Managing the development of new products and product features is a complex process, with multiple stakeholders and competing priorities. Often, in large teams, the role of product lead is split between Product Manager and Product Owner.

The roles can overlap, but the main difference is that the Product Manager is focused on product / market fit while the Product Owner is focused on getting the development team to build valuable product features.

Product Manager

The Product Manager is responsible for ensuring that the organisation develops and delivers a profitable product that meets the needs of the market. The Product Manager develops a product vision with customers and stakeholders and turns it into a prioritised, high level roadmap of activities that maximise business value. The product roadmap may include a mix of customer research, sales, marketing, feature development, training and process improvement activities.

Product Managers have a broad scope which means that they may not be able to give the development team the time and attention they need. In this case they may appoint a Product Owner to work full time with the Development team on their behalf. If they do this they should meet with the Product Owner every few days and attend the planning and review session with the development team every couple of weeks to ensure that the development team is prioritising business value correctly.

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Product Owner

Product Owner is a role that was popularised by Scrum, an agile framework that helps you to develop valuable products in half the time. The Product Owner is the interface between business stakeholders, customers and the delivery team. Their primary goal is to maximize the value of the work done by the development team.

Product Owner is a full time job that requires skill in product management, business analysis, communication and project management. Located alongside the development team day to day, the Product Owner works closely with stakeholders to define the objectives, understand user needs and work out what features are required to improve the user experience and meet business objectives.

At the same time they work closely with the development team to rank the product features by business value, risk and dependency and analyse, design, develop and test the features in an incremental cycle, showing stakeholders what they have developed every few weeks.

Summary

The Product Owner is the critical role in an agile development team. A good Product Owner is customer focused, passionate, empowering, honest, analytical, detail oriented, decisive, available and engaged. It’s a fascinating role for a Product Manager, Business Analyst or Project Manager that provides considerable career growth for people lucky enough to do it.

Murray Robinson

Murray Robinson has 30 years experience in IT and digital and 14 years experience in agile and is now a leader in agile transformation. Murray is passionate about changing the ways organisations work so that staff are liberated to provide great customer experiences effectively and efficiently.

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