Project Manager = Produt Owner?

Last post 05:29 am July 31, 2014
by Ludwig Harsch
12 replies
08:33 am November 26, 2012


I'm very new to SCRUM (started today), I have been googling for a precise answer and found controversial results. Some say Project Managers are Product Owners, some say it is a totally different role.

When I look at the roles of SM and PO while comparing it to the waterfall Project Manager role, it seems like
there are values of both roles that are fitting the Project Manager's functions.

Really looking forward to get a constructive feedback here.

Best Regards,


10:30 am November 26, 2012

Hi Roy,

Traditional project managers could fall into either of the roles of scrum master or product owner depending on their skills/inclinations.

I'm a trained project manager and I worked my way there starting as a software developer. In my current role I am the scrum master of the scrum of scrums facilitating the co-ordination/communication between the scrum masters of several scrum teams.

I've heard of other project managers who were more business/customer focused and they found that they were more suited to the product owner role within scrum.

Best regards,

10:51 am November 26, 2012

Scrum doesn't acknowledge nor directly exclude any role of Product Manager.
You may well find having a role by this name useful as you use Scrum to
discover the most effective process for you and your team(s).

Scrum *does* explicitly differentiate the Product Owner and Scrum Master
role, because they have, to some degree, competing objectives. The Product
Owner is looking to maximize the value of a Sprint through the Development
Team. This means they often have a compelling short term interest in
corner cutting. Certainly the Development Team naturally and through the
DoD is resisting this urge, but the Scrum Master is in the position of
assuring high quality by invoking Scrum's empiricism and ensuring the
process which the team has chosen through empiricism is followed.

I think Patrick has some very useful and valid examples of how an
organization and individual may evolve within the Scrum framework. You
might gather a whole bunch of those types of patterns and choose one as an
experiment to see how it works over a few sprints. If it works, fantastic.
If not, try something new.

On Mon, Nov 26, 2012 at 8:34 AM, <> wrote:


07:50 pm November 26, 2012


The only things I can add to the already good responses above are:

This blog post by Erin Beierwaltes includes a really good graphic for explaining what happens to PM duties in a Scrum Implementation:…

Mike Cohn has some really good text on what happens to PM's in a Scrum Implementation in _Succeeding with Agile..._ -- part of what he says is(bold added by me):

"...On Scrum projects we acknowledge the untenable role of the project manager and eliminate it. Eliminating the role, though, does not mean we can do away with the work and responsibilities. As you might guess, since self-organizing teams are a core tenet of Scrum, a great deal of the responsibility previously shouldered by the project manager is transferred to the Scrum team..."

"...Former project managers often assume one of the roles that have taken on some part of their past responsibilities—the project manager becomes either a ScrumMaster, product owner, or team member, depending on experience, skills, knowledge, and interests..."

"...If a project manager can overcome the old habits of directing the team and making decisions for it, it is likely such a project manager can become a good ScrumMaster. This is the most common new role for project managers in organizations adopting Scrum. The new role will likely be difficult at first for the former project manager as she learns to bite her tongue and let the team learn how to work through its own issues and make decisions..."

This is just snippets. I recommend seeing the full text of his comments here:

12:55 pm November 28, 2012

Scrum expressly rejects the role of "Project Manager" (PM) - there is no such role in Scrum. It is widely believed that the PM has been *refactored* into ScrumMaster (SM) and Product Owner (PO) roles, but this is slightly misleading. Although the SM is a management role it is better to see PM responsibilities as having been refactored across the PO and the Development Team, considering that:

- the Team are self-directing. They make their own estimates, select their own backlog, etc.
- the SM is a servant-leader

01:20 pm November 28, 2012

Ian, I might be getting a little pedantic, but the Scrum Guide never
mentions Project Manager or PM and therefore does not "explicitly reject"
the role. It simply says nothing about it. A self-directed team may very
well elect to have a project manager. Would I expect a team choosing a
traditional PM in this way to see limit improvement over time, yes. That
doesn't preclude them from doing so.

On Wed, Nov 28, 2012 at 12:55 PM, <> wrote:


02:52 pm November 28, 2012

That's ok, we need to be a bit pedantic, because questions like these crop up in certification exams. For example the supposed role of "Project Manager" appears in the Scrum Open Assessment, and could therefore appear in one or both of the Professional ScrumMaster exams:

'Scrum does not have a role called "project manager."'

The correct answer in the Open Assessment is "true".

This is more of an implicit rejection admittedly; an explicit one can be found in the Scrum Primer (version 2), which says on page 5:

"Note: there is no role of project manager in Scrum at all. This is because none is needed; the
traditional responsibilities of a project manager have been divided up and reassigned among the three
Scrum roles, and mostly to the Team and Product Owner, rather than to the ScrumMaster. Practicing
Scrum with the addition of a project manager indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of Scrum,
and typically results in conflicting responsibilities, unclear authority, and sub-optimal results."

I'd call that pretty a pretty explicit rejection; the last sentence is uncompromising. But you are right that the Scrum Guide is non-commital on the matter. The differences between the Scrum Guide and the Scrum Primer are interesting, and are the subject of another post I have made on this forum.

06:35 pm May 28, 2014

Hi there Scrum community,

It states that the Scrum Master IS a management position cause Scrum Master is managing (removing) impediments.
My question is: Is the Product owner also a management position?
The Scrum guide states: "The Product Owner is the sole person responsible for managing the Product Backlog."
If he/she is responsible for managing the Product Backlog, is it a management position?

Sorry if the question is silly, i'm just anticipating the (tricky) questions for PSM assessment :)

12:45 am May 29, 2014

> My question is: Is the Product owner also a management position? 

Yes, in Scrum all 3 roles are management positions. A team must be self managing, and so each member has at least some management responsibilities.

04:56 am May 29, 2014

Hi Roy and everyone at

This is a very good post, its lengthy but really does show what happens when you call PM a PO in name only.
Scrum is about learning as we see this so many times where if its Agile in name only wont go far.
A Project Manager is what he or she is, a Product owner is what he or she is.
Just because you are a PM does not give you the direct crossover of PO by virtue you are PM or the reverse.
Some organizations assume that's the way it works, in reality that's often why scrum fails.
Without the correct coaching and training neither will be successful, PM->PO or PO->PM.
As PM is not a role in scrum if it is a PM, should have the correct training and coaching to inspect and adapt to the framework. Once in that framework should adapt to the terminology within it, or it ceases to become what it is.
Hope this helps with some from the trenches on this topic that appear on

11:33 pm May 29, 2014

Thanks Ian :)


02:05 pm July 19, 2014

Oddly enough,
Cant remember the exact wording but was comparing the two, its another gem of a question

Can a PM be compared to a PO in scrum?
Are PM and PO similar?

I would have said yes as its only comparing them (Thats just me though).
If it was saying "are they the same" yes in the sense of what they do, and no in the fact they do it different.
Again i have no idea where this is laid down in scrum that says they "are not",
If PO is responsible for scope, time, cost,communication, risk, quality,
Then so is a PM , so yes they are similar, can we compare them yes to a degree.
Are they the same, then no.

Zillion dollar question in scrum is can we compare them, can anyone point out the book that
gives the definitive answer, im guessing for one you find that says no, you will find one that
references the PM to PO.
Any PST for PSPO could comment on this on where the definitive answer is found that's gospel?

05:29 am July 31, 2014

just my thoughts on this:
All Project Manager responsibilities which are not waste were divided between SM, PO and Dev Team. (Forgot the source).
@Patrick: The purpose of the Scrum of Scrums is the coordination between development teams. As development teams are self-organizing, they should send a developer to the Scrum of Scrums. If the Scrum Masters meet, it is not a Scrum of Scrums but probably becomes a status meeting, making it very hard for the Scrum Masters not to fall into the trap of behaving like Project Managers with all the known consequences.
@Ryan and Ian: When you write "pedantic", it sounds so negative ;) The Scrum Guide states: "Scrum recognizes no titles for Development Team members other than Developer, regardless of the work being performed by the person; there are no exceptions to this rule". This implies that the self organisation of the team is indeed constrained here: They are not allowed to elect a Project Manager, because this person would have the title "Project Manager". This rule is very clear, even if it is only implicitly deduced (which is a hard connection at least in math, in no way weaker than an explicit mentioning).