Product Owner vs. Product Manager: No, they’re not the same

Product Owner vs. Product Manager: No, they’re not the same

Kamil Drazkiewicz
Kamil Drazkiewicz7 minOctober 25, 2022

Often, there is confusion regarding the roles of a Product Manager and a Product Owner.

It is common to use these terms as synonyms, as there is some overlap between them. In fact, there are distinct differences between the Product Manager and Product Owner roles.

So, are you interested in being one in the future? Or maybe you think about which one will work best for your company?

Here’s a closer look at both positions that will dispel your doubts once and for all.

How does a Product Owner differ from a Product Manager?

Two product-focused positions with different day tasks behind them. To begin, let’s examine these two job definitions more closely.

A Product Owner (PO) plans and executes the entire product lifecycle. With the help of developers, marketers, engineers, and sales representatives – it’s the person who makes the Product Manager’s project a reality. From development to positioning and pricing, it covers every aspect of the development process.

A Product Manager (PM) is the person responsible for bringing the most value to the organization during the development process. It is a person who creates a vision for a product. As the main contact point with customers, the product manager is responsible for identifying their needs and finding a way to satisfy them.

The main responsibilities of each role

Product Owners are generally associated with the Scrum* agile methodology for project management. They are responsible for removing any barriers that get in the way of delivering a successful product.

* Scrum is a common framework, a set of simple work rules so that you can quickly get information about what is happening with the product and at what stage of the agile development process the team is.

Scrum framework

Source: Giphy

In accordance with the cohesive product roadmap prepared by the product manager, they must ensure that the project is implemented within the specified timeframe and within the budget. Keeping the bigger business goals in mind, they aim to meet short-term company objectives.

Among Product Owners, examples of duties are

  • Assistance in identifying priorities during the various agile sprints
  • Constant contact with the rest of the scrum team
  • Checking the current status of the work and verifying the results
  • Presenting the strategic roadmap and preparing the product actionable backlog
  • Assuring that the development process is moving in the right direction
  • Determining broader business priorities

On the other hand, Product Managers rely on data and its analysis to propose the best solutions. Therefore, they usually supervise researchers and collect market research data. Such a person must also co-create marketing and sales strategies.

Among Product Managers, examples of duties are

  • Defining actionable user stories and creating a product backlog
  • Participation in the development of marketing and sales strategy
  • Collection of business-relevant data (e.g., competitive analysis)
  • Setting business KPIs and tracking whether the product strategy is working as planned
  • Identifying the key elements of the product development process

⚠️ Note: Product Managers and Product Owners have slightly different strategic responsibilities from company to company, depending on the actual development stages of the project.

Works with

How do the two business roles differ in their day-to-day activities? The Product Owner works with the scrum team on a daily basis. Scrum teams typically include developers, backend engineering, UI and UX designers, as well as product managers.

Product owner in scrum team

As for Product Managers, they work with researchers, sales representatives, PR and marketing specialists, and business representatives. As well as all internal stakeholders and external stakeholders involved in the product-building process.

Product manager collaboration

Involvement

The work of a classic Product Owner is more tactical in nature. As a result, they are usually involved in the day-to-day operations. Product Managers are usually not involved in regular daily operations, but that doesn’t mean they are not aware of all that goes on. They still work closely together, but the Product Manager is more concerned with the big picture and long-term strategy.

What Product Owner and Product Manager have in common?

The common goal. Each strives to create successful products that solve customers’ problems. Through their close cross-functional collaboration and understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, these two professionals can create an unstoppable team that will help take any product to new heights.

Product owner vs. Product manager

Product Owner

Core responsibility: responsible for executing product long-term vision on time and within the budget

Works with: engineers, QA business analysts, and UX/UI designers to make sure product features are implemented correctly

Involvement: generally involved in day-to-day operations

Goal: Creating a successful product that solves customers’ problems

Product Manager

Core responsibility: responsible for the product vision and strategy of the product

Works with: stakeholders and customers to gather detailed requirements

Involvement generally not involved in day-to-day operations

Goal: Creating a successful product that solves customers’ problems

What skills are necessary for each role?

Firstly, both roles require

  1. Excellent communication skills to effectively convey the vision and product goals to the development team and other stakeholders.
  2. Strong organizational skills to keep track of various tasks and deadlines associated with the product development process.
  3. Good understanding of customer needs and market trends to develop products that meet customer demands and stay ahead of the competition.

The Product Manager role concentrates more on soft skills. It is essential that they be able to identify and describe customer needs so that a team of specialists (led by the Product Owner) can prepare the product accordingly.

The good Product Manager has:

  • conducting market research skills
  • strategic thinking
  • excellent negotiation skills
  • great listening skills
  • project management skills

The Product Owner, on the other hand, has more hard competencies. In addition to understanding the production processes, they have the ability to analyze these steps and modify them to deliver the product that is required.

The good Product Owner has:

  • strong technical knowledge (such as software development, coding, and designing, UX principles, etc.)
  • ability to make decisions
  • analytical skills
  • characteristics of a good leader
  • project management skills
  • ability to resolve conflicts

Does your organization need both of these professionals?

Thus, all of these above raises the question – do you need both a Product Owner and a Product Manager at your company?

With their different responsibilities and areas of work, it makes sense to have a Product Manager and a Product Owner on the team. After all, each of these roles carries a variety of responsibilities and requires a unique combination of skills and personal attributes.

A Product Manager is responsible for the who, what, and why of business operations. Product Owners – for the how.

The Product Owner is the link between the business and Scrum team. They would not work with sales, product marketing, and other partners. It would be the Product Manager.

Nevertheless, both can help or unnecessarily complicate a company’s structure. The answer lies in your business’s structure, product capabilities, and needs.

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LiveSession for product managers

The bottom line

Product Owners and Product Managers work toward the same goal – they want to create a successful product that delivers the best experience to its users.

They have many things in common, but they also have completely distinct roles and responsibilities. Interchanging them or belittling one of them is not fair. All in all, we have no doubts that they both play a significant role in the product’s business success.

The Product Manager communicates the long-term product vision, the Product Owner makes it a reality.

Product Owner vs. Product Manager: FAQs

What is the more senior Product Owner or Product Manager?

There is no definitive answer to this question as it depends on the specific organization and its respective roles. In general, the Product Manager is responsible for the product vision and strategy, while the Product Owner is responsible for execution and delivery. Therefore, the more senior position would typically be the Product Manager.

Can a Product Owner be a manager?

Yes, it is possible for a Product Owner to be a supervisor and be responsible for the same duties as a Product Manager. PO, however, may be overwhelmed by the numerous responsibilities this entails. That’s why you should carefully consider whether it’s a good choice for your company.

What is the average salary for PO & PM in 2022? 

According to Indeed.com and 2.8k salaries reported in the United States, the average Product Owner’s base salary is $105,913 per year. The common salary range is between $76,103 and $147,399. 

Product Managers in the US earn an average salary of $102,163 per year (based on 3.6k salaries reported). The common salary range is between $68,779 and $151,751**.**

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