as consultants in enterprises, Product Owners were working internally in the given business, e.g. sitting with the team of product designers, prioritizing tasks and managing the backlog of work.
#2 One product, two roles: internal and external
The titles Product Owner and Product Manager are in fact quite similar as it comes to titles – in the end, they are both management roles. Both PM and PO work hard with teams to deliver products and carry out projects successfully together.
A Product Manager works externally follows the current trends, focuses on what happens on the market, and provides a wider, fresh perspective into the organization. The main goal as it comes to the product is the involvement in implementing processes and ensuring that the product meets market needs and, ideally, fills a niche. Product Managers act more strategically, build relations among clients, partners, stakeholders, sales and different departments.
Product Owners, in SCRUM, work internally, taking care of the whole process of product creation and deployment. It is expected of them to be available for team implementation – support, coordinate, ensure that all the complex requirements are met on time, respond to queries and, generally, keep an eye on everything that involves the product and people creating it. Taking all those functions, while working under pressure of so many tasks, a Product Owner in contrast with Product Manager does not have enough time to follow market trends. What’s more, a PO is focused deeply both on current sprint tasks and at the same time preparing details for the next ones.
#3 Why we should always distinguish the role of a Product Manager and Product Owner?
It appears that these two management roles should be treated separately and given to different people. A person suited to be a Product Manager is responsible for long-term processes, market-focused, collaborative, visionary.
The right candidate for being Product Owner would be caring about short-term tasks, coordinating implementation and focus more on the organization itself.
Ideally, when these two roles complement and interweave – both Product Owner and Product Manager should not ignore each other’s work. Product Managers can take care of the process of implementation serving long-term goals and Product Owners can have access to the market by direct contact with clients and getting feedback.
#4 What if a Product Manager wants to become a Product Owner? That’s possible!
1. UNDERSTANDING A PRODUCT
Managers can in fact become owners when they want or need to deal with designing products. The most vital requirement is that they:
- know everything about the product in a relatively short period of time
- are experienced and trained
- understand client’s and user’s perspectives and needs
2. TIME FOR RESEARCH
Let’s be honest: the process of becoming a Product Owner takes some time – a fresh PO should screen the market, business, and clients with strong motivation and scrutiny.
#5 Experts on Product Owner vs Product Manager
Finally, let’s find out what management professionals have to say about those two roles. It will allow you to understand these concepts better and learn what authorities of management highlight in their comments below when it comes to responsibilities, good practices, and insights.
- “Behind every project is a “why”. There’s business rationale. Or there’s a customer problem. Or there’s a strategy that you’ve adopted. As someone who’s breaking into product, the why is not always apparent. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know why. Ask, get some clarity, and you’ll have the context you need to add real value.” – Daniel Di Bartolo
- “Put a communication plan in place and measure its effectiveness periodically throughout the project.” – Myles Miller, Lead Up
- “An exceptional product manager maximizes transparency and doesn’t use information as a means of control. They communicate clearly, completely, and concisely, all the while giving others real information without fear of what they’ll do with it.” – William Bauer, managing director
- “I recommend that you participate in the Daily Scrum at least twice a week as the person in charge of the product. This allows you to understand what’s happening in the current sprint, and if and how you can help.” – Roman Pichler
- “A role of Product Owner is very demanding and requires applying and adapting a wide range of skills, broad view of the subject knowledge and excellent communication and multitasking skills.” – Łukasz Krzyżek, Scrum Master
- “Stakeholders come in many different forms, they may be customers, users, managers, colleagues, etc. etc. and as a Product Owner, you need to manage them and collaborate with them effectively, in order to maximize the value of your Product.” -Robin Schuurman
This article is a part of Handbook:Building a Software Development Team: From Hiring to Talent Development
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