I read one comment that stated “organizations that utilize a Project Manager are most often still operating in a classical, top-down, directive style. When implemented properly, a Product Owner is operating in an agile, bottom-up, self-organizing style.” I felt like I had to dig a bit deeper. Here’s a very brief overview of what I found, and I would be eager to hear if my network agrees or has any other thoughts.
Whilst there are many conflicting opinions on these roles, after careful research, I came to the conclusion that most people would define a Product Manager as a strategic employee who focuses on the product vision and market from the top level, whilst a Product Owner is more tactical and will translate strategy into actionable tasks. Product Owners are commonly found in Agile organisations because the very term was derived within the Scrum framework. Essentially a Product Owner is only relevant within a Scrum framework but, a Project Manager isn’t reliant on Scrum and can exist in other settings.
The Product Owner is a Scrum development position that translates the customer's needs into a product vision. Product owners are customer-centric, and they stay updated on market trends and customer demands, before developing new products and features that result in customer satisfaction. They act as the customer, in communicating needs and issues to the wider team, and by prioritising the backlog, as well as participating in daily scrums, team building tasks, stand-ups and coordination meetings.
Product Owners are responsible for managing user stories, organising customer feedback, and identifying common roadblocks by acting as a customer support representative. They should be driving the development team towards meeting the original project goals and keeping them invested in the product to maximise the product value. A Product owner focusses on and approves Product quality to maintain conceptual and technical integrity, and it is only with final approval from the Product Owner that a product can go to market.
The Product Manager guides the process from start to finish, engages and communicates to stakeholders and makes sure the team are working to deadlines, as well as making any tough logistical decisions that may influence the delivery timeline. They work closely with the design and engineering teams and focus on long-term strategy, the product vision, market trends and the identification of new opportunities.
Product Managers also communicate the product USP’s to Marketing and Sales departments so they can properly articulate selling points to consumers. They also perform customer behaviour analyses and monitor usage charts in order to identify the most optimal release strategy. They are also more focussed on the logistical timelines of product development and work to determine accurate deadlines ad timelines, which they can then communicate to stakeholders and other management teams.
With so much overlap, and the potential to merge these roles, to an extent, why would any business be inclined to hire both a Product Owner and a Product Manager, when one hire could branch over both roles? From what I understand it’s all about efficiency and consistency. I’ve summarised the benefits of having both within a Product function below:
· Produce new products at a faster rate
· Strong team structure enables effective communication to developers, managers, and stakeholders
· Better roadblock/issue management
· Working together, Product Owner and Product Manager can collaboratively ensure consistency in quality and delivery
There is so much more to dive into. Looking at all the articles, blogs, and opinions I have read, Product roles are still quite arbitrary. But I do see the benefits of having both a Product Owner and Product Manager within a Product team in terms of their specific role and communicators. As the Product market continues to grow, particularly in Manchester, it seems like we need clearer definitions of what these roles really are and how this looks in terms of a hierarchy of authority. I’d be keen to hear from anyone in the Product space who has any thoughts on this, or anyone who works within a Product Function with one or both of the above.