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Product Manager vs. Product Owner: What’s the Difference and Which Do You Need?

To boost the success of your company’s products or services, you opt to hire either a product manager or a product owner.

Although they have some responsibilities in common, and they share the company’s overall goals for its products, these two roles pursue differing approaches to getting it all done.

Product manager vs. product owner: which one suits your business needs? Let’s delve deeper into these roles to help you in making the optimal choice for your business!

What’s Product Management?

Product management encompasses the entire lifecycle of a product or product line, from its vision and design to development, launch, and ongoing management.

This role involves not just leading development teams but also collaborating across departments, engaging with company leadership, and catering to the needs of customers and stakeholders. It encompasses strategic development, data analysis, and the meticulous execution of plans.

In larger organizations, a product management role may focus on a single product and report to the head of a product management department or another division, such as marketing.

In smaller organizations, a product manager might oversee a broader array of products and report directly to the CEO or a senior executive.

Product Manager Responsibilities

Traditional product managers are at the center of the process, turning concept into product and delivering it to the market.

One critical role is maintaining contact with customers and learning about their needs and concerns. Using this customer data, product managers:

  • Discover customers’ issues
  • Determine whether customers would welcome a solution to those issues
  • Decide whether the company can create a product that solves the problem
  • Determines whether there is enough potential value for the business to pursue the product
  • If the product concept gets a green light, product managers:
  • Delegate to product teams and ensure they have the information and resources they need to create the product
  • Develop strategies for product success
  • Keep senior management involved and informed of progress
  • Maintain connections to the market and customer base.
  • Create user stories to promote the product

Product managers collaborate with other departments, like research, sales, marketing, and finance. They also plan for and obtain needed resources from outside vendors and service providers.

Product Manager Skills and Requirements

  • Creativity
  • Detail-oriented
  • Communication and interpersonal competencies
  • Flexibility
  • Project management
  • Problem-solving
  • Financial management
  • Sales and marketing

What’s Product Ownership?

Product owners are like product managers, but product owners are more involved in the development process, and they often use the Agile methodology to accomplish their goals.

Product Owners are Agile

Through Agile, product owners assemble teams that break projects into sequential, planned steps. Each step is implemented, evaluated, and adjusted before advancing—an adaptive process that responds to new information and feedback. Teams follow Plan–Do–Check–Act cycles, continually enhancing their approach.

Product owners gather diverse skill sets within teams for project success and empower them to make development decisions. They step in if teams face obstacles. Emphasizing collaboration, creativity, and transparency, this approach fosters team autonomy.

Product Owner Skills and Requirements

Focusing on the team’s progress, product owners need to:

  • Understand the industry, market trends, and customer needs
  • Be detail-oriented and have great leadership and negotiation skills
  • Advocate for the end-user and understand their needs
  • Provide critical information to development teams and communicate product goals
  • Encourage team member input and communication
  • Manage and inform the team of the product backlog
  • Act as a liaison among the development team and other stakeholders

Do You Need a Product Manager or Product Owner?

Evaluate your business practices—how do you manage revenue-generating products? Are you content with the current management approach, or do you seek change? Compare the roles of product manager versus product owner to find the ideal match for your present and future needs.

Both roles hold responsibility for the end product, engaging with stakeholders and customers across teams like marketing and finance, crucial for product development and sales.

Product managers set strategy and goals, oversee the product lifecycle, communicate objectives, and make decisions related to long-term product strategy.

Product owners are more operational, overseeing development teams, communicating strategy and goals, fostering team input, delegating tasks, and offering guidance.

How to Hire a Product Manager or Owner

With a firm understanding of product manager vs. product owner roles—their similarities and differences—you can recruit the people who best match each position!

Begin with effective job descriptions that describe responsibilities, expectations, required skills, and credentials. If you’re hiring both product managers and product owners, make sure the description for each clearly distinguishes one from the other. Then, recruit and select for each role separately.

Or, if you’re ready to make hiring easy, feel free to contact us today to see how we can streamline the recruiting process for you.

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