Product Owner vs. Product Manager

It is not uncommon to have two professions with similar job titles be confused: UX designers vs. product designers, psychiatrists vs. psychologists, project manager vs. program manager, and the list goes on. However, one of these has intrigued me for quite some time now: the product owner vs. product manager dilemma. I decided to dig deeper into these two distinct but interrelated careers, and this is what I learned.

Textbook Definitions

  • Product Manager: “Individual focused on the long-term vision for the product, on observing trends in the marketplace, on identifying new potential outcomes or themes to be supported by the product, and on ensuring the product meets the needs of the value stream(s) the product is involved with.” (PMI)
  • Product Owner: “Individual responsible for maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the Development Team.” Additionally, their duties include clearly expressing Product Backlog items and optimizing the value of the work the Development Team performs. (Scrum)

Initially, I concluded that the main difference between both roles is that a product manager is more strategic while a product owner is more tactical. While the responsibilities of a product owner mostly include defining and prioritizing the requirements for a product, a product manager will perform a broader internal and external analysis to find how the product fits in the company’s strategic goals and competitive landscape in the long term. It is also worth noting that the product owner term originates from the SCRUM framework part of the Agile methodology as opposed to a product manager who can operate in any project management structure.

The theory was a good first step to conduct my research, but I wanted to know if the job titles were used interchangeably or if they had distinct characteristics in practice.

Job Descriptions

Product Manager

Product Owner

Comparing the two

Final Thoughts

Still, none of this matters. The name you give to a position is superficial. We’ve seen firms give ludicrous titles to their employees like Ios Ninja and Java Jedi. What really matters is the role this individual will have and the value they’ll bring to their organization and, while there are some differences between both, most of their responsibilities and assets overlap. So let’s stop focusing on what to call our employees, and start focusing on how we can enable them to have the largest impact.

Business Technology enthousiast always on the hunt for self-improvement!

Business Technology enthousiast always on the hunt for self-improvement!