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Product Owner VS Product Manager

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As the gap for talent in the technology sectors widens, the demand for product managers and product owners has grown substantially. As a result, all aspiring product management professionals need to understand the difference between both roles to better align their knowledge, experiences and skill sets to the rigorous requirements of each role. Having a greater appreciation of the scope and purpose of both roles will improve communications, better manage expectations and improve existing cross-functional collaboration in the organization as well.

Therefore, it is important to distinguish between the roles of a product manager and a product owner. This article will be focusing on the key areas in which both of these roles differ.

Source: Scaled Agile Inc

Job scope and Responsibilities

Product Manager

Responsibilities include:

  • Defining product direction and approach
  • Implement product design and industry best practices
  • Analyse business gaps and rank opportunities
  • Stakeholder management

The size of the business and the structure of the development team as a whole typically affect the scope of the role. Depending on the juncture of a product in the development process, the daily tasks of a product manager will likewise vary significantly.

The product manager may be preoccupied with product strategy and establishing a product vision at the start of a product’s lifecycle. The product manager will start to concentrate on product features, market research, and customer feedback when the product is delivered to consumers. Therefore, the product manager is often the one overseeing key strategic decisions on delivery, maintenance, and market research.

Product Owner

Responsibilities include:

  • Planning and prioritising business processes to achieve set goals
  • Owning product backlog and Scrum ceremonies
  • Oversee end-to-end development and be informed of the team’s daily tasks

A product owner’s scope is usually narrower than a product manager’s. The product owner is in charge of the How while the product manager determines the Why, Who, and What. When they see user stories, they consider the doable actions their team can take to satisfy the needs of the client.

Internal stakeholders like developers, designers, and quality assurance engineers collaborate tightly with product owners. Their scope is exclusively limited to the product itself. Product owners must therefore possess strong technical skills and attention to detail. A product owner will also assist the development team in carrying out common objectives. They will inspire the Scrum team to take calculated risks by leveraging their strong communication abilities. A product owner must consider both the long-term goals of the product and the customer while coming up with a strategy for growth.

Skills Required

Product Manager

Every product manager needs to possess essential knowledge of a product development cycle through adequate guidance and exposure. Experience in some of these areas includes: performing business analysis, identifying product requirements, designing product roadmaps and tracking KPIs.

These fundamental qualities are the foundation for any Product Manager, that can be developed over the years. Exceptional product managers are excellent at analysing how different factors can affect the outcome and at adapting their strategy constantly in response to consumer input.

Product managers should have empathy for clients, be aware of their emotions and non-verbal cues, and manage stakeholders. Strategic partnerships across the organization and a clear understanding of how to overcome both internal and external obstacles to deliver quality products are characteristics of a product manager with high EQ.

Product Owner

A significant portion of a product owner’s job entails translating the product managers’ recommendations for the UX, engineering, and development teams. Hence, they also need to be adept communicators with excellent people skills.

As product owners deal with Scrum methodologies, they should focus on developing more specialised, job-specific competencies. Specifically, they must be proficient in Agile practices and the use of Scrum techniques like Kanban.

Additionally, product managers’ plans and execution are directly influenced by product owners. Hence, product owners should have strong characteristics of responsibility and commitment to deadlines.

Activities Performed

Product Managers

Outputs like a product roadmap, a product vision card, or a product requirement document are under the purview of deliverables of product managers. A product manager creates a product roadmap for the benefit of the team as a whole to provide a unified vision for the product’s planning and development cycle. It facilitates discussions regarding every product’s development progress and helps align the team in terms of outlining strategic directions and achievable goals. This helps to reduce misunderstandings and misalignments in the functional requirements for products to be delivered. When dealing with numerous departments and cross-functional teams, these resources help in technical documentation and seek to facilitate cooperation across teams as well.

Product Owners

Product backlogs, sprint plans and user stories are examples of items that product owners are in charge of producing and owning. A product backlog is a record of prioritised tasks that considers product needs for the development team, according to Atlassian. Product owners are responsible for overseeing the end-to-end planning and development of products. Hence, they must be involved at every stage of its development. Furthermore, they are responsible for defining the products to be prioritised and maximising efficiency amongst team members to carry out their duties well. When a product owner drafts a rational and well-organised product backlog that promotes effective teamwork, existing processes would be optimised to deliver better products.

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels


Understanding these fundamental yet subtle differences between product managers and product owners would help even the most experienced professionals to better manage their tasks and responsibilities, work better across workstreams and improve communications between functional teams. These benefits can empower product managers and product owners alike to improve the efficiency of workflows and facilitate more collaboration in the company. If you want to know more about user experience and its industry, do check out our other resources available on our websites, such as our articles, weekly webinars, and podcasts.

CuriousCore offers mid-career professionals specialized and career accelerator courses and we also provide practitioner-led masterclasses and consultations for organisations to improve their customer experience strategy and business growth.