If you’ve ever worked at or with a scaleup, you’ve likely interacted with both product managers and product owners.
Both think about what a product does, why it exists and how to reach its full potential.
So what’s the difference?
In short, product managers and product owners touch the product at different stages in its life cycle.
But it’s not that simple.
Discover what product managers and owners do, how they work together and what effective collaboration looks like in action.
Product owners live in the present.
Product owners maximize efforts today to help a product reach its full potential. They believe that processes should be structured to prioritize the next best step for the product. Product owners own your product, translating roadmap items into detailed and actionable next steps for development teams and ensuring quality along the way.
You won’t find product owners everywhere. They are masters of agile scrum, so their talents are often utilized at larger organizations.
Product managers live in the future.
Product managers are visionaries. They discover the right product to build and ensure key stakeholders are invested and aligned.
To determine the best trajectory for your product, product managers stay two steps ahead while balancing insights from stakeholders. For example, company leaders may want to add a new feature, but you know the ask isn’t feasible for your development team. Product managers are responsible for internal alignment and determining what’s best for the product.
Since they understand what motivates users, product managers work effectively across other product disciplines. Product managers advocate for your users. They balance important business, development and user considerations to build the right product. Whether you have a full product team or not, your product will require leadership from a product manager.
PM’s and PO’s must work together.
While product managers and product owners serve distinct roles, there is overlap.
Some believe product managers have more control of the product’s development than product owners or that their opinions have more weight.
In reality, product owners and managers work collaboratively towards the same goal — to build a better product.
If product managers and product owners are not aligned, or you’re missing input from a product manager entirely, the mistakes are costly. Without a product manager, your product won’t be right for your users and stakeholders won’t be invested. Without a product owner, your product won’t be developed correctly. Alignment between the two is critical to avoid production delays.
Product managers and owners must work together to get the right product out the door.
Imagine you’re building a new feature.
New features start with product managers. Product managers analyze inputs from your stakeholders and generate qualified feature ideas. They socialize ideas, identify the correct feature to build and align on your roadmap. Product managers strategize and create actionable items for your product design team.
Once a strategy is born and handed to the product designers, product owners answer the technical questions. They represent the interests of your developers and ask, “what’s next?” as product designs are implemented.
Now that your new feature is well into development, it’s time to market it.
Because they’re experts of your product roadmap, product managers are the most equipped to support your product marketing team. Product marketers and product managers work together to align on accurate and compelling positioning for your product. Then, product marketers translate positioning into messaging that anchors your audience as they engage.
Once the messaging for your new feature is solidified, product owners own your product’s future. Product owners update the product marketing team with any changes to the product.
Not all organizations have product managers and product owners. Understanding how product managers and product owners work together will help you build the right product, better and faster.
If your product owner is looking for a product manager, we can help. Find out how we can help you live in the future.