What is the Difference Between Product Owner and Product Manager?

By: | October 20th, 2020

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

If you are involved in software product development or modern project management, you may have heard the terms product owner and product manager used lots. But what is the actual difference, if any, between these two roles?

While the names are used interchangeably and there is some degree of overlap in the responsibilities they have, they are two completely different positions. 

To help you understand the differences a bit better we are going to look at both roles a little closer in the following post.

Who is the Product Owner?

The product owner is a role that was initially established as part of the Scrum Agile framework for product development. Therefore, you will often find that the term and the role is used in organizations and companies implementing the agile approach to creating digital products.

Due to Agile still being new to some people in the software development world, it makes sense to shortcut the learning and find a good, reputable course. The CSPO training benefits are clear and the basic/fundamental course should only take two days to complete. Then you can gain an officially recognised product owner qualification.

What is the Product Manager?

Product management is all about focusing on the strategy involved with promoting the successful development of a product, through to its launch onto the market and continued support thereafter. The product manager is involved in planning out a strategy in the long run with the product vision in mind. The product manager also has a responsibility to research trends in the market and determine new opportunities. 

What is the Main Difference Between These Roles?

A great way to explain the difference between the product owner and product manager is that a product owner is focused on the internal aspects of developing a product, whereas a product manager focuses on the external factors. 

The product owner will build a relationship with the company’s development team and make sure that all processes by the production team are carried out to a high standard, while the product manager will meet with prospective customers, get feedback from them and conduct market research. 

The product owner has a more tactical role and has the responsibility of translating the strategy designed by the product manager into tasks that can be actioned by cross-functional teams and ensure that the product developers will be able to meet the requirements. The product manager, on the other hand, has a more strategic role, with a focus on the business goals of the company, the market, and the vision for the product.

The Product Managers Responsibilities

The product manager has the responsibility of directing the product’s success and being a leader to the cross-functional teams involved in improving it. They establish the strategy, definitions of features and roadmap for single products or whole lines of products. Forecasting, profit and loss responsibilities and marketing are some of the different aspects involve in this position.

The Product Owners Role in Scrum

We already mentioned that the role of the product owner was first set out in the Scrum Agile Framework. It is one of the main roles that have a responsibility towards ensuring that products are created to offer maximum value to the end-user. To achieve this, the product owner often must juggle a variety of different roles like a business strategist, project manager, market analyst and product designer. 

Hopefully, that has cleared up some of the confusion. In conclusion, then, while the product owner is a role required predominantly by companies following the Scrum Agile Framework, the role of Product Manager is a traditional one in most companies involved in product development, whether they are following Scrum principles or not.

The bottom line is that both roles are crucial for companies building products that will address the end-user or customer’s specific needs. 


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