Product Manager vs Product Owner

product manager vs product owner
product manager vs product owner

Many people are still wondering about the positioning of the Product Manager in relation to the Product Owner. I’m doing this article to try to answer this question: Product Manager vs Product Owner.

Product Manager vs Product Owner

product manager vs product owner,  general vision

The Product Manager has a more macro vision than the Product Owner. This one will manage the strategy of the product, the customers (mainly in advance of phase), the vision of the direction to take.

Product Manager is not required; however, it can provide an interesting structure within the constitution of a product.

If we simply had to schematize this role, here is a drawing that would explain in a simplified way its positioning.


product manager vs product owner  – picture that represents “product manager vs product owner”

Positioning of the Product Manager

For simplicity, the product manager will work on the highest levels of the backlog: backlog, themes, features … The Product Owner himself, will work instead on much more detailed elements (user stories, technical task, spike, bug …).

Generally, the Product Manager works on several products that have links between them to manage the consistency of deliveries between different products. In some startup, there is no product, it aims to work upstream and at the top level.

Caution ! If he works about the macro vision on the product, he’s not the manager of the product owners of these products. All work must take place at a continuous negotiation on the different products.

Interface with top management

Moreover, this Product Manager will rather be the preferred interface with the top management; And will not be one of the member of the Scrum team. On the other hand, he will come to discover the progress of the works during the reviews of scrum teams.

In general, the company give him the role of budget management of the product, the macro prioritization of the products to be developed and the negotiation interface with the various stakeholders. He will intervene upstream of the products to ensure the interest of the products to be constituted and possibly downstream in the strategic constitution of the future evolutions of the existing products.

I say in general because there is no exact definition of the Product Manager. If the boundary between the Product Manager and the Product Owner needs to be clearly defined, it will not be 100% the same from one company to another.

The Product Manager can also be assigned if the company is working with OKR (Objective Key Results), the creation of OKR for each of the products it manages in a macro way with the aim of responding to OKR of the higher level.

Positioning of the Product Owner

Let see the positioning of the Product Owner when the company sets up a Product Manager. If this is not the case, the Product Owner generally takes all the roles that the Product Manager performs. However, sometimes it also requires having Business Analysts to reinforce the work of the Product Owner.

The Product Owner will keep the notion of user-story prioritization in sprints according to the Product Manager’s vision. However, he will also see the different stakeholders and customers of his application. Unlike Product Manager, it will rather work on the maturation (creation, analysis and development) of different user-stories.

he will be 100% in the scrum team; this will allow him to be always present to help them in the realization of it.

Conclusion product manager vs product owner

In conclusion, the role of Product Manager can really complement that of the Product Owner. This will be true in companies where there are several products dealing with similar topics; but also true in companies where the product imposes a big strategic work for x reasons. On the other hand, it must be remembered that there is no managerial notion between the Product Manager and the Product Owner. They will work together to better cover the entire product realization.

So, “product manager vs product owner” is a wrong question! They are complementary and not opposited. Feel free to give us your feedback about product manager vs product owner! All experiences is interesting.

Useful linkProduct Owner (PO)


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About Judicaël Paquet 190 Articles
Judicaël Paquet (agile coach and senior devops) My activities in France and Switzerland: - agile transformation architect - customized agile training - sensitization and manager coaching - agile maturity audits and situations - agile coaching (teams, orga, product owner, scrum master, agile coach) Specialties: scrum, kanban, management 3.0, scalability, lean startup, agile method.

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