Product Manager or Product Owner?

I’ve been attending a few meet-ups/conferences/you-name-it around product management. As I mentioned in a previous post, people in general have a rather poor understanding of the Product Manager’s job. And many of those meet-ups end-up redefining that job (sadly).

One on-going discussion (you could even call it a Troll) is: is a product owner equivalent to product manager?

Let me make that clear: NO.

Sorry if you’re a Product Owner and that you feel you’re doing the same than a Product Manager. Either you’re actually not, or your company didn’t give you the proper job title. And then I strongly encourage you to settle that.

What’s a Product Owner?

A Product Owner is a position that originates from the Agile methodology, just like the Scrum Master position does. Try and ask a Scrum Master if he’s a Project Manager! Well, here it’s the same. A Product Owner, as Agile/Scrum tells us, has very specific tasks and responsibilities to cope with. They have to meet the Agile standards, and doing it properly is a full time job.

A full-fledged Product Owner will work as a duo with the Scrum Master, both ensuring that the Backlog is perfectly refined, including detailed specifications for each story/epic, acceptance tests, etc. He will attend every single Agile meeting. He will be deeply involved in tests and validation.

Don’t get me wrong, there is some overlap, of course. A Product Owner goes further than backlog management. It’s necessary for him to spend time with users, to understand marketing and participate in writing marketing materials. Otherwise he actually can’t do the rest.

Compared to a Product Manager?

The Product Manager, depending on the organization’s size, may co-exist with a Product Owner. But his responsibilities are much larger, and more strategic. A Product Manager will also work on the pricing model, profitability, may be directly responsible for the product marketing, he will be involved in building the sales channel. He will be involved in setting up the organization around the product. And he will also have less time to go in-depth into the Agile methodology.

Product Positions depending on Organizations’ size

In a small organization, Product Ownership is part of the Product Manager’s job, but as he can’t do everything, the rest of the team is also involved in maintaining the backlog.

In a large organization, the person holding all of the responsibilities of a Product Manager, as there’ll be just too  much to do, may actually then be something like a Product Director. He will lead a team of people focusing on specific aspects of product management: product strategy, data analyst, product marketing, product ownership, pre-sales,… Sometimes there may even be several Product Owners in the team, for instance across a portfolio of products and services.

References

A quick Google search will show you that I’m clearly not the first one to write about this, trying to disambiguate. But I’m still hearing that confusion so many times that I think it’s always good to repeat. 🙂

References:

Featured image by Mil0

2 Replies to “Product Manager or Product Owner?”

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