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Product Manager vs Product Owner

by StarAgile

March 26, 2020
Category Agile and Scrum



There is always a debate between a leader and a manager in the IT business.  Whether one has understood the difference yet is one part and in the meantime, there is another question that always makes us puzzled. You might play or played this role, but still with confusion. 

The person who owns a product and manages a product is how you can define these two titles in simple English. 

Do both do the same job? Why do they have a different title? Are the titles interchangeable? Yes, these are the questions that most of us have when we first hear the terms. 

The title product manager (PM) is an age-old title used by all product development companies since the 1930s. However, the term product owner (PO) started spreading across nations after 2001 when we started embracing agile methodology in software development projects. We will understand both the terms clearly to find the similarities and differences in them. Only by doing so you will get clarity about PM vs PO. This lucidity is required for you to perform your task in the agile environment without any glitches.  

Role of PO 

After the scrum framework started dominating the SDLC, Scrum master, PO and the team are the three key players in every project. The PO owns the product and lets us see what his role in the organization is. The value of the product is maximized with the help of this person and in agile projects, he wears different hats. Those include a business strategy maker, designing a product, market analysis, liaisoning with the customer, and project manager as well. However, we shall elaborate on the usual role of the PO in the coming section. 

  1. They interact with the customer to understand their need for the product to be developed and defines a clear vision to the team. Further, they work with all the stakeholders to ensure that all are aligned with the defined vision. They act as a link between customer needs and the business objective. 
  2. How does the team maintain the vision? Yes, the PO will create a product road map for them. 
  3. Next, they make a list of the product backlog and manage them too. This is done effectively by mapping the project dependencies. It is because the backlogs are live documents and they need to have constant prioritization based on the outcome and customer need. 
  4. Then they work in defining the scope, budgeting and managing the time to balance the customer and the business. 
  5. They don’t stop with creating a vision and road map but oversee the stages of development. They walk with the team during every sprint, review, and retrospective meeting. 
  6. Evaluates the progress of the product in every iteration and suggest if the team must rework on any particular activity.

Role of PM

Cross-functional teams require a guide to handhold them and improve their performance. This exactly can be done by the PM. The PM is the brand manager of the company and he takes care of every product to be developed as his baby. The “What” “Why” and “When” of every product built by the team are defined by this person. Overall the PM carries out the following work in the organization. 

  • He makes the strategy by setting the product vision. The value of the product is communicated to the team by this person. 
  • Creates the road map, prioritize the goals, and the drives to achieve success. 
  • They make the plan to know how and what the team will deliver. 
  • Decide on the deadlines to make the teams work towards delivery with focus. 
  • The release process is defined and coordinated with every single activity from inception until the product is released in the market. 
  • PM will fix the gap between different functions and align the team together.
  • Further, they support in offering new ideas and initiatives to let the organization work on different products. Also, they communicate these ideas with the customers to give them confidence in the flow of the work.
  • This makes the key difference in this role from a normal manger. Every manager can collect requirements, plan, create a road map and engage customers. But the key role of PM is to prioritize the features correctly based on the initiatives and goals of the business. Here they need to have a firm grip on the product to decide which feature to be done first to make the customer happy at the same time not allow the business to lose any investments. The PM will know the requirement of each feature and the respective user experience. Thus they are capable of working with the engineering team to ensure the technical specifications of the product. 

Difference between a Product Manager and a Product Owner

PM
PO
Outbound 
Inbound 
Strategic thinking
Technical thinking
Works closely with the customer and business 
Works closely with the team and the customer
Create a product road map
Creates a backlog road map
Plans product development, systems, and portfolio. 
Plans and prioritize the product backlog 
Defines vision and work through until it is accomplished. Owns vision
Plan and implement product backlogs. Contribute to the vision
Incharge of product release
Incharge of iteration 
Establishes features acceptance criteria
Establishes story acceptance criteria
Understands the market fit of the product and discuss with the customer  
Gathers requirement from the customer 
Customer and business-centric
Customer and team-centric 

Product manager vs Product owner 

In summary, please understand the key role of both these people and know what they do in common as well. 

Product manager – Tracks the market and keep a check on the competition. He manages the road map in the long term. Interacts with the sales team, customers, and business and expresses ideas as epics. Always be a part of the iteration demo and stand up meetings.   

Product owner – Collects the requirement and consult with the PM for implementation. Works with the team to make them understand the products and creates a backlog. Document all the stories in detail checking with the epics and review the progress. Part of the scrum meeting and groom the backlogs for estimating stories. Documents all the new features and releases orders. 

PM and PO together write acceptance criteria and demonstrates the iterations to the end-user before release. This will allow the customer to share feedback and the collected feedback will then be worked upon by the PM and PO individually to complete the entire process until the customer feels satisfied. 

Final clarity

PO is the role played by an individual in a scrum team to write stories and prioritize backlogs. PM is the job where the person is the brand ambassador of the product. 

We would personally suggest you to attend CSPO training to know more about a PO. Yes, it is important for a PM also to attend this course for role clarity. The course will provide you with the necessary training and practical exposure to build the right product for your organization as a PM or a PO. It enables you to find a job in any scrum team. 


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