Are you now a Product Manager or a Product Owner?

Agile has certainly changed the way Product Managers are perceived. In fact it raises the question within organizations that are moving to an Agile environment about what Product Management does. It raises the role of the product manager and the need for product management to the executive ranks – if it was not there already. But even though product managers have that title, are they really performing this role in an Agile environment. There are many blogs and tweets about this topic; my goal is to determine how many product managers in companies that use an Agile methodology actually perform the tasks of a product manager or do they in fact perform the tasks of a product owner.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s look at some of the key activities for a product manager and for a product owner.

Product Managers own the product roadmap and the release strategy – they worry about the big picture. They work with all the stakeholders to maintain the roadmap and thus each of the releases and the vision for those releases are part of their responsibility. To do this effectively they need to get out and visit customers and be “plugged-in” to their target markets and the problems these markets have. They define the priority of the enhancements needed for the product based on meeting business objectives. To them the success of the product is paramount. They look for new markets for the product or ways to expand the reach of the product in existing markets.

Product Owners are responsible for delivering to the release plan – they are heavily involved in the day-to-day operations. Their focus is iteration by iteration. They write/elaborate user stories and prioritize them for each iteration so that iteration deadlines can be met. They virtually “live” with the development team(s), attending all stand-up meetings through each of the iterations. They understand the user stories extremely well and deep.

So now onto the poll.

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If you picked that you are a Product Manager and primarily perform product owner activities, please answer the following.

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Both roles are key to delivering products. Smaller companies in most cases cannot staff both positions. But it’s imperative that all companies understand the difference in the roles and make sure that both are adequately covered and that clear lines of delineation are drawn between the roles.

Thanks for participating.

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