Product Owner Vs Product Manager

A product is a service or system that businesses develop to meet users’ requirements. These days, consumers are cautious and demanding, and fulfilling their requirements is not easy. 

Over time, products evolve with increasing complexity, and managing the dynamic requirements entails specialization and better management in the product life cycle

Organizations need someone to define their high-level vision of the service and maximize the product value. Thus, they need a product owner and product manager. 

The product owner and product manager are distinct roles, and in today’s blog post, we will learn these two roles and the difference between them.

Product Owner Vs Product Manager

Product owners’ responsibilities are often confused with product managers’ responsibilities, as they sometimes share common tasks. However, the product manager has a wider role, and the product owner is mostly a subset of the product manager. 

In many organizations, the roles and responsibilities of product owners and product managers are often interchanged, depending on the nature of the product development team and the size of the company.   

The product owner focuses on maximizing the product value. The product manager’s focus is balancing the user experience, building a feasible product, solving customers’ problems, and fulfilling the organization’s business needs.

So, a product manager has more responsibilities than a product owner.

Product Owner

Many professionals assume product owners to be service owners because the names are similar, but this is wrong. The product owner is concerned with getting customer satisfaction by delivering quality work through proper guidance to the team towards achieving the customers’ needs. 

Here, we are talking about a scrum team developing the product with client collaboration through the product owner. The product manager is responsible for creating day-to-day tasks for team members and evaluating the deliverable based on the customers’ needs.

The role of the product owner includes:

  1. Efficient product backlog management.
  2. Identifying customers’ needs and guiding the team to achieve them.
  3. Analyzing product risk.
  4. Defining product requirements and communicating the goals and requirements to the team.
  5. Developing and sharing product backlog items with the team.
  6. Prioritizing product backlog items.
  7. Ensuring backlog item transparency and clarity.
  8. Ensures the previous feed is factored into the deliverable before moving further.
  9. Communicates internally with the team and externally with the customers.

The product owner works with the stakeholders to get the correct requirements. They help improve relationships, build trust with customers, and help the delivery/development team to understand the vision and needs. Hence, this role is comparable to a bridge between the two sides that allows smooth communication.

The product owner manages the manager of the Agile team. If the product development is not following Agile methodologies, the product owner’s role will probably not be required. 

A product manager can serve as the product owner in small organizations but cannot always be accessible if they manage a handful of large, complex products, each with a dedicated team of developers. 

Other agile frameworks do not involve frequent requirement modification, so product managers can easily fulfill the role of the product owner.

Habits of Highly Successful Product Owners

Product owners are responsible for maximizing the product value. They focus on two aspects of the product: building the “right thing” and building the thing “right.”

The seven habits of successful product owners are categorized according to those two aspects.

Habits of Successful Product Owners
Source: Scrum Crazy

Product owners communicate on both sides (customer facing and team facing).

With the team, they discuss backlog items and develop the deliverable. With customers, they collect the feedback and explain it to the team members so they can solve the customers’ problems.

Building the “Right Thing”

The product owner understands the customers’ needs and adds the right value to the product.

Successful habits that the product owner exercises to build the “Right Thing” include:

  1. Product Value Maximizer: Works to maximize the value of the product
  2. Product Visionary: Communicates with the customer to understand their needs and clarify them to the team to fulfill customer requirements.
  3. Product Backlog Management Leader: Translates the high-level vision of the product into manageable and executable backlog items.
  4. Product Marketplace Expert: Understands the features of the product to be launched in the market.
  5. Product Release Decision Maker: Knows the customers’ needs and the product; they decide the right time to release the product in agreement with the client.
  6. Lead Facilitator of Key Stakeholder Involvement: Leads and represents the development team when communicating with the key stakeholders.

Building the Thing “Right”

Using the right strategies, product managers can build the product the right way. The following habit helps them build the thing “right.”

  1. Product Backlog Management Leader
  2. Lead Facilitator of Key Stakeholder Involvement
  3. Effective and Active Scrum Team Collaborator

Product Manager

The product manager has more responsibilities as compared to the product owner. Their responsibilities include defining high-level visions and missions, while the product owner’s concern is translating high-level missions into day-to-day activities.

Other responsibilities of product managers are:

  1. Defining high-level problems and the product success
  2. Recognizing market needs
  3. Achieving defined objectives that prioritize product features
  4. Ensuring the company generates profit
  5. Guiding and leading different teams within the organization focusing on the product, including the product owner
  6. Managing the entire product lifecycle and roadmaps and setting the strategic direction of the product
  7. Translating the product strategy into planned work
  8. Trading-off to ensure the delivered product is right
Product Manager

The above figure shows product managers’ responsibilities distributed among three disciplines: User Experience (UX), Technology, and Business. 

Product managers must be experienced and have the required skills in the above-mentioned disciplines and should be able to balance them using tough decisions and trade-offs.

Product managers balance the need for user experience, ensure the product is feasible, and solve customers’ problems.

Salaries of Product Owner and Product Manager

Product owners are responsible for maximizing the product’s value; their role is often a subset of the product manager’s role. Product managers are responsible for the entire product’s lifecycle, and their domain is broader than the product owner. 

The average salaries of these roles are often not the same because of the following reasons:

  1. As product managers with less experience might be given the role of product owner, their salary might be the same as the product owner.
  2. Smaller companies might hire a person responsible for the product. Since there are fewer responsibilities, they don’t hire product managers and entrust the responsibilities to the product owner. This drives the salary of product managers downward.
  3. Large companies need to share product responsibilities between different parties for increased quality and better management. So, the need for product owners in larger enterprises drives their salary upward.

As of June 2021, Glassdoor.com reported the average salary for a product owner is 100,000 USD with a range of 70,000 – 142,000 USD in the United States. The salary of a product manager is 112,000 USD with a range of 73,000 – 173,000 USD. 

Product managers have higher salaries. 

Do Organizations Need Both Roles?

Organizations consider many factors in deciding whether they need both positions or one of them. 

These factors are given below.

#1. Organization Size

Large organizations have more responsibilities with different teams to deal with different aspects of products. It will be hard for one person to deal with both roles in this case. 

Smaller organizations have fewer responsibilities, so they can have a product owner with some additional responsibilities or a product manager.

#2. Framework

The Agile framework facilitates collaboration and teamwork by dividing the tasks among the team members. If the organization follows the Agile framework, it must assign a product owner.

Projects following waterfall methodologies do not require product owners. Here, product requirements are defined at the beginning of the project and delivered to the project management team at one time.

Here requirements are fixed, and at the end, the product is verified to ensure it meets the stated requirements.

When other frameworks are used for product development, a product manager can deal with the overall product lifecycle and the task of the product owner. In other frameworks, product owners have little or no role.

Summary

The responsibilities of product managers and product owners might be confusing since they have a few common tasks and work interchangeably in some cases. The product manager is involved in various domains and has more responsibilities than product owners. Product owners are assumed to be subordinate to product managers.