Are you looking to learn what product managers (PMs) & product owners (POs) are and how they differ? Search no further! This product manager vs product owner article covers everything you need to know.
Over the years, the technology world has advanced beyond measure. Organizations have transited from simple products with a few features to developing complex solutions. A typical product is built with hybrid technologies and can perform complex functions. Much work and expertise go into building and maintaining feature-rich, fast, and reliable products.
As a result, product engineers have evolved to meet the current demands for feature-rich, complex products. From conceptualizing a product to development and maintenance, engineers with different skills and expertise get involved. So, a development team is broken down into subteams (like designers, developers, and QA experts), each focusing on a given part of the product.
For these teams to achieve the company’s goals, they have to collaborate and work as one. If they work as islands, they can’t achieve a common goal.
This is where product managers and product owners come in. They are product experts who help foster collaboration among sub-teams and ensure everyone is working towards the main goal.
Product managers and product owners play the vital roles of ensuring the delivery of great products that captivate customers. However, the roles are different.
This article will explain the difference between a product manager vs product owner. Keep reading!
Table of contents
- What is a Product Manager?
- What is a Product Owner?
- Product Manager Roles and Tasks
- Product Owner Roles and Tasks
- Product Owner vs. Product Manager: Differences
- Advantages of Counting on a Product Owner vs Product Manager
- Project Manager vs. Product Manager vs. Product Owner
- How Your Company Benefits from a Project Manager
- Product Manager vs Product Owner Summary
What is a Product Manager?
A product manager is responsible for ensuring the successful delivery of a product. This strategic role involves conducting user research and determining the features to be included in a product. In addition, a product manager coordinates the team to achieve the organization’s goals, designs a long-term product strategy, and creates a product roadmap.
A product manager analyzes the market to gain business insights, which helps in building a product that will be successful in the market. Product managers often possess the technical background needed to transform user stories. The person who occupies this role is the link between other stakeholders and the development team.
What is a Product Owner?
A product owner acts in the interest of the client and end-users to ensure that developers do what they are supposed to do at every phase of product development. The Product Owner roles covers the management of a product’s backlog, which outlines tasks to be accomplished. A product owner makes the development team focus on the right tasks – according to the product strategy created by the product manager.
The product owner is a role in the Scrum Framework, a subset of the agile methodology. According to the Scrum Guide, a product owner 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. The Product Owner is also accountable for effective Product Backlog management, …”
Product Manager Roles and Tasks
Even though product managers and product owners have some things in common, there are differences between product manager roles and product owner roles. That said, let’s take a look at the tasks they perform in organizations.
The roles of a product manager vary from company to company. Factors like the size of the company and the type of project determine what roles a product manager plays. Here are the major responsibilities of product managers:
Creating the product strategy and vision is one of the fundamental roles of a product manager. Depending on the product type and how the company operates, the person leverages vital metrics to develop a strategy for product development. This is also ongoing as the product manager continues to devise strategies to optimize product performance using customer feedback and market trends.
Market Research and Analysis
The business world is complex and ever-changing. Relying upon old data to build a product is a recipe for failure. This is why market research and analysis are part of what product managers do to ensure customer needs are met. Through customer feedback, surveys, and other forms of research, PMs get the insights they need to build successful products.
PMs are responsible for creating product roadmaps. Road mapping determines what the company wants to achieve and the actionable steps to achieving the goals. In collaboration with engineers, the roadmap for every phase of development is created. Typically, the product roadmap is subject to changes when feature specifications change or technical issues arise.
Feature Definition and Prioritization
What features to include and when to build them are determined by product managers. The decisions of a PM are data-driven. This means that the features to include in a product are determined by customer feedback and market trends. PMs work with engineers and stakeholders to include important features and build the best products possible.
The development team validates a product’s capabilities through beta testing. Conducted by QA engineers, beta testing is done to ensure a product properly performs what it is built to do. A product manager supervises the testing process to ensure it’s thoroughly implemented. This phase is crucial as it helps boost the chance of launching a successful product.
