Stop the Press: The Product Owner is NOT the Product Manager

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The Product Manager has end-to-end responsibility for the Product success. According to StarVision Product Methodology (SVPM), the Product Manager role includes the following dimensions – Product Strategy, Product Definition (from high level roadmap to requirement definitions), Product Achievement (working with technical teams to implement the product definition) and Product Marketing (in some cases Product Marketing is handled by a separate role, the Product Marketing Manager).

Agile SCRUM methodology introduced a new role, Product Owner, which overlaps the Product Manager role, but does not cover all Product Manager’ responsibilities. The Product Owner focus is internal – providing detailed requirements to the implementation team and work closely with them throughout the development process. The Product Owner represents the product in the implementation team, and therefore should be aware of the market and relevant stakeholders needs.

Two Separate Product Roles

Product Managers should focus on the market, and bring the outside world into the organization. They should be involved in the implementation process to ensure the developed product meets the market needs.

In SCRUM, the Product Owner is required to be available to the implementation team almost all the time – make sure detailed requirements are ready on time, reply to queries, attend all rituals and more. Under this pressure, it is very difficult to allocate enough time to be a market expert.

Furthermore, Product Owners are extremely busy with current sprint tasks, and at the same time preparing detailed requirements for the next sprint. They always lack time for longer term and more strategic activities involving various stakeholders like customers, partners, sales, marketing, delivery and more.

Therefore, my recommendation is to separate these two roles to two different people – a Product Manager, who is market-focused and responsible for longer-term activities, and a Product Owner, who is internal-focused and responsible for short-term activities.

This does not mean that Product Managers should not be involved at all in the implementation and that Product Owners should not be in touch with the market. On the contrary – Product Managers should ensure that the implementation serves the product long-term goals and Product Owners should have direct access to the market (e.g. meet customers and get their feedback) in order to represent the product point of view towards the implementation team – but the focus of each role should be clear.

Wait, what if we are too small for two roles?

In smaller companies, there is no budget for 2 product roles and the solution is one person responsible for both Product Manager and Product Owner roles. In such case, management should verify that long-term activities are not neglected (for example, using recurrent strategic meetings in which long term activities are discussed). This should be a treated as a temporary solution, and as soon as possible, this unified product position should be split to two (one Product Manager and one Product Owner).

Avi Gelber

Avi Gelber

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About StarVision

StarVision empowers companies to develop great products by optimizing their Product Management processes. Based on its field-proven Product Methodology (SVPM), StarVision provides best practices and know-how to all the dimensions of product management – from strategy to execution.

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