Difference between Product Owner and Product Manager?

Last post 08:40 pm October 1, 2019
by Katherine Brown
10 replies
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02:02 am September 28, 2019

What is the difference between Product Owner and Product Manager? how does Product Management fit into scrum?

06:35 am September 28, 2019

Implementing Scrum is hard. Should fulfilling a Scrum role prove difficult, organizations may try to conceal or compensate for the problem by means of other roles.

12:37 pm September 29, 2019

@ Steve - My recent experience suggests, product managers are those people who are there in organization for significant time with high pay band, who are not enough motivated to directly work as PO, who treats the POs as their direct reportee & in all floor meetings take away the credit for all good work of the team.

I personally believe, on serious note, with any process transformation, orgs should hire full time psychologists also who will counsel the people how to handle floor politics/insecurity/power struggle/personal pride etc.

Until then majority of companies will buy tons of sticky notes, markers, hire agile coach, etc. to declare they have successfully completed 'Agile Transformation'.

12:04 pm September 30, 2019

how does Product Management fit into scrum?

I believe the Scrum Framework directly supports Product Management. When I refer to Product Management I think of an group within a company dedicated to growing and supporting products throughout their life cycle. This could include Product Owners who are part of Scrum Teams. 

Having the formal organization established can help align Product Owners towards business goals, allow them to more easily form relationships and share emerging practices. This group also has the important job of aligning other groups (legal, compliance, sales, marketing, etc.) within the organization to achieve the product goals. 

12:08 pm September 30, 2019

Hello Steve, In Agile Process Product Owner is a role you play on a Scrum team. Product Manager is the job. If you take your Scrum team away, as a process for your organization, you are still a Product Manager. Product Management and Scrum work together well, but Product Management is not dependent on Scrum. It can and should exist with any framework or process.

For more info visit here: https://bit.ly/2th3Nil

12:44 pm September 30, 2019

Interesting read Liana. I agree with a lot of the points mentioned there. Going back to Scrum, the primary role of the Product Owner is to maximize the value the product creates. What the Scrum Guide doesn't cover is the techniques that may need to be employed in order to do so. It's more than just ordering a backlog. 

This is where things like user experience, strategy/market research, product roadmap(s), understanding the business model and financials come into play. All things a 'product person', 'product manager', or 'product owner' may have some experience with. 

Regardless of what the organization chooses to call it...the role itself needs to be clearly defined and understood. It's a challenging job without adding role confusion to the mix. 

09:15 pm September 30, 2019

A product manager has a project mindset - they are focused on traditional closed-loop metrics like scope, budget, milestones, and costs, as well as on executing/monitoring/controlling/closing on an extensive pre-defined plan.  The mindset was delivering on time and on budget what was promised upfront. 

A product owner has a product mindset - they are focused on open-loop metrics like customer/business/employee value, revenue per employee, usage index, return on investment, etc.  These metrics change over the course of the project therefore influence the course of development over the project.

Based on this, project management really doesn't fit well into scrum very well since at a fundamental leve, they are completely different approaches.

10:46 pm September 30, 2019

Interesting article Liana - I was hesitant to click as you used an anonymous Bitly link but it was a Medium article and it was a good read.

Also:

Hello Steve, In Agile Process Product Owner is a role

I'm not sure your link to an Agile Training page by another company is relevant or necessary here?

01:39 pm October 1, 2019

I'm new here, but enjoying the conversation, so greetings. :-)

Katherine,

Respectfully, product managers aren't purely focused only on closed-loop metrics. They still have a product mindset because they're still interested in delivering a successful product for customers. That doesn't happen without some understanding of the market and how what is being delivered fits a customer need. In manufacturing, an example would be an update of a car model; the update is based on feedback and market research, not simply delivery. Of course they have to worry about it actually being delivered to market on time, but their job also depends on delivering something that's going to benefit the company, something that customers want.

To me what you're describing fits more with the description of a project manager, who is pretty much solely fixated on the metrics of "scope, budget, milestones, and costs, as well as on executing/monitoring/controlling/closing on an extensive pre-defined plan," as you said.

I think the differences between a product owner and a product manager are the integration/siloing (or lack thereof) and feedback loops. There is much more team integration with scrum/Agile, and the feedback is much more frequent and consistent because the focus is on the incremental development of a product, not just the product as a whole.  Feedback is then quickly actionable. A product owner is part of the scrum team, a product manager is not. 

Just my two cents.

04:18 pm October 1, 2019

I'm going to take a slightly different tact on this.  The Scrum Guide defines roles not job titles. For example the section of the Scrum Guide that discusses the Development Team makes this statement.

Scrum recognizes no titles for Development Team members, regardless of the work being performed by the person;

While that isn't specifically pointed out anywhere else in the guide I take some liberties in my interpretation that the statement can apply to all of the roles.  If you search for "role vs job title" in your favorite search engine you will receive lots of results where it is discussed that a role describes the work that you do, the title is a convenient way to reference the position in your company's organizational chart.

So what is the difference between a Product Manager and a Product Owner?  Depends on whether you are discussing the two as roles or job titles.  And in the case of Scrum, I have never seen anything in the Scrum Guide that mentions a Product Manager role so my answer is simply that the Product Manager role does not exist in Scrum but the Product Owner role does. Does the individual that is fulfilling the role of Product Owner on a Scrum Team need a title that starts with the word "Product"?  I don't think so. I worked with one person who's title was Director of Community but he quite effectively filled the role of Product Owner for multiple Scrum Teams that worked on features that were available in the online community created by the company.

If you are speaking about job titles being posted on job boards or that exist in your organization, then you will have to rely on the job descriptions for the titles to determine the difference. 

I have been in the software industry for 33 years now.  When I started there was no such thing as a Software Developer.  My first job title was Computer Programmer in 1986.  Is there a fundamental difference between the work I did then vs the work a Software Developer does now?  Not really.  The tools, processes, environments have changed significantly but in the end as a Computer Programmer I was building software solutions that were providing benefit and value to the end users in a specific problem space. 

Don't get too caught up on the titles.  Pay attention to the value that the work you are doing is providing. 

08:40 pm October 1, 2019

Correction - I read "Product Manager" as "Project Manager" so my first paragraph above was about a "project" not "product" manager.  I'll attempt to answer the actual original question this time!  My understanding is that the product owner role is, in a sense, a combination of the product and project manager roles.  So the PO has the product mindset described in my previous post, PLUS does things like setting vision and doing competitive research which typically fall under a Product Management role.