• Project management
  • by Justyna Kot
  • 26/11/2019

What is the difference between a Product Manager and Product Owner?

You’ve probably heard the terms “Product Manager” and “Product Owner” used a lot to describe the process of developing digital products. But how does the Product Manager differ from Product Owner? These two terms are often used interchangeably – and, admittedly, there exists some overlap between the responsibilities of these…

Concise Software - Product Owner vs. Product Manager

You’ve probably heard the terms “Product Manager” and “Product Owner” used a lot to describe the process of developing digital products. But how does the Product Manager differ from Product Owner? These two terms are often used interchangeably – and, admittedly, there exists some overlap between the responsibilities of these two roles.

However, a Product Manager and a Product Owner are two entirely different positions. In this article, we take a closer look at the role of the Product Owner vs. Product Manager to explore the various skills and responsibilities which are part of each job.

Who is a Product Manager?

Product management is an area that focuses on the strategic promotion of product development, market launch, and continuous support of the company’s products. A Product Manager is a role that concentrates on crafting a long-term strategy and product vision.

Product managers are also responsible for researching market trends and identifying new opportunities for the company. Moreover, a Product Manager supports the sales and adoption of the product, ensuring that it meets the needs of the target customer segments.

But that’s not everything! Product managers are also usually involved in areas such as customer care – supporting product sales, budgeting, long-term vision, product marketing, and assisting the solution delivery team.

Who is a Product Owner?

The role of the Product Owner traces back to the Scrum Agile framework of product development and maintaining. That’s why you’ll be most likely to find Product Owners at organizations that implement the agile approach to building digital products.

Here’s the main difference between Product Managers and Product Owners:

Product Owners are more tactical than strategic. They transform high-level visions developed by Product Managers into detailed requirements.

Product Owners often work with a wide range of stakeholders for the product, including finance, security operations, audit, support, and other departments. But most importantly, they work closely with delivery teams to make sure that they build the right functionalities within an appropriate timeline. To accomplish that, Product Owners carry out tactical activities such as monitoring the work, carrying out analysis to make sure that the requirements are ready to be worked on by the team, and managing the Product Backlog to maximize the value of the product.

As you can see, the responsibilities of a Product Owner and Product Manager may overlap sometimes.

What is the difference between a Product Manager and a Product Owner?

Here’s how we define it at Concise Software:

While a Product Manager concentrates on external factors, a Product Owner focuses on the internal aspect of product development.

A Product Manager meets potential customers, gathers their feedback, and carries out market research. A Product Owner establishes a relationship with the Development Team and ensures that the production processes are carried out correctly.

Product Managers are strategic; they focus on the product vision, the market, and the company’s key business objectives. Product Owners, on the other hand, are more tactical – they’re responsible for translating the Product Manager’s strategy into actionable tasks for cross-functional Agile teams and make sure that developers deliver the requirements set for products.

What is the role of the Product Owner in Scrum?

As we mentioned before, the position of the Product Owner derives from the Scrum Agile framework. A Product Owner is a leading role responsible for maximizing the value of products created by the Development Team. To accomplish that, the Product Owner may take on different functions such as a product designer, market analyst, project manager, and business strategist.

Here are the key responsibilities of a Product Owner in the Scrum framework:

  • Designing goals for development projects,
  • Communicating with stakeholders across the board, including business managers and the Development Team,
  • Creating the product roadmap to help the team maintain the vision set out by both the Product Owner and the Product Manager,
  • Managing the Product Backlog,
  • Building a list of backlog items, prioritizing them based on the overall strategy and business objectives, mapping project dependencies to inform the sequence of development,
  • Continually updating the Product Backlog based on the evolving project needs throughout the development process,
  • Making the Product Backlog available to all the stakeholders,
  • Prioritizing the needs of the project in terms of the scope, budget and time,
  • Evaluating product progress each iteration.

What are the responsibilities of a Product Manager?

Product managers are responsible for directing the success of the product and leading cross-functional teams responsible for improving it. Product Managers set the strategy, roadmap, and feature definition for a product or an entire product line. The position often includes elements such as marketing, profit and loss responsibilities, and forecasting.

Here are the key responsibilities of a Product Manager

  • Providing deep product expertise required to make strategic product decisions,
  • Analyzing the market and competitive conditions,
  • Creating the product vision that delivers unique value based on the research into customer demands,
  • Functional leadership across engineering, sales, marketing, and support teams,
  • Testing the product vision and strategy,
  • Articulating the business value to the product team to help team members understand the motivation behind the new product release,
  • Planning product releases and delivering them according to the implementation timeline,
  • Defining the release process and coordinating all the activities required to bring that product to market,
  • Generating, developing, and curating new product ideas. Communicating the status of these ideas back to the stakeholders,
  • Prioritizing product features in relation to the strategic goals and initiatives of the company.

Product Owner vs. Product Manager – key differences

In essence, the Product Manager’s job is developing a business case for the product. The Product Owner, on the other hand, is primarily responsible for clearly expressing the Product Backlog items and ordering them to achieve these goals best.

The Product Owner optimizes the value of the Development Team’s work and ensures that the Product Backlog is visible and apparent to the entire team. Finally, the Product Owner is there to show the Development Team what to work on during the next Sprints – the Product Owner defines the “what” and the Development Team determines the “how.”

A Product Manager, on the other hand, is an expert on the product and the customer. This is the person who develops and maintains the product roadmap and positions the product on the market. Moreover, the Product Manager advocates for funding and manages the overall budget for product development.

The takeaway

A Product Owner is a role you’ll find primarily in organizations that follow the Scrum agile framework. A Product Manager is a traditional role that can be found in organizations engaged in developing new products in the tech industry and beyond. All in all, both roles are essential for organizations to build products that address customer needs and create long-term visions for products to keep the customers engaged.

Do you have any questions about product development in the IT sector? Get in touch with our consultants; we support companies in a wide range of product development processes aiming to create products that contribute to the critical business goals.

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Justyna Kot

Project Manager & Business Analyst at Concise Software

Geek girl & coffee lover, Google Developers Launchpad Mentor, passionate about growth hacking, community building and Star Wars. Also Lead Organizer at Women Techmakers and GDG Rzeszów

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