General

Product Manager vs Product Owner

A little discussion about who is better in product development that includes a definition of both positions and a final conclusion

Mouad Hasseb

Product Owner

As the time passed by, with technology development many new necessities needed to be filled by organizations in terms of positions and the current ones weren’t filling that gap or maybe they were not doing it well enough to satisfy those needs and mostly are from first-level management to executive management. Examples of these brand-new job titles are “People & Culture Specialist”, “Cloud Engineer”, “UX/UI Designer” and so on.

As much as a company expands its variety of products and one person can’t manage all of them, same happened for the Product Department which is leaded by a Product Manager and emerged another important position nowadays that is the Product Owner. These two positions are the ones that will be discussed and compared to each other in this research, and we can answer the question of: Who is more important, the Product Manager (PM) or the Product Owner (PO)?
First is important to understand the definition of both positions so we can compare properly each of them and answer the main question presented earlier.

The PM is basically the person who identifies the needs of the customer and set what business objectives will a product or feature fulfil. Still there is confusion about the roles of this position, as recently mentioned, because of its recency and because is touching many areas that are already well defined as engineering or the design part. The PM is the main responsible of setting the long-term strategy, build a roadmap for the future as defining the scheduling the features in the backlog, gain customer feedback. Is also important to know that the PM is not the top position for this department, there is still the Lead Product Manager, Group Product Manager, the VicePresident of Product and the CPO however we are comparing the PM and the PO because of their close professional relationship. The PM has also to consider the technological and financial situation resources available so they can make the product a reality and to make the user experience the best as possible.

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The PM’s main responsibilities could be described as:

  • Conducting Research

  • Developing Strategy

  • Communicating Plans

  • Coordinating Development

  • Acting on Feedbacks and Data Analysis

Now that we could understand the thick surface of a PM, now is the time to understand what a PO does and its impact on the product development.

The PO is a role on a Scrum team where we can find the PO, the developers and the Scrum Master and all of them are responsible of the project’s outcome. The PO constantly seeks for maximizing the product value by managing the backlog.

The PO serves as the bridge between many areas in the organization, this person communicates with business stakeholders and works closely with the Scrum Team to keep all areas of the business informed about the project development. They are responsible for understanding all types of feedback about the product due to its importance to understand how the users are interacting with the product and which functionalities are considered more important to them.

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This position we could also call it a junior version of the PM, however the main focus of the PO is not taking those customer requirements into the product, the main focus is to know that those requirements that have been established by the PM are correctly carried out by the Scrum Team and the Stakeolders which is so much important for the success of a certain project or product.

Once both positions have been described, can we answer the main question of this short article? The answer is yes, we do not need to dig that much into the topic to understand that we are able to answer this.

Who is more important in an organization, the PM or the PO? Well the answer is similar to who do we prefer, mom or dad?

Both of them if are well defined, are so much important for the company, with both positions well covered, we can reach a high rate of customer satisfaction and business growth which is the main goal of a company. Its so important to understand our customers, to know what they want, what they need but also is important to know that we can fulfil those necessities in the right amount of time, the right amount of resources and analyse the feedback of it.

Most of the technological companies should understand this well because we are living in a world were time’s worth is more valuable than gold anymore, and if you invest correctly in a good PM and form and invest in a junior PM, the PO, the fruits that you used to harvest, you will collect them in no time.

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