Understanding the Key Differences Between Product Owner and Product Manager Roles
Apr 5, 20236 min read
Co-founder and CEO of Ideamotive. Entrepreneur, mentor and startup advisor.
"Product owner" and "product manager" are often used interchangeably when discussing product development. However, essential differences between these roles can influence the product's performance.
Product management is a crucial aspect of any successful business. It involves figuring out what customers want, making the product that meets those needs, and ensuring it is profitable and can compete in the market. So, let’s compare the roles of product owner vs product manager as they are closely related to product management.
We will list the responsibilities of the product owner and product manager, including creating user stories, managing the product roadmap, and working with cross-functional teams. We will also discuss the importance of communication, leadership, technical skills, and expertise for these positions.
Additionally, we will discuss best practices for hiring people for your scrum team and define these roles. We will highlight the importance of clear goals, a motivating company culture, and opportunities for growth if you want to attract and retain top talent. Finally, we’ll give tips for businesses looking to improve their product management practices and drive success for their products and businesses.
What is the Product Owner’s Role?
The product owner works on keeping the product backlog up-to-date, and the production team clearly understands what needs to be done. He prioritizes the backlog based on customer feedback, business needs, and technical considerations. The product owner also participates in sprint planning, reviews, and retrospectives. This person is the customer’s representative within the development team.
Product Owner Responsibilities:
Create user stories for the development team. User stories are brief, narrative descriptions of the features or functionality a user will need from the product. They help communicate the customer's needs and desires to the team.
Another important aspect of this role is prioritizing features with the production team. This involves understanding the product's business objectives and determining which features are most vital to achieving the objectives. The feasibility and technical complexity of implementing each feature and how they influence the customer experience must be considered.
The product owner's role communicates the product strategy, goals, and objectives to the team and provides ongoing feedback and guidance as the product evolves.
Attends scrum and agile meetings, to check out the work of a team and in compliance with the roadmap, created by the product manager. As you know, "agile" is a software development methodology emphasizing collaboration, flexibility, and iterative development. The Product Owner significantly facilitates communication and collaboration between the development team, stakeholders, and customers.
In summary, a product owner is a person, who plays a vital role in the agile methodology. And for the product to succeed, it requires strong communication, collaboration, and leadership skills.
What is the Product Manager’s Role?
The product manager is responsible for the product's overall success on the market. He works closely with stakeholders, customers, and the development team to build a product that meets business goals. The product manager covers the product vision and roadmap. He also works with the development team to define the product requirements and monitors that the product is delivered on time and within budget.
He conducts market research, identifies trends, and understands customer needs and pains. The product manager also works closely with the marketing and sales teams to successfully promote the product.
Product Manager Responsibilities:
The product manager is responsible for keeping track of a product's lifecycle, starting from the very idea;
A product roadmap is a high-level strategic plan that outlines the direction and goals of the product over a set period of time. The task is to work with stakeholders, customers, and cross-functional teams to identify the essential features, quality, and functionality of the product and prioritize them on the roadmap;
Encompass the product development process. It includes developing a product strategy that aligns with the company’s goals. Working with designers, and developers to make a product that meets customer needs and adds value to the business;
Working with cross-functional teams. The product manager works with several departments: sales, marketing, engineering, and customer support. The essential part is communicating product updates and making certain they are aligned with the product vision and roadmap;
Launching and marketing the product. Develop and execute a marketing plan for the product launch, including pricing strategy, and go-to-market strategy;
In an agile environment, the product manager also plays a crucial role in facilitating communication and collaboration between the development team, stakeholders, and customers, managing the product backlog, and creating a prioritized list of user stories the development team will work on during each sprint.
In short, the product manager is one of the key positions in the product lifecycle and requires strong communication and leadership skills, the ability to balance competing priorities, and making data-driven decisions.
Key Differences Between Product Owner and Product Manager Roles
The product owner defines the product backlog. Their primary focus is on the development team and ensuring they clearly understand what needs to be done. The product manager is responsible for the product's overall success. Their focus is on the product lifecycle, from defining the product vision to promoting the product in the market.
The product owner knows what customers want and ensures their needs are reflected in the product backlog. The product manager is responsible for conveying customer needs and pain points to the team, ensuring that the product meets those needs.
The product owner puts the product backlog in order of importance based on customer feedback, technical factors, and business needs. Then again, the product manager is responsible for ensuring that the product is profitable, competitive, meet business objectives, and will hit the market.
Strategy and vision
The product manager works on the product’s positioning and strategy. They coordinate their work with stakeholders, team members, and customers to ensure that the product meets customer needs and business goals. The product owner primarily focuses on short-term goals in product development.
Both roles are essential for the product development team because they bring different ideas and skills for making a good product. Check out some ways that product owners and product managers collaborate and work together, including:
- Both roles need to be involved in setting the overall direction and strategy for the product; - The product manager should provide input on features and requirements, while the product owner should be focused on ensuring that those requirements are met; - Both roles need to be involved in testing and user feedback sessions to ensure that the final product meets customer needs; - Product Managers should support Product Owners when making decisions about trade-offs or changes to the project's scope.
Hiring a good Product Owner or Product Manager
We find the following skills vital for a product owner or product manager:
strong communication and leadership skills;
agile methodologies knowledge;
experience with product development processes;
skills to research market and customer needs;
ability to prioritize and manage competing demands.
To attract the right candidates, be clear about the expectations of the role and what the candidate can expect from the hiring company. Show growth and development opportunities and help candidates understand the company’s culture and values. Keep in mind that while the two positions share many responsibilities, there are key differences in their focus and scope.
But in a startup or early-stage company, for example, a single person may take on both the product owner and product manager roles. As the company grows, however, it may become necessary to split these roles into separate positions to manage the increasing complexity of the product and development processes.
In a mature business, the product owner and product manager roles may be more specialized, with additional roles such as technical product managers or product marketing managers. In this case, it's essential to clearly define the scope of each position to make sure everything is clear.
Product management tips to make your product development a success
The product management role is in making any product and business success. Simply follow our actionable tips, and you will get the result:
Understand your customer: Conduct market research, gather feedback, and use data to make product decisions.
Define your product vision and strategy: a clear product vision and strategy provide a framework for decision-making and help guide product development. The product management team should ensure its vision aligns with the business's goals and is communicated effectively to stakeholders.
Establish a strong product team: building a strong product team with diverse skills and expertise is essential to product success. Hire professional people, give opportunities for growth and development, and create a culture of collaboration and communication.
Prioritize features and functionality: prioritizing features and functionality based on customer needs and business goals.
Use agile methodologies: agile methodologies like Scrum or Kanban help product teams work more efficiently and effectively. Use sprint planning, daily stand-ups, and retrospectives to keep the team aligned and on track.
Measure success and iterate: continuously measure product success and use data to make informed decisions. Analyze customer feedback, usage data, and other metrics to identify areas for improvement and iterate on the product.
Foster cross-functional collaboration: collaboration between product, marketing, engineering, and other teams leads to product success on the market. Don’t underestimate the culture of collaboration, communication, and empathy.
By following these actionable tips, businesses can improve their product management practices and drive success for their products and businesses. Involving the product owner vs product manager in a product team balances tactical execution and strategic direction. The product owner can focus on the day-to-day development of the product and ensure it meets the customer's needs, while the product manager can take a broader view of the product's direction and strategy. This balance ensures that the product is made with short-term and long-term goals, leading to a more successful product lifecycle and business.
Robert is a co-founder of Ideamotive. Entrepreneur, who with passion spreads digital revolution all around the internet. Mentor and advisor at startup accelerators. Loves to learn and discover new business models.