This blog post explores the differences between working as a product manager and playing the product owner role.
“The Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product (…),” states the Scrum Guide. This sounds like a core product management responsibility to me. So what’s the difference between a product manager and a product owner?
Working as the product owner implies taking on many product management responsibilities including understanding the market, describing product functionality, and preparing the product launch. This makes product managers well suited to play this new role. But a product owner is more than just a re-branded product manager: Product owners tend to take on a wider range of duties, which makes the role multi-faceted and challenging. The following formula captures this insight:
Product Owner = Product Manager + x
My experience suggests that the x above comprises additional strategic duties including envisioning the product and managing the product roadmap as well as further tactical ones, such as collaborating with the development team throughout the development effort, writing user stories, carrying out release planning, and managing stakeholders. Consequently, product owners often require more authority and more focus to do their job well. Note that product ownership is teamwork in Scrum: Requirements are no longer identified and described by one person. Product owner, ScrumMaster and team collaborate on a regular basis to groom the product backlog.
Working as a first-time product owner is hence a new experience and a challenge. The right training and coaching measures can help product owners get up to speed faster. “Early immersion and training of the product owners in agile principles, product backlog creation, user story design and estimation and planning is key to the success of any agile team. Also, beyond initial training, continuous product owner coaching throughout the rollout is necessary to ingrain the new process into the culture,” write Fry and Greene about their experience at Salesforce.com in their article “Large Scale Agile Transformation in an On-Demand World.”