In many companies across the country, it’s common to confuse the roles of Product Owner and Product Manager. This article will explore the main differences between them and how they work together on a daily basis.
We will address how important these jobs are within an organization, what the exact responsibilities are for each position, and what qualifications are required to start a career in each role.
The Role of a Product Manager
The primary responsibility of the Product Manager is to oversee the entire product lifecycle.
This involves creating a vision for a new product and developing strategies to bring this vision to life. They must keep up to date with market trends and opportunities in order to research, develop, launch, and support a new product.
A Product Manager must work with various departments within a company in order to ensure the new product is a success, from design teams and engineering departments, to sales, marketing, and customer support.
The Role of a Product Owner
The Product Owner role originated from the Scrum agile framework. The position is therefore restricted to organizations and companies that use an agile development approach.
The Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product by working closely with the development team.
What’s The Difference Between The Product Manager and Product Owner?
Despite sharing some common ground, the roles of a Product Owner and a Project Manager are significantly different.
The main difference is the overall focus of their responsibilities. A Product Manager’s role is highly strategic, and more focused on the long-term view. A Product Owner is more detail-oriented, and committed to achieving short-term goals.
The Responsibilities of Each Position
The responsibilities of a Product Owner and a Product Manager vary based on their different positions within the organization.
A Product Manager is responsible for:
- Product Conceptualization
- Marketing of the product
- Supporting sales
- Taking care of customers
A Product Owner is responsible for:
- Organizing demos
- Taking part in regular team meetings
- Being involved in testing
- Analyzing requirements
- Taking care of the backlog
You might have noticed some similarities between the two roles. After all, fundamentally both positions involve managing products. This is usually what leads to confusion and is the main reason why these roles are merged into one.
Typically in small organizations, people hire Product Owners to avoid building a Product Management team. But for bigger organizations and from a long-term perspective, the role of the Product Manager becomes an essential part of the overall product development.
We cannot therefore just say their responsibilities are the same. These are two different roles and have different functions within a company.
What Skills do a Product Owner and a Product Manager Need?
As each role performs a different job within an organization, the skills required to carry out each role also varies.
The Skillset of a Product Manager
- Sales: The ability to sell your idea to others is key to being an effective Product Manager. You should be able to empathize with colleagues and understand how they think in order to motivate and encourage progress.
- Communication: Product Management is very team-oriented. Being able to communicate instructions clearly will ensure everybody is on the same page and goals are met.
- Prioritization: Product Management often involves tight deadlines, so compromises will have to be made. You should know how to prioritize the most important tasks and sideline less essential work.
- Research and Analysis: A Product Manager must know how to conduct market research and analyze data effectively. You will be working with large amounts of consumer feedback, requiring specialized data analysis and reporting across the organization.
- Economics: Being an economics wizard isn’t required, but can certainly give you an edge. It can help you understand the supply and demand of resources, and how to better manage time and effort within the product development process.
The Skillset of a Product Owner
- Communication: The job of a Product Owner is all about transforming a vision into actionable tasks. Good communication skills are essential to effectively distribute the workload.
- Listening: Since a Product Owner needs to coordinate with many different people, they must have good listening skills. This is key to understanding a range of different perspectives and appreciate all sides of an argument.
- Vision: A Product Owner needs to foresee and plan accordingly. They ideally should be creative and capable of envisioning something that doesn’t exist yet.
- Problem-Solving: The Product Owner needs to act quickly when a problem arises. They must come up with appropriate solutions in a pragmatic manner, and communicate these with their team.
- Curiosity: A Product Owner should be constantly questioning the development team. While this curiosity might seem counterproductive, it will force engineers to reassess their decisions and ultimately improve the end product.
How to Become a Product Manager
There are various ways to become a Product Manager. However, all paths require you to have the appropriate skills and experience. Here are some key points that can help you start a career in this field.
1. Specialized Training
The field of Product Management is becoming more and more popular. This has led to the launch of specialized product management courses, both online and offline. These courses will prepare you to take on Product Management responsibilities and help you acquire all the necessary skills.
An online course is significantly less expensive than doing an MBA. This means you can acquire everything you need to get hired as a Product Manager, without incurring massive debt. These courses will make your resume stand out to prospective employers.
2. MBA Program
This is also a good choice as it helps you build solid Product Management skills. You can gain leadership skills, learn to work within a team, and practice developing a product vision. However, MBAs may lack training on the latest tools and techniques such as wireframe designs.
3. Learning On The Job
This path won’t make you a senior Product Manager overnight. It will be slow, but if you work hard you can eventually reach your goals. With the right attitude and the desire to learn and improve, you can start off in a junior position. Over time, you’ll gain enough experience to work your way up the corporate ladder.
Ultimately, it’s up to you which path you choose. Each individual has their own set of circumstances, so it’s about choosing an education that’s best for you.
How to become a Product Owner?
This role is not as simple and direct as that of a product manager. The qualifications required for this job vary according to the industry that you will be working in. Let’s take a look at your options.
1. Certified Scrum Product Owner
To prove your commitment to this field, you can get a certification. This will give you an edge over other candidates and show potential employers that you’re serious about succeeding as a Product Owner. Several organizations offer certifications, including 280 Group, Scrum Alliance, Scaled Agile, and Roman Pichler.
Bear in mind that although certification is an excellent demonstration of theoretical knowledge, it provides no real-life experience.
2. Product Management Bootcamp
A technical degree certainly won’t do you any harm. But at the same time, when it comes to becoming a Product Owner, specific skills and experience are more important than degrees. If you only have a degree with no knowledge of the agile process and principles, then you may struggle to get hired.
All in all, taking a product management course that pairs a skills-based curriculum with a personal mentor is the best option if you’re committed to starting a career as a Product Owner.
Now you know the similarities and differences between these two roles. Based on the required skills, responsibilities, and qualifications, you can decide which career may suit you best.
For further insight into Project Management, read our post on Who Should Pursue A Product Management Career. It shares the real-life experience of a leading Product Manager with nearly 30 years working in the tech space.
Or, if you’re ready to take the plunge and advance your career today, enroll in our online Product Management training course. Learn all the skills you need to turn a mere vision into a real-life product. Take advantage of our full curriculum and benefit from expert mentorship.