Product Owner vs. Product Manager: What's the difference?
What's the difference? And why does it matter?
Product owners and product managers are two roles often used interchangeably in the tech industry. But they are both distinct and complementary positions that work together, often in a team setting, to ensure the success of a product. Both roles are crucial to product development but have different responsibilities, goals, and skills. Let’s explore the differences and similarities between these two roles and how they work together to create some great products. Whether you are considering a career as a product owner or product manager, curious about the dynamics of the two, or want to see how your company fits in with industry standards, let’s understand what each role entails and how they can work together to create exceptional products.
Let’s dive in!
What is a product owner?
A product owner is responsible for product development, from conceptualization to launch. The product owner often speaks on the customer's behalf, and their main goal is to ensure that the product meets its needs. The product owner works closely with the development team to ensure the product is delivered on time, within budget, and to the required standards.
What are the primary responsibilities of a product owner?
The main responsibilities of a product owner include the following:
- 🔭 Product vision: Define and communicate the vision to the development team. They ensure the team understands the product’s objectives and how it will meet the customer’s needs.
- 📌 Prioritization: Prioritize features, tasks, and issues. They work closely with the development team to ensure that the most important features are delivered first and that any problems are addressed promptly.
- 💼 Stakeholder management: Manage stakeholders, including customers, users, and internal stakeholders. They ensure that stakeholder feedback is incorporated into the product development process.
- 📖 User stories: Defining user stories. These are used to communicate requirements to the development team. User stories are concise descriptions of features that the product owner wants to be implemented.
- 📋 Product backlog: Maintain the product backlog, a list of all the features and tasks that need to be completed. The product backlog is constantly evolving, and the product owner is responsible for keeping it up-to-date.
What does a week in the life of a product owner look like?
A week in the life of a product owner is busy and varied and can look slightly different from company to company. But generally speaking, some of the activities that a product owner might undertake in a typical week may include:
- Collaborating with customers, users, and cross-functional teams, ensuring alignment toward common goals.
- Prioritizing, updating, and maintaining the product backlog to reflect the product vision.
- Participating in sprint events, planning, reviewing, providing guidance and feedback, deciding sprint content, and reviewing progress.
- Conducting user research to gain insights into user needs, pain points, and feature requests to inform prioritization.
- Creating and maintaining a product roadmap aligned with the business strategy, with stakeholder input.
- Managing stakeholder expectations and communicating what is possible within a given timeframe and resources.
- Tracking and analyzing metrics to make data-driven decisions about feature prioritization and product changes.
- Staying up-to-date with industry trends by attending conferences, reading publications, and networking with peers to keep the product competitive and innovative.
How do you become a product owner?
This varies depending on the industry, location, and skill level. To become a product owner, you typically have experience in product management or related fields, such as marketing or user experience. But, since the career is always evolving and changing, many people from other careers cross over to becoming product owners, too. You should have a good understanding of the product development process and communicate effectively with stakeholders. You may also need to have a degree in a related field, such as business or computer science.
What is a Product Manager?
A product manager is responsible for the overall strategy and success of a product. They typically work on larger, more complex products and have a higher level of authority than a product owner. Product managers are responsible for defining the product strategy, setting the roadmap, and working with cross-functional teams to ensure the product is successful. They often work with engineers, designers, marketers, and other stakeholders to ensure the product is meeting the needs of the market and the company.
What are the main responsibilities of a Product Manager?
The primary responsibility of a product manager is to define the product strategy and ensure the product is successful. This involves setting the product roadmap, defining the product features and requirements, and working with cross-functional teams to ensure the product is meeting the needs of the market and the company. A product manager is responsible for the product’s overall success, including revenue, profitability, and user satisfaction.
What does a week in the life of a Product Manager look like?
A product manager’s week also looks different across industries and companies. But in general, it looks something like this:
- Conduct market research to stay up-to-date on industry trends and consumer needs.
- Collaborate with cross-functional teams, such as engineering, design, and marketing, to define product requirements and develop a roadmap.
- Meet with stakeholders to gather feedback and prioritize features for the product roadmap.
- Develop and communicate product strategy to the team and company leadership.
- Analyze user feedback and data to make data-driven decisions about product features and improvements.
- Work with engineering and design teams to ensure product features are delivered on time and meet quality standards.
- Monitor and report key performance metrics, such as revenue, user engagement, and customer satisfaction.
- Communicate updates and progress to relevant stakeholders, including executives, customers, and team members.
How do you become a Product Manager?
Becoming a product manager typically requires a combination of education and experience. Many product managers have a degree in business, marketing, or a related field. However, some product managers come from technical backgrounds and have a degree in computer science or a related field. In addition to education, experience is also critical for becoming a successful product manager. Many product managers start as project managers, engineers, or designers and work their way up to product management roles. Networking, attending industry events, and pursuing professional development opportunities can help aspiring product managers break into the field.
How do these two roles work together and complement each other?
Product owners and product managers work closely together to ensure the success of a product. While the product owner is responsible for the product backlog and ensuring the product meets the customer’s needs, the product manager is responsible for the overall strategy and success of the product. The product owner and product manager work together to ensure the product meets the customer’s needs while also achieving the company’s goals.
What is the hierarchy structure like?
The hierarchy structure for product owners and product managers can vary depending on the company. In some organizations, the product owner reports to the product manager, while in others, the product owner and product manager are at the same level. In larger organizations, there may be multiple levels of product managers, with senior product managers overseeing junior product managers and their respective product owners. Ultimately, the hierarchy structure should be designed to ensure that the product is successful and meets the needs of the market and the company.
Can a product owner be a product manager?
A product owner can be a product manager, but the two roles are distinct and have different responsibilities. In some smaller organizations, the roles of product owner and product manager may be combined, with one person performing both functions. However, in most other companies, the roles are separated and performed by different people. A good product owner and product manager should be able to blend some of the responsibilities, but traditionally, they are two separate roles.
While product owners and product managers share some responsibilities, there are key differences between these two roles. A product owner is responsible for the product backlog and ensuring the product meets the customer’s needs, while a product manager is responsible for the overall strategy and success of the product. While these two roles have different focus areas, they work closely together to ensure the product’s success. Becoming a successful product owner or product manager requires a combination of education, experience, and a passion for understanding customer and market needs.