Product Manager or Product Owner?


(Andy Wootton) #1

I went to my first Product Tank Brum because I have experience of working in a Product Owner (PO) role in a Scrum software development team. The generic version of my role is described in the Scrum Guide
https://www.scrumguides.org/scrum-guide.html#team-po
and I think most tech folks have a rough idea what that involves.

They may be less certain what a Product is and what a Product Manager does? I’ve begun to get a feel for the difference but I don’t think I understand the role with sufficient clarity to describe it succinctly. I am usually working for a customer and/or other stakeholders to meet a need they feel they have and we tend to treat then as the expert who knows, or can learn with our help, what they want.

I feel that a Product Manager is more likely to be or to become the representative of that business expertise but someone else from Product Tank is probably better placed to explain that.
Does anyone fancy trying? @KZAaaaM @paulineroche @sim ?
Is anyone else here yet?


(Simrun Basuita) #2

A Product is a value proposition which suits a certain market. It needs appropriate channels to reach that market, and a strategy for sales and/or marketing. It needs business processes, resources and partners to support it and deliver it to the end user. And of course it needs a profitable business model, i.e. the cost of all that is less than the revenue users generate.

Depending on the particular company and how they’re organised, a Product Manager would be responsible for some or all of the above. They certainly should be aware of all of the above aspects of their product and will probably be working with specialists in different departments on those aspects.

The Scrum PO is often portrayed as someone who ‘knows’ what to build. That’s a really hard question to answer and the Product Manager is the business role to whom that question falls.


(Matthew Steer) #3

Here’s my take.

First, the glib version: the two roles seem to have their names inverted, as in my experience a Product Owner tends to manage the development of a product for a company, while a Product Manager tends to own that product within the company.

I suspect that both roles could benefit from moving towards each other.

I think that POs often don’t have enough authority, and are left to accept the demands of various stakeholders in the business as the inevitable direction the product will go in. This isn’t ideal, as a great product is usually driven by a bold vision coupled with insights from user research and data analysis - stuff that isn’t a core competency of most stakeholders outside the Product discipline.

And I think that some PMs rely too much on “knowing” what to build - being that one figurehead of the product who drives its development and has all the answers. But of course most answers are really just hunches, and there might well be some more insightful hunches and expertise available elsewhere in the business, and again within user research and data analysis.

Caveat: this is all gross generalisation, as every company seems to conceive these roles somewhat differently. Which is part of the problem, of course!

And finally, a good article: https://hackernoon.com/product-101-for-engineers-83ef7260cbf1


(Colin Smith) #4

I think the main difference relates to responsibility in that the project owner is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the project whereas the project manager (depending on your view of course) is responsible for the successful running of it. A bit like the pig and chicken thing.

We find it hard sometimes to find a stakeholder who will take ownership of a project, even when they are the initiator, so bizarrely projects can end up being owned by I.T

this is very true and particularly in the corporate environment; the PO being responsible to the hierarchy above and therefore prone to being manipulated so probably best if the PO doesn’t put the project in the limelight before it’s complete.