QimTech

What are the differences between a Product Owner and a Product Manager?

It’s important to differentiate between a Product Owner and a Product Manager. In this article, we will explain why there are differences between the two roles and what they are.

Summary

The Product Owner and Product Manager roles are sometimes seen as interchangeable, depending on the company or the structure (Scrum, SAFe or other) within which these roles are interpreted. So what are the actual differences between a Product Owner and a Product Manager?

What is a Product Owner?

A Product Owner plays an operational role: their task is to enhance a product so that it is able to meet the requirements of end-users. They are predominantly involved in the Design and Delivery phases, where they bridge the gap between user requirements and the method by which the development team can meet these needs. They are very much part of the day-to-day business, ensuring that all developments carried out maximise the value of the product for the end-user.

What is a Product Manager?

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

A Product Manager plays a strategic role: their task is to define the long-term vision of a product so that it can best respond to market opportunities.
They are involved in all of the phases of a product’s life cycle: Discovery, Design, Delivery, Launch & Growth. By working closely with the marketing and sales teams, they can gain oversight of the ecosystem in which the product is evolving, thereby equipping the Product Manager to make decisions on the direction in which the product should go. They are responsible for aligning the different stakeholders around a common vision, before accompanying the product through to market. This is a
“long-term” approach that ensures that the evolution of the product remains consistent with market expectations.

Is it possible to be both a Product Manager and a Product Owner?

Most of the time, the Product Manager also takes on the role of Product Owner. Some companies do not even have a Product Manager. It all depends on the size of the company and how it is structured. However, the roles and tasks associated with these two positions are quite distinct, and most importantly, they are complementary.

So are both roles needed?

The tasks performed by a Product Owner and a Product Manager are complementary; they are all necessary to ensure the success of a product. Whether they are performed by a single person or by two separate people, however, will mostly depend on the complexity of the market in which the product operates, the budget and resources that have been made available, the seniority of the key players and their knowledge of the subject.

On the one hand, an experienced Product Owner who has an in-depth knowledge of the market in which their product is evolving will be able to take on the role of Product Manager and ensure the long-term vision of the product.

On the other hand, a Product Manager whose product is evolving in a complex ecosystem will be constantly studying market trends and opportunities; they will need to delegate product development to a Product Owner who can concentrate on ensuring that developments are properly carried out. So the answer is yes, both roles are necessary, but they can be performed by the same person if the product evolves in a market that is not overly complex.

What are the differences between a Product Owner and a Product Manager?

Roles and responsibilities

The Product Manager plays a strategic role and is responsible for the product’s long-term vision. The Product Owner, however, plays an operational role, implementing the action plan to ensure that any developments will maximise the value of the product. It is important to note that these roles are sometimes seen as interchangeable, depending on the company or the structure (Scrum, SAFe or other) within which these roles are interpreted.

Useful tools

The Product Owner and Product Manager will both make use of project management tools (Jira, Trello, Azure DevOps, etc.), documentation tools (Confluence, Sharepoint, etc.), wireframing tools or collaborative workspaces (Klaxoon, Miro, etc.). The Product Manager also uses Analytics and User Feedback tools.

Salaries

The potential salaries earned by Product Owners and Product Managers will depend on many factors, such as experience, training, seniority, geographical location, project complexity and the company for whom they work. However, the role of a Product Manager is often the next step in a Product Owner’s career, so they could expect to see an increase in their salary by taking on the new responsibilities of a Product Manager.

Skills required

  • Leadership: they must be able to bring together the teams with whom they work around the product vision. They must adopt a transparent approach and use the right arguments to ensure all stakeholders are on board.
  • Market knowledge and anticipation: they must have an in-depth and thorough knowledge of the market in which the product operates. In conjunction with the marketing teams and sales department, they must examine different market opportunities and keep montioring for any technological advances or competitor actions so they remain fully knowledgeable of the product’s positioning. They must be able to anticipate needs so that they can immediately act upon of any opportunities as they arise.
    Empathy and adaptability
    In order to offer a product in line with expectations, it’s important to show empathy. They must know how to listen to their users and understand their problems. They need a solid knowledge of user experience.
  • Communication: they act as a link between users, the development team and the different parties that are involved. They need to facilitate communication between all these players, while ensuring transparency with regard to the status of the product. They must be able to share the product’s vision with their team, ensuring that they understand it and are fully on board with it.
    Common sense and decision-making
    It is crucial to be able to use common sense and know how to make decisions that best serve the product’s vision. They need to be able to say no when the requests they receive are not aligned with this vision.
  • Involvement: last but not least, whoever takes on this role has to be fully involved: they should constantly question users so that they fully understand their needs, as well as querying developers to understand the stakes involved in development. It is up to them to decide between different solutions so that the one they choose to implement offers the best cost/time/value ratio for the end-user.
  • Organisation and management of deadlines: being able to manage time and remain organised is crucial to ensure that product development runs smoothly. Among other things, this helps avoid delays and unforeseen issues.

Why is it important to differentiate between a Product Owner and a Product Manager?

Different objectives

It’s important to differentiate between a Product Owner and a Product Manager, primarily because these two roles serve different purposes. A Product Owner is responsible for ensuring that the product meets the requirements of users, while the Product Manager is responsible for defining the product’s long-term vision. It’s important for the Product Owner and Product Manager to both be clear about their respective objectives and responsibilities so that they can properly do their job.

Different skills

A Product Manager needs to know the market in which their product operates, as well as having marketing skills. Their role is strategic, while that of a Product Owner is operational. It’s important to differentiate between these aspects so that the right person with the correct skillset is placed in each of these roles.

3 tips for creating synergy between a PO and a PM

The Product Owner and Product Manager work hand in hand. A Product Manager communicates the product vision to the Product Owner, who then develops the product accordingly. If there’s a lack of synergy between the two roles, the product vision may be misunderstood by the Product Owner, resulting in developments that will be out of step with it.

1. Clearly define the objectives and responsibilities of each role

In order to improve synergy between the Product Owner and Product Manager, it’s important that they understand each other’s objectives and respective boundaries so that they do not encroach on each other’s work. Everybody needs to have a clear idea about which tasks they need to perform, and which they should not get involved with. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help when you need it!

2. Good communication

Good synergy depends above all on good communication! The Product Owner must become immersed in the product vision that is communicated to them by the Product Manager so that they can suggest developments that remain consistent with the vision. It is also important that they continue to keep the Product Manager up-to-date with the product’s progress and any developments so that they can discuss possible adjustments that might be needed to ensure everything is aligned with the vision for the product. Transparency is the key to good communication between the two roles.

3. Building trust

It’s important to establish a climate of trust between the Product Owner and the Product Manager. The Product Manager must give the Product Owner autonomy: if the product vision is clear, the Product Owner will be able to propose changes that are in line with it. Similarly, the Product Owner needs to trust in the skills of the Product Manager so that they can fully meet the product vision.

You may also be interested in these news...