Launch and Post-Launch Activities
A product manager participates actively in the product launch phase. From marketing to sales preparation, the PM ensures the product is successfully launched. Sales performance and what users say about the product are tracked and used to improve the product. In addition, a PM oversees post-launch activities, like product update, bug fixes, and ensuring the product remain competitive.
You can also read our blog on How to Build a Software Development Team.
Product Owner Roles and Tasks
The product owner roles are defined by the Scrum guide. Here are the tasks a PO performs in a Scrum-based team:
Product development involves a number of experts. It’s easy to lose touch with other workers if the team is big. One of the major roles of POs is to make sure that designers, developers, and every engineer on a project work together to deliver a great product. In other words, product owners work hand in hand with business stakeholders and engineers to ensure the solution is built according to the product roadmap.
Management of User Stories
Another product owner role is, creating and managing user stories. User stories help developers create features perfect for end users. User stories are explanations of product features from the end-user’s point of view. A PO understands customers’ wants and uses user stories to tell developers what to build.
Product Backlog Management
Also known as backlog grooming, involves a process in which stakeholders and PMs meet to look at the backlog’s content. This is to review the items in the backlog. Old user stories are removed and replaced with new ones. Additionally, the tasks are arranged based on priority.Tasks Review
A product owner doesn’t stop at creating user stories; the person is also responsible for ensuring the engineers develop the features properly. By checking the completed work, a product owner ensures that every criterion is fulfilled. In cases where some things are left out, PO draws developers’ attention to them.
The Communication Link
Aa one of the product owner roles is to serve as the communication link between the customer and the development team. Similarly, the PO stands between the developers and other stakeholders. When confusion or questions arise, the development team relies upon the PO for clarification. This constant exchange of information keeps everyone in the loop and facilitates the creation of flawless products.
Read our blog about the top 10 Software development KPIs.
Product Owner vs. Product Manager: Differences
In this section, we’ll explore the differences between product manager vs product owner.
Product Owner Roles are Scrum-Based, While Product Manager Roles are Not
A product owner is a position that only exists in the Scrum Framework. And the responsibilities of a PO are defined by the Scrum Guide. So, there is no product owner in project teams that are not using Scrum-based methodology. On the other hand, the product manager position is not limited to the Scrum framework. Any product development project requires a PO – whether the title is officially assigned or not.
A Product Manager Takes Care of the Entire Development Cycle
While product managers are responsible for managing the entire product development lifecycle, product owners’ roles don’t go beyond the Scrum-based development lifecycle. In other words, the roles of PMs are broad (from road mapping to beta testing, launch, and post-launch activities), while those of POs are narrower – as defined by the Scrum Guide.
A Product Manager is More Collaborative
According to the Scrum Guide, the product owner can independently make decisions about product features without supervision. The company is expected to believe or accept that the PO is competent enough to deliver great results. In contrast, a PM is expected to employ a collaborative decision-making strategy.
The biggest difference between a product owner vs product manager is that the PO position doesn’t exist outside the Scrum Framework. But the PM position exists in any product development team.
Advantages of Counting on a Product Owner vs Product Manager
Next, we’ll look at the advantages of having a product manager and a product owner. Whether you have one or both positions in your organization, you stand to enjoy a range of benefits.
Key Benefits of having a Product Manager
To build a product that aligns with your company’s goals, developers and other professionals must work as one team. The product manager fosters collaboration and helps all experts to be on the same page. A PM creates a structure that defines everyone’s role and minimizes the ambiguity of having people from different professional backgrounds on the same project.
Building a Customer-First Product
No matter how feature-rich a product is, it won’t be successful if it doesn’t properly help the target market. To avoid building a solution that doesn’t appeal to the customers, PMs do market research to find out what the customers want. And collaborate with developers that include features that solve critical problems in the market.
