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Product Owner Versus Product Manager

by Ibukunoluwa Ogundare
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A lot of people get confused between what Agile regards as a product owner and a product manager. This confusion is usually common in already-established companies during their growth phase.

This is not a problem common in most startups because they are still in the introduction phase of their product life cycle. They majorly bootstrap in this stage and so employ product managers that perform all the roles. But for companies that have already gotten product market fit, the workload increases hence the need for specialization and further division of labor.  

The Product Owner is accountable for maximizing the product’s value.  This could include defining the product backlog and creating actionable user stories for the development teams, grooming and prioritizing the work in the backlog, and accepting the completed user stories to make sure the work fulfills the criteria. 

You may then ask if these are not also some of the job descriptions of a product manager. Yes, this is why I said earlier that a product owner is usually employed in a company that is at least in the growth phase. In the growth phase, the product manager is now focused on strategies and tactical work such as ensuring the product is on track to reaching the future already planned in the roadmap, updating the product roadmap, and making other strategic decisions. The more technical day-to-day activities are done by the product owner. 

Product ownership is a role you play on a Scrum team while Product management is a career path of it’s own.

Product ownership is just a part of product management. A product manager prioritizes working with clear, outcome-oriented goals, defines and discovers real customer and business value. They also determine what processes are needed to reduce the uncertainty about the product’s success in the market.  The product manager is needed in making sure that you are building the right product.

A product owner is only relevant in the agile framework where a product manager is ALWAYS relevant.

The Product Owner on the other hand is accountable for the:
  • Effective Product Backlog management
  • Developing and communicating the Product Goal;
  • Creating and clearly communicating Product Backlog items;
  • Ordering Product Backlog items
  • Ensuring that the Product Backlog is transparent, visible, and understood.

While product management and the Agile framework work well together, it is not completely dependent on the framework.

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