Many people have debated over the difference between Product Owner and Product Manager for years thinking if the roles could co-exist. And do you really need a Product Owner when you have Product Manager as a title within an organization. 

Due to rapid globalization and international startups setting up their shop in India, the opportunity of Product Owner as an opportunity is more prevalent in India. But somehow there is a negative context (and confusion) to the role of Product Owner (in the mind of the Product Management fraternity). Indian Product Management community thinks of PO as a step-down role and are skeptical of applying for the same.

Background

Product Owner is a more western startup / tech concept. Whereas in emerging markets like India, it's mostly Product Managers. For international startups, Product Manager means that they must be leading a team and people reporting to them. Whereas a PO is a solo-act. But in India, Product Manager is the default title within the product stream. To give you an example, in a market like India, this is how product titles stack:

Product Owner Titles Vs Product Manager Titles
Note:
There are cases when an experience engineer wants to switch to product role and ends up becoming a PO. In such a case PO might be equivalent of a Sr. Product ManagerIn the above context, you will now learn and understand the core differences between both roles. This will ensure that there is more clarity and acknowledgement of the Product Owner as an opportunity. And that one should not miss out on good PO roles just because of some confusion which exists today. Or that PO is a more technical role. 

Let’s begin!


Basics of the product owner role:

The product owner is a more tactical role (within the product development team) and was first introduced in the scrum setup. Scrum team essentially consists of:

  • Product Owner
  • Scrum Master
  • Product Development (Engg) Team

In the above context, Product Owners attend daily scrum meetings and prioritize the backlog. Thus responsible for increasing the product velocity. They are part of the agile team managing any product deficiencies, noting the detailed requirements, defining stories and frequently liaising with the development team. 

Ultimately, they perform certain product management practices like strategic product development, designing the roadmap of the part of the product they own. But nothing more. Their job includes execution rather than planning. It is because they collaborate closely with members of the delivery team to ensure that the product is produced and released. Scrum product owners are responsible for bringing a product manager’s ideas to life. In some ways, extensions of product managers, as they carry out the strategies devised by product managers. In a small setup and when a product strategy is applied, product owners also collaborate with internal and external stakeholders, including audit, finance, and security operations, to deliver a smooth production process.  

Product Owner: Organisational Context


Basics of the Product Manager Position:

A product manager is a more strategic role (unlike product owner which is more tactical). A product manager is responsible for:

  • Product Vision (for the product or module they own) like product strategy, long-term vision, new market trends, and the identification of new prospects
  • All aspects of product development, launch, and ongoing maintenance
  • Marketing capabilities of the product
  • Stakeholder (legal, HR, marketing, support etc.) management

Depending on the product life cycle and stage it is in, a product manager is involved in the entire process that includes ideas, analytics, designing, production, testing, and the finished result. Every aspect of the product process is managed by the product manager and is distributed among several product specialists, including product owners. By identifying markets and developing product strategies, product managers concentrate on the idea, analysis, and design. Laying out the larger product vision. 
Product Manager Organisational Context


A Comparison between Product Owner and Product Manager's Responsibilities

Roles and responsibility of Product Owner vs Product Manager


Key Operational Difference(s) between Product Owner and Product Manager

They are as follows-

  1. Product is the main focus: 

Product owners are responsible to arrange user stories and customer’s input and also understand the product from a customer standpoint. If they find any issues they derive solutions and optimize product value. They are also involved in a lot of product developmental meetings. These Scrum practices help teams work together more effectively while also speeding up the development process.

Product managers organize projects, coordinate teams, and keep track of project timelines. They collaborate with engineering and design teams, as well as marketing, sales, and customer service departments.

  1. The Creation of a Product: 

The product owner’s vision is formed through extensive study, analysis, and rework. Due to this, they become in charge of product quality and monitor the product development process and its progress. They work out solutions with the product manager if there is a design or engineering issue. Quality control is, in a sense, the second part of their job. 

On the other hand, product managers are supply — chain handlers who make sure timelines are fulfilled. They convey the timeframe and requirements to all stakeholders involved, conduct A/B tests, and update current development procedures based on client feedback. 

  1. Strategy and Product Concept: 

Product owners have a direct hand in the development of the product. As a result, they see the concept of the product. Product owners determine possible features of a product or modifications that can be made based on customer data by analyzing existing data. 

The product manager, on the other hand, implements the development plan while also formulating a product strategy. They deal with any barriers that arise during the development process, which frequently leads to trade-off considerations.


Do you need both of them?

Yes, why not? Product Owners are junior PMs and essentially report to Product Managers. Product Owners with years of execution experience can move into a larger product management role (as part of their growth). And as the lines are getting blurred, Product Owners have started becoming external facing. This is to ensure that the user stories they work on are not based on some imaginary situation. But can be validated by talking to customers / clients directly.

At the same time, both of them have their independent duties in the development and distribution of the product. For example, in software development, the product owner is in charge of ensuring that the program assists and adds value to the consumer. 

The Product Manager in this case will ensure that the program is built to have an easy user interface. To some extent, product owners and product managers work together to create the company’s infrastructure and products.


Summary

Product Owner, in lot of ways, is equivalent of a junior / independent product manager. Its origination was due to the evolution of "scrum" and "agile development" practice. But in today's context, PO is nothing but a Product Manager (minus people responsibilites).



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