Higher Chances of Success
Having a product manager in a project doesn’t totally remove the probability of the product failing. However, the roles a PM plays help to boost the chances of building a successful product. In other words, a product manager substantially reduces the risk of product failure. This is because PMs stay in touch with customers and market trends to ensure suitable, competitive products are developed.
Efficient and Organized Development Process
A product manager creates the product strategy that guides the engineers during development. Everyone knows what is expected of them and how accomplishing tasks affects other team members and the project. PMs keep the entire process efficient and organized, from developing the product strategy to market research, beta testing, and post-launch optimization.
Key benefits of having a Product Owner
Availability for Daily Communication
A product owner bridges the gap between the development team and other stakeholders. For proper collaboration to happen, there is a need for consistent communication among the parties involved. A PO answers developers’ questions and ensures they follow the product roadmap. POs keep everyone updated about the product.
What happens when a product owner keeps everyone updated? Every designer or developer on the project will understand what is expected of them and work with others to deliver a great product. In the Scrum Framework, the product owner position is instrumental to the project’s success. And fostering collaboration is a major advantage of having a PO.
A product manager keeps tabs on what the development team is doing to ensure it properly captures user stories. When a PO finds out that a feature needs to be included or optimized, the person ensures developers’ attention is drawn to it. In a nutshell, POs supervise daily progress to ensure that every task or milestone is adequately completed.
Next, we’ll compare a project manager with a PM and a PO. What is a project manager, and what roles does the person play in a company?
Project Manager vs. Product Manager vs. Product Owner
A project manager is responsible for managing a project with a defined scope, a start, and a finish. The person is well-trained and has the skills to plan and execute a project. A project manager executes a project from start to finish, ensuring deadlines and KPIs are met.
Even though these three positions are closely related, each is distinct. And the positions to include in a project depend on the size of an organization and the complexity of the project. In some instances, a product manager performs the duty of all three.
While a project manager is responsible for managing (planning, procurement, and execution) the project, a product manager is responsible for the entire lifecycle (from developing product strategy to customer research and product launch) of the product being built in the project.
The roles of a project manager and a product owner are significantly distinct. While the project manager focuses on ensuring the project’s success, a product owner works directly with the engineering team to ensure the product is built according to the product roadmap.
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How Your Company Benefits from a Project Manager
Having a well-trained professional take up the project management role is significantly beneficial. Here are the ways your company can benefit from a project manager:
Good Management of the Budget
Every project needs adequate financing. And having a massive budget doesn’t automatically translate to efficient project execution. When funds are not properly managed, your company can run out of resources at critical stages of the project. With a good project manager, funds are appropriately channeled, and your project is executed cost-effectively.
Great Time Management
One of the major responsibilities of a project manager is to ensure that project deadlines and KPIs are met. The more time a project takes, the more money your company needs to keep things running. A project manager ensures that a project doesn’t stay longer through good planning and the provision of necessary resources.
Management of Project Challenges
Every project has peculiar challenges and potential risks. When there is no professional to address challenges proactively, things are about to get out of hand. This explains why projects fail. A good project manager identifies risks and implements measures to avoid them.
Product Manager vs Product Owner Summary
Product managers and product owners improve product development processes and boost the chances of building successful products. Depending on your project or company preference, you may choose to have both positions (if you implement the Scrum Framework) or work with a product manager only.
If you are finding it difficult to decide the best product development approach or want to learn more about PM and PO, talk to us at ClickIT, the best DevOps Nearshore team. We can help you assess your project and recommend the best approach.
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A product owner makes sure the development team does the needful. The person is also responsible for creating user stories and managing the product backlog.
Yes! In an organization where both roles exist, product owners report to product managers.
Yes! A product manager can also be a product owner. And vice versa.
No, a product development team can do without a product owner. The role of a PO only exists in the Scrum Framework. Not every company uses Scrum.