Home » Operations Management » Product Owner Vs Product Manager

Product Owner Vs Product Manager

August 25, 2023
Bill Kimball

He has product development experience in a variety of industries including financial services, health insurance, nonprofit, and automotive. Kent practices his craft with a variety of product teams and provides just in time resources for product people at KBP.media and Product Collective. When not writing or product managing, Kent is his family’s #ubersherpa, listens to jazz and podcasts , and collects national parks.

Their role is to ensure that there is always a user advocate involved in development meetings. In most organizations, if there’s a Product Owner, the dev team is generally subservient to it and charged with building whatever the Product Owner comes up with.

Takeaways: Give It Time

The product owner’s responsibility is to create the list of backlog items and prioritize them based on the overall strategy and business objectives. Additionally, the product owner will need to map out project dependencies to inform the necessary sequence of development. The potential conflict between PM and PO often ends up in practice as an opportunity to scale functional ownership of the product. In my experience, it’s common for POs to continue reporting to development as organizations “scale up”. I’ve seen this setup work well with the right role definitions and leadership support. I think the ever-broadening scope of the PO role in the literature is a direct result of a realization that gaps relative to the traditional definition of the PM position needing to be filled. But during new product development, pre product/market fit, I find a team is less likely to deliver an effective solution if the roles are split.

product owner reports to

The development team’s sole focus should be on building a good product. The Product Owner should make sure that the team is proceeding in the right direction and the product is shaping up correctly. In recent times, the Product Owner has become an irreplaceable part of an agile project team. Their worth has been validated by their role in driving product value and enhancing stakeholder satisfaction.

They are not actually developing the product—they are performing a Product Management role in close coordination with a Software Development Team, the Scrum Team. Bigger orgs that use these org structures often follow things like SAFe (and maybe this is more the issue than what I’m discussing in this article, but that’s for another time). Under SAFe, there are large-scale integrations called Program Increments, which span some fixed period of time and within which smaller iterations occur.

Should The Product Owner Be A Technical Person?

A. To be a release level Product Owner is a full time job that includes coordinating with stakeholders and managing dependencies in addition to working closely with the development team. This is why, under some circumstances, a product manager can also serve as the product owner. In these cases, the organization will need a dedicated person for this role.

  • Ideally, the PO is collocated with the rest of the team, where they typically share management, incentives, and culture.
  • When the product owner can’t be in a meeting, they can follow the Scrum framework and delegate these responsibilities to others.
  • In the Scrum framework, these responsibilities fall under the product owner umbrella.
  • These are the 5 types of reports a Product Owner needs for increased visibility.

By having a clear vision of the product, the Product Owner defines the Acceptance Criteria for each backlog item and is the best person to address any questions the Scrum team have about the backlog items. In my experience, it’s not unusual for major changes to occur in the direction of a PI at nearly any point in its lifetime . But the new work wasn’t ready to plan, yet, and so “the process” had to be followed. Marty Cagan provides a similar perspective on the difference between product teams and scrum teams and why that difference matters. In contrast to the product owner, there are a variety of different ways to describe the responsibilities of a product manager. As a result, if you’re a product owner, your focus is on the relationship with your team members.

Defining The Vision

The perhaps unsatisfying answer is that there is no universally accurate job description for a product owner. Some companies treat the role as tactical and task-focused—essentially a development ringleader moving the team through its to-do list.

And you also work with product marketing and sales to sell your product and make it available to your organization’s customers. In practice, product ownership ends up being a subset of product management. As projects get more complex and pan global, the need for project managers has grown sharply in the past years, as they, with their expertise and skills are able to steer projects to success.

Developers also expect you to provide them with a steady stream of well-defined, prioritized backlog items. Apart from this, Product Owners lack the required project management skills. The product owner develops a vision of a product’s function and operation, which in turn allows this Scrum team member to define product features and break those features into product backlog items. A product owner works with stakeholders and end users — commonly through techniques such as early user interaction studies and A/B testing — to visualize the project’s ultimate direction.

Why A Scrum Team Needs A Product Owner

It then falls to you to guide the team to deliver that solution by managing the product backlog, writing user stories and working with stakeholders to answer your team’s questions. Now that you’ve seen the responsibilities of product owners vs product managers, here’s a look at four key differences implied in those sets of responsibilities. More often than not, product owners focus on working with the team to build a solution. Product managers work internally with the team, and also have externally focused responsibilities such as understanding customer’s needs, market research, and budgeting. The scrum product owner takes the lead in many areas of product development. One day they will need to access their deep well of market knowledge to strategize and present their vision to stakeholders. Another day they will need to roll up their developer sleeves to help the team meet their goals during a sprint.

What Is An Agile Product Owner?

They should be able to empower the Scrum team and engage developers on how to best solve problems. Serve as the liaison between business stakeholders, Scrum team members and end users. Stay one step ahead of your clients with customer journey mapping. You’ll save time and effort so you can put all your energy into reading your customers’ minds and wowing your clients. Fan-out model for Product Manager, PO, and Agile teamsEach Product Manager can usually support up to four POs, each of whom can be responsible for the backlog of one or two Agile teams. Participate in team demo and retrospective – POs collaborate with their team and any other stakeholders in the team demo. They also participate in the Iteration Retrospective, where the teams gather to improve their processes and are active in the Agile Release Train’s (ART’s)Inspect and Adapt (I&A) workshop.

Some organizations reach that conclusion and have people filling the product management role and the product ownership role. Product Focus offers world class product management training courses for technology-based products. We run live online and face-to-face public courses where anyone can attend to build their skills and learn best practice. We also offer private product management training customized to the needs of a business and delivered online or on-site. You can also sign-up for our free resources on product management and product marketing. Your decision to have product owners, product managers, or both depends on the nature of your organization and how you expect your product teams to operate.

Indeed, an effective product owner in an agile development environment will need to articulate strategic goals. In other words, the product owner will need to have some legitimate product management skills. An example of these skills is the ability to communicate clearly across different departments and excellent listening skills. A tactical member of the product development team attends daily Scrum meetings and prioritize the backlog.

Sometimes they have a technical background, sometimes not, but to be effective in their role they need to have a good understanding of the product and its customers . They need to know what Sales is selling and what Marketing is marketing. They probably have a good idea of when the next product launch date is and what some of the expected features are for that launch. In short, they’re more a part of the business side of things than the IT or developer side of things, typically. This difference arises because product owners often come about because your organization is trying to follow an agile approach or a specific development process. Product managers tend to exist in organizations that aren’t as concerned about following a specific process as they are about achieving specific outcomes. But the driving reason for doing that is broader than making sure the team produces value.

Failing to account for the cost of changing direction, and the delay that obviously necessites, and expecting heroics from the dev team, is unreasonable at best. Are the developers to blame when the above scenario occurs, as it so often does? I would say for larger orgs (non-Startups) it’s kind of the “standard” approach. While the Sprint Report graph looks quite similar to the Burndown Chart, the Sprint Report tracks the amount of work remaining versus time. These are the 5 types of reports a Product Owner needs for increased visibility.

During each Sprint, the Scrum Team feedback to the Product Owner who can then decide whether to ship the product to the customers or to make further refinements before the product goes out. Look, the best way to get a project done faster is to start sooner (no, adding more people isn’t usually going to help). If management delays starting on building the right thing for whatever the reason, that doesn’t suddenly change a 6-month project into a 4-month project. No, presumably the requirements changed because the organization gained better insight into what was needed to delight customers . Assuming the requirements changed for an objectively good reason, from the perspective of the organization, then it only makes sense to adapt to these changes. As of June 2021, Glassdoor.com determined the average salary for product owner jobs in the United States is almost $100,000 with a range of $70,000 – $142,000. In order to do that you have to build and maintain a direct, meaningful connection with your organization’s customers.

They are expected to be accessible to the development team if they need help or have questions. The sales team is out selling whatever they can to get another customer. Marketing is pushing out campaigns trying to drive more inbound leads and to keep the product top-of-mind.

The product owner also prioritizes the backlog to non-Scrum team members. In the Scrum framework, these responsibilities fall under the product owner umbrella. Scrum.org and the Scrum Alliance are reputable organizations that offer certification for product owners. A product owner certification can be especially valuable to someone who is stepping into this role for the first time or transitioning into the Scrum product owner role from other software development models. Maintaining the team backlog – With input fromSystem Architect/Engineering and other stakeholders, the PO has the primary responsibility for building, editing, and maintaining the team backlog.

Now, instead of that person having some middle managers and then product manangers/product owners reporting to them, they have the developer leadership as their direct reports. But you need to be sure that the product owner understands that there is more to being a product manager than managing a backlog and attending standups. They need to understand product discovery and how to interact with sales and marketing. As described above, the product owner role is a subset of the broader product management job.

Then there’s always the situation where the product you’re working on gets so complex that the product activity seems too much for one person. You may at that time choose to split the product responsibilities between a product manager and a product owner. In addition, if you expect your teams to build the solutions they are asked to build then a product owner is probably the best choice. Product managers who understand the role will find themselves underutilized in this situation.