The Difference between a Product Manager and Product Owner

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Agile methods are widely adopted by software development teams in large and medium scale organizations. The product manager and product owner are key players when implementing any lean-agile methods. Their roles are quite distinct and you need to understand them in order to successfully align all enterprise levels to achieve a common goal.

It’s not surprising to find a product owner who is performing the roles of a product manager in the organization. In fact, the difference between these two lies in their roles and not the title. It is possible for the product owner to take on the roles of the project manager or perform both at the same time. Their jobs basically overlap especially in projects that involve large teams or span multiple departments.

Who is a product owner?

The product owner is defined in Scrum as the key stakeholder in the project whose work is to create a vision of what he/she wants to develop and convey that vision to the rest of the team. In fact, without this vision, the agile development project cannot begin. The product backlog contains a list of key features that need to be in the product in order for it to achieve its vision. The product owner needs to have a good understanding of the marketplace, the competition and ongoing trends to facilitate creation of a system that meets user needs and business goals.

The main roles of a product owner

  • To create a vision of what needs to be developed
  • To clearly express the items to be included in the product backlog
  • To optimize the value of the work done by development teams
  • Ensuring that a clear, transparent product backlog is developed for all
  • To identify areas that the Scrum team needs to work on

Who is a product manager?

The main duties of the product manager lie in maintaining and managing the strategic direction that the product and entire enterprise takes. The product manager must remain in constant communication with the customers and prospects and overall market in order to ensure that value is delivered to target clients. The product manager will often have to travel to customer sites, attend sales and management meetings and basically understand the internal and external activities in the organization that may hinder product development. Some of the aspects that the product manager focuses on do not directly affect the development teams. For instance, the product manager will make sure the marketing message sent to potential clients is cohesive with what the business wants to achieve.

Sometimes you may be tasked to play the role of both product manager and product owner. What you need to understand is that, you don’t have to do everything at once. You can always delegate someone to act as the product manager as you focus on your roles as product owner. Getting certification as a product owner/product manager also enhances your skill and equips you with all the tools you need to effectively perform your roles.

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