Product Owner vs Project Managers. We might come across various questions in our mind. Which is the better one? Which one is more important? Which one do you require? What is the basic difference between the two?
Both Product Owner and Project Managers are management roles, who work with the team to accomplish a common goal: Bringing the project across the finish line.
The requirement of a Project Manager or a Product Owner depends on the structure of the project and the philosophy on which it is built. Let’s have a deeper look and understanding of what makes them unique and different from each other.
Who is a Product Owner?
According to the Scrum Guide, the Scrum Product Owner has the responsibility to maximise the value of the product on which the Development Team has worked on. The process of doing so varies according to the Scrum Teams, organisations and individuals.
The main responsibility of a Product Owner is to manage the Product Backlog, which includes:
- Expressing the Product Backlogs items in a clear manner.
- Optimizing the performance of the Development Team as well as of the value of their work.
- Order items in the Product Backlog in such a manner so that it achieves the best goals and missions.
- Ensuring that the Development Team has the required level of understanding of the items listed in the Product Backlog.
- Make sure that the Product Backlog is transparent and clear to all along, showing the way how the Scrum Team will be working.
The Product Owner is held accountable for all of the tasks mentioned above. Since there are various types of customers and users, it is very important that the product owner has a proper understanding of the varying needs as well as that of the business domain.
What are the major roles and responsibilities of a Product Owner?
The Product Owner is a key stakeholder who stays in touch with all the other stakeholders (users, customers, marketing, sales, senior management, or customer support) and keeps them bound with the development team. Their responsibilities include:
- Defining the features and specifying the requirements of the application
- Prioritize the features of the application
- Deliver a clear vision of the project.
- Adjust the features and prioritize as per needs after every sprint.
- Keep the users well informed of the upcoming status as well as get their feedback.
- Manage the product backlog and outline work in the product backlog.
- Ensure that the product backlog list is clear, transparent and visible.
- Define and announce releases.
- Negotiate the priorities, funding, scope, and schedule.
- Share the risks, issues, assumptions and dependencies with the stakeholders.
Who is a Project Manager?
A project manager is responsible for leading a project from the starting till the end, which includes planning of a project, execution of a project, delivering the project on time, on a schedule and in a budget as well as manage the people and resources. He works with the team to make sure that the desired value is being delivered and ensures that the work is accomplished in the correct order.
It is essential that a project manager has a combination of skills, like the ability to ask questions, resolve conflicts, understand unstated assumptions, as well as management skills.
What are the major roles and responsibilities of a Project Manager?
There is a long list of the roles that a project manager has to follow over the life cycle of a project. These roles and responsibilities are universal and are applicable to all project managers.
Planning and Defining Scope: Proper planning is very important for meeting project deadlines as many projects fail due to improper planning. It is very important that the project manager defines the scope of the project, determines the available resources as well as estimates the time and financial commitments.
Good Time Management: A project can be judged as a success or a failure depending on the factor if it has been delivered on time. Hence it is very important that a project manager sets realistic deadlines and makes sure that the team adheres to it. They should do the following things effectively:
- Define an activity
- Sequence the activity
- Estimate a duration for the activity
- Develop a schedule accordingly
- Maintain the schedule
Ensure customer satisfaction: It is very important that one delivers the stakeholders what they expected or more than what they expected to ensure that they are satisfied with the results. To do so, it is important that the project manager is in constant communication with the stakeholders so that they can take regular feedback and report them back with the progress. Hence it is very important that the project manager maintains good communication and ensures customer satisfaction.
Monitor Progress: It is important that a project manager monitors and analyzes the team performance and expenditure and take effective measures to do so.
Cost Estimation and Budget Development: The project can turn out to be a failure if you deliver the deliverables in time to the stakeholders but if it costs you more than the budget that you had created. Making an estimate and monitoring the expenditure according to the planned budget is important. Hence it is important that the Project Manager adjusts the figures accordingly and keep the budget stable.
Project Risk Management: Issues and problems arise in projects and one needs to be ready and work towards resolving them as quickly as possible as any delay might lead the project to go off-track. Risks are potential problems which have an equal probability of occurring and not occurring. Hence it is important that the project manager lists out all the risks that they might face and a plan of action to tackle the same.
Manage reports and other important documents: Final reports and documentation are two very important tasks for the project manager, where they document all the projects requirements that have been fulfilled, along with the history of the project, which includes what has been done, who all were involved and how it would have been improved in the future.
What are the similarities between a Product Owner and Project Manager?
Sometimes a Project Manager is regarded as a Product Owner and Product Owners is regarded as Project Managers. There are many similarities between the roles of a Product Owner and a Project Manager. Let’s have a look at the similarities between the two roles.
Both Project Managers and Product Owners are responsible to look after a team that works together to complete a project, meaning amazing people skills and communication skills are valued in both of the roles. It is important to build trust and facilitate proper communication between team members, stakeholders or sponsors, keeping in mind the success of the project.
Both Project Managers and Product Owners are responsible for the final outcome of a project. The roles of a Project Manager and a Product Owner differ when it comes to their day-to-day management.
Let’s have a look at how the roles of a Product Owner differs from that of a Project Manager.
Project Manager Vs. Product Owner
|Product Owner||Project Manager|
|A vision of Product||Articulates the needs of a customer and acts as their voice for the product vision.||Acts as a curator of the product vision while representing the sponsors and stakeholders.|
|Feedback||Makes sure that the decisions made in the organisation are shaped according to the feedback received.||Makes adjustments in the product vision and strategy according to customer feedback.|
|Strategy||Plans the goal and makes sure that value is being delivered to the customer.||Is responsible for business outcomes and strategic roadmaps.|
|Communication||Is always in touch with the team, customers, stakeholders and the organization||Engages with the stakeholders or helps the product owner and the development team do when needed.|
|Risk||Stays focused on the immediate sprint and release.||Focuses long-term on the ongoing support for product capabilities and value stream.|
Is a project manager’s role redundant in a scrum team?
When organisations are transitioning to Agile, it is often pondered upon if the role of Project Manager will be required when using Scrum on a project. Scrum is commonly known as Agile’s ‘project management’ method but is not compatible with the Project Manager roles. Scrum method has defined three roles: Scrum Master, Development Team and Product Owner. The roles and responsibilities of the traditional Project Manager are covered by these three roles:
- Process Focus (Managed by the Scrum Master)
- Task Allocation (Managed by the Development Team)
- Manage issues and dependencies (Managed by the Product Owner/Scrum Master)
- Prioritization of requirements (Done by the Product Owner)
- Procurement (Done by the Product Owner)
- Risk Management (Managed by everyone via demos, sprint planning and retