Product Owner vs. Product Manager: What's the difference?

Product Owner vs Product Manager

Product owner vs. product manager, which one do you need most for your business? If you can’t decide which one, then you must learn how their roles impact business success. Let’s discover their unique differences in today’s post.

When do you need a product owner? How about a product manager? The main difference is the focus in the product owner vs. product manager contrast. 

A product owner and a product manager have different scopes of work. It might be challenging to determine which you need most for your business as sometimes their roles might overlap.

There is no hierarchy between them. Instead, they collaborate to ensure the successful delivery of the software product. Essentially, there are distinct differences between them, which we will discuss further in this article. What are the factors that differentiate these two roles?

The Product Manager

Product managers are responsible for creating the strategic roadmap for a specific product. They lead and mobilize teams from development, marketing, sales, and support. Also, they collaborate with teams to make sure that the product launch is a success. Other essential functions include:

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1. Creating the product vision

Product managers are the ones responsible for achieving the vision. Before teams jump into development, it is their job to strategize how to deliver the product. They communicate the goal to all stakeholders, ensuring that they know the intent and value of the product.

More importantly, they deliver impact in the real world through the product. That is why product managers need to gather input from clients and team members for insights into product development.

2. Handles Logistics and Timelines

The product roadmap defines the timeline and milestones in development. Product managers are responsible for establishing timelines and activities involved to achieve them. These include:

  • Acquiring resources to start product development
  • Coordinating with teams 
  • Manage dependencies to determine the completion of release phases and milestones.

Product managers resolve any challenges that may hinder the team in reaching their goals. They make sure that they are on track and laser-focused on desired outcomes.

3. Manage decisions

One challenge in software development is making the right decision on what is relevant and beneficial to users. Product managers need to be creative and innovative while integrating the product vision. It is their job to incorporate feedback into the development phase accurately. 

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4. Create clear communication lines between teams

Working closely with team members requires constant updates and communication. With that, a product manager is a go-to person for information related to product development.

Negotiation is part of a product manager’s role. Their participation in development lies in determining the technical requirements and delivery timeframes. They also need to ensure that they won’t betray the product vision. Additionally, they need to weigh in the user experience.

Aside from talking within the organization, product managers must be open to customer feedback. They must listen to what the market needs to make informed decisions. They can do this through:

  • Data collection and analysis
  • Customer feedback
  • Business intelligence through sales and customer support

There is a much higher chance that product managers will create a successful product by considering the users.

The product manager role is holistic, including responsibilities around the product life cycle. Being the driver of product strategy means they are the champions for the product’s successful delivery.

Qualifications of a Product Manager

Product managers must be dedicated and passionate about what they do every day. Having this role requires consistent collaboration between teams. Also, it is their responsibility to inspire them to be their best daily. Here are the specific skills a product manager needs to have:

  • They must have excellent communication skills to communicate with clients, team members, and upper management.
  • A certain level of expertise in a product or market they are developing the product for.
  • Attentive to details; be able to multitask, and project manage.
  • Naturally curious to bring innovative solutions to the table.
  • They should be a great team player with good interpersonal skills.
  • Sincere and empathetic to user needs to deploy solutions-based products into the market.
  • Should have leadership qualities to manage teams effectively and delegate tasks appropriately.
  • Must have business analysis experience to assess market conditions and competitors. 
  • Has experience in curating a product development plan to find what makes its product unique from its competitors.

Employers prefer people who have experience in the development side. This will help product managers gauge which features needs to be delivered first. They also need to have leadership experience, especially with dealing with challenges, making decisions, and managing productive hours.

The Product Owner

A product owner takes ownership of the product, maximizing the business’s potential for growth, use, and value. Additionally, they are responsible for guiding the software team to develop the features of a product. Product owners work closely with the product development team. Their main goal is to make sure that they follow the product roadmap. 

Product owners are responsible for conceptualizing the vision of the product. They strategize any effort the organization puts into the realization of the product. Their job is to ensure product outcomes meet objectives. What other tasks are product owners responsible for?

1. End-User Experience

Product owners are considered user experts in the product development process. This means that users come top of mind when it comes to a product feature or function.

Data from market trends, target users, feedback, and competitor study helps product owners decide on a development strategy. This will allow teams to understand requirements, priorities, and standards. They assist the engineering team throughout the development process to ensure that the product meets the objectives.

2. Keeps Track of Product Development

Since they are heavily involved in the development process, product owners lead every sprint. At the end of a sprint, they participate in retrospectives to understand progress.

Product owners need to oversee the implementation of the product strategy. This ensures that teams deliver product requirements and manage the tasks according to the defined goals. They accomplish this by doing the following:

  • Take notes of customer pain points and problems, turn them into user stories, and arrange them by priority into the product backlog.
  • Build the production process to ensure that teams know what to prioritize.
  • Attend all Scrum meetings to keep teams aligned with the product roadmap
  • Provide feedback on the product roadmap to the product manager.

3. Anticipates User Needs

Product owners must have deep market knowledge. This will help support the product goal determined early on. More importantly, having this knowledge will help product owners anticipate problems they encounter and address them right away.

4. Evaluate Progress

The product owner manages the development process. So, they are accountable for inspecting and evaluating progress through each iteration. Together with the product manager, they decide whether to move forward or to go back and make product improvements.

Qualifications of a Product Owner

Product owners also need to have leadership and technical skills like product managers. Here are some of the skills required to become a product owner:

  • Needs to have a proven track record of successfully delivering products.
  • Must have excellent communication skills, including writing. This is necessary since the job involves documentation when required.
  • Must have the expertise in a chosen market or product to provide practical solutions to target users. Industrial and technical knowledge is a must-have.
  • High sense of cooperation with peers
  • Has the ability to connect with cross-functional teams to influence better collaboration.

The roles between the product owner and the product manager differ according to their focus. Product managers have a high-level strategic position that is customer-facing. In contrast, product owners have a narrow focus and work closely with the development team. What other differences do these two roles have?

Product Owner vs. Product Manager: Roles and Responsibilities

The product owner and product manager roles are somewhat similar. They both guide teams and make sure that they follow the product roadmap. Moreover, they touch base with the same teams in the organization. Here is an overview of their roles to differentiate them better:

Product Managers

  • Focus on high-level product strategy
  • Develop and build the product roadmap
  • User expert and champion
  • Gathers resources needed to make the product
  • Determines product requirements and priorities then hands them over to the product owner
  • Measures success through product net promoter scores, sales conversions, and business revenue.

Product Owners

  • Focuses on the tactical implementation of the product roadmap
  • Owns and determines product backlogs, epics, and user stories
  • Order product backlog items according to priority 
  • Communicates what to prioritize and work on to the Scrum team 
  • Measures success through completed stories and team performance

In conclusion, product managers are strategic personnel responsible for bringing solutions to users. On the other hand, product owners share user advocacy with the product manager, but their scope is more on implementation. Now that we have a general understanding of what makes them different, do you need to hire both?

Product Owner vs. Product Manager: Do you need both?

Most organizations struggle with hiring a product owner or a product manager. Thus, there is the need to differentiate these two roles in the first place. One way to make this decision easier is to focus on outcomes. Here are a few questions you need to ask before hiring a product owner vs. product manager:

  • What do I need to achieve?
  • Who is currently doing product management in my organization?
  • What responsibilities are my staff taking on to deliver products?
  • Is it now cheaper and feasible to upskill my staff to a product owner or product management role?
  • What are the challenges that my team is facing?
  • How can we make our product development processes more efficient?
  • Is there a need to onboard new staff at this stage?
  • Who is making the decisions on product development?
  • What are my KPIs? How am I measuring success?

Talk to leadership and key decision-makers in your organization. It might be wise to do a skills assessment for your staff. It could be that they are doing either product owner or product manager roles without you knowing.

For example, product managers can also function as product owners in startups or small businesses. If multiple software products are under your wing, you might need a dedicated product owner to handle each product.

Startup companies have to do with their resources. The budget might be one of the reasons why you opt to hire a product manager only. They might own some tasks of a product owner in the meantime. 

If you are in this situation, it’s best to make sure you plan when your business scales. One product manager might be cost-efficient, but managing a range of products might be too heavy for your employee. This is where product owners come in.

Hiring a product owner is practical for growing businesses with various products. You need someone who implements plans created through research. Product owners make sure that this gets done. That is why getting the answers to the fundamental questions above will help you make a strategic business decision.

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Building usable products require expertise from both product owners and product managers. You want to ensure that your product provides solutions to your users’ challenges. Product managers gather and analyze market data to create strategies. A product owner’s job is to ensure the team is right on track with the plan.

In relation, getting more users to patronize your product means that you created something relevant in the real world. That is one of the most crucial goals and measures of success as an organization. So, where do you look for qualified product managers and owners?

At Full Scale, we actively employ quality employees dedicated to achieving success. We do this by letting candidates undergo skills assessments before hiring them. This allows us to choose only the best employees for our clients.

Choosing your next product owner and product manager is easy! All you have to do is choose from our employee database and select the ones you would like to interview. You can be sure that these candidates have the right qualifications to fit your business needs.

Talk to us today and learn more about how you can hire from us! Achieve your next project and finally get the right results.

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