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Product Manager vs Product Owner

www.professionalproductmanagement.com As Agile became the mainstream software delivery model, the concept of a Product Owner as well as, or instead of a Product Manager came into play.

If you are part of a large company that is thoroughly embracing Agile delivery, then you may well find yourself doing more of a Product Owner role, rather than a Product Management role.

You may also find yourself splitting the role of Product Owner with the Engineering Manager for your product.


The Product Owner can be thought of as a 'role' that a Product Manager plays during scrum meetings, yet it's also used as a role in itself. Here are a few of the roles you may end up having as you move around different companies within the loosely defined role of Product Manager.

Product Owner If you have the title of Product Owner, you are more likely spending most of your time working with internal teams, with your remaining time spent on market research and customer contact. You are likely co-located with your engineering team, and have team rooms where you meet with the engineering team daily for stand up meetings, and biweekly for user story reviews, and end of sprint demo meetings. As a Product Owner, it is your job to write most of the user stories, with the help of your Product Architect so that they are ready at the start of a new sprint. A week before a new sprint starts, you will meet with your engineering team and go through all the user stories for the next sprint with them. The engineers will ask any last minute questions and if they agree that your user story meets the definition of done, they will start working on it at the start of the next sprint. Once the sprint is completed, you, as the Product Owner, will bring in customers to review the work done on the sprint. You will bring in customers that are interested in the feature, who will be glad to get a preview of the feature, and also to provide feedback to you on how the feature was implemented. If there is enough feedback that requires some changes, then the feature will continue to be worked on in the next sprint.

Hybrid Product Manager / Product Owner If you are working as a hybrid Product Manager / Product Owner, you are likely spending more of your time on external facing activities, attending end of sprint demos, but otherwise interfacing with an engineering manager, who you are splitting the function of Product Owner with. You are likely not co-located with your engineering manager, but your engineering manager is co-located with the engineering team and provides the interface between yourself and the engineering team. The engineering manager will have full authority to make Product Owner decisions when he meets with the engineering team and you are not there. You do likely attend end of sprint demos, either live, or they are recorded for you, depending on the time zone difference between yourself and the Engineering team.

Product Manager You may hold the title of Product Manager, but actually be acting as hybrid Product Owner / Product Manager. If you hold the title Product Manager, you may be leaving more of the Product Owner items to the Engineering Manager, as you spend a lot more time on market research, competitive analysis, pricing and product marketing. As a Product Manager, your responsibilities are wide and varied and will be different with each company, and often different even within each group within one company that you work for. Responsibilities can include pricing, product marketing, RFP (Request for Proposal) responses, customer meetings for product overviews and product roadmaps, weekly meetings with customers that are in the process of deploying your product, meetings with the engineering and user experience design teams, sales team training and product strategy discussions with executives.

Each of the roles is similar, but the Product Owner role is more suited for someone that enjoys getting into the technical details and talking to the engineering team more. The Product Manager role is more suited for someone that prefers spending more time on talking to customers, and the sales team, but still driving and keeping up with what engineering are delivering at a higher level.

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