Feb 24th, 2022

Product Owner vs Product Manager: What's the Difference?


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'Product Owner vs. Product Manager' is a topic that has been debated infinite times in many communities. Are they the same? Or are they different? If they are different, what is the distinction between the two? These roles are pretty contextual depending on what processes or framework you opt for to build and sustain your Product. To contribute to this, here are a few points to the add-in. 

Who is a Product Owner?

Product Owner is a role that was coined in the Scrum framework, and this role in Scrum Guide is defined as  "The Product Owner is accountable for maximizing the value of the Product resulting from the work of the Scrum Team. How this is done may vary widely across organizations, Scrum Teams, and individuals."  In addition, the Product Owner is responsible for delivering superior quality products to the end-users when they need them.

In addition, the product owner is tasked with optimizing the business value of a product by creating and maintaining the product backlog. 

What does a Product Owner do? (Roles and Responsibilities)

The Product Owner is entrusted to do the following- 

  • Create / Own the Product Vision
  • Identify customer challenges and develop the requirements, arrange them in order of priority, and add them to the backlog.
  • Maps the production processes and oversees the same to ensure that the development team has clarity on what to work 
  • Participates in the required framework-specific events to oversee the product creation alignment with the product roadmap
  • Be available for the Scrum team to answer questions.
  • Review the work done by the team to ensure that it's done as per the acceptance criteria.
  • Demonstrate the Product to stakeholders and evaluate the Product for release readiness.
  • Managing the Product Stakeholders and their expectations

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Top Skills Needed to Become a Product Owner

  • 1You know who is a Product Owner and what they do. But what does it take to become a successful product owner? Here are the skills needed to become a Product Owner.
  • 2Effective Communicator: The Product Owner must be an effective communicator. They should be able to communicate with all the stakeholders. Communication skills are necessary because Product Owners need to articulate and communicate the customer needs and pain points to the development team efficiently.
  • 3Interpersonal Skills: Interpersonal skills supersede communication skills. You can be a great communicator, but you need interpersonal skills to communicate with customers and stakeholders. The interaction will be good if the product owner is a people person.
  • 4The high degree of Empathy: A Product Owner should be empathetic as it will help them understand the pain points and the pressing issues. This helps in making a customer-centric product.
  • 5Good collaborator: The Product Owner needs to collaborate with various individuals and teams to deliver a product that meets customer expectations. Liaisoning between the stakeholders and the customers can be done only if the Product Owner is a good collaborator.
  • 6Technical Proficiency: Product Owners should have the technical knowledge to control the Product's total cost of ownership. Product Owners being more business-aligned, they also need to be IT aligned to ensure quality deliverables to the end-users while controlling the total cost of ownership.
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Who is a Product Manager, and what are the roles and responsibilities?

Product Manager is a role in Product Management that defines the role as a strategic to Product and is a market driving. The Product Manager connects the business strategy, design, and Product potential to the user's needs to build a relevant, feasible, and valuable product for its customers. This role is named differently in different available Agile frameworks.

This role focuses on optimizing the Product's value to attain the business goals and user needs while maximizing the investment returns.

Product Owner vs Product Manager: What's the difference?

Product Manager vs. Product Owner is a search term with a sharp interest in the past decade. We often get questions like 'Are Product Managers and Product Owners the same?' and 'What's the difference between Product Manager and vs. Product Owner?'  Here's a table outlining the differences between Product Manager vs. Product Owner- 

Product Manager

Product Owner

The Product Manager has a razor-sharp focus on building a revolutionary product. They are strategic and farsighted.   The focus of a Product Owner is short-term. Their expertise lies in building products that satisfy customer needs in the present. 
The Product Manager role lies at the intersection of Product, engineering, design, and marketing. They are responsible for product vision, customer search, cross-functional collaboration, and feature prioritization in the sprint backlog.   The Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the development process, translating product vision into the product backlog, and representing the customer's needs in front of the development team.
The Product Manager is instrumental in creating the product roadmap and minimum viable products.  The Product Owner takes ownership of creating user stories, backlog, and epics and implementing them as per the roadmap.
The Product Owner looks after the metrics like Net Promoter Score, conversions, revenue, innovation index, churn rate, etc. The product owner measures success using successful sprints, time to market with cycle time, lead time, etc.

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The Verdict

In the context of Scrum, the Agile Product Managers are the Product Owners. Still, if we are talking about the scaled implementation of the Product using other frameworks like SAFe, then Product Owners and Product Managers have different roles in that structure. But do we need them both? The short answer is no, but the long answer is, well, it depends. Your organization must focus on the end goals and outcomes, not designations.

Business value is a top priority, and the ultimate goal is to use product management to achieve business outcomes. You should list the organizational processes, bottlenecks, and other factors influencing the business to decide if you need both the product owner and the product manager. I hope this settles the debate of Product Owner vs. Product Manager.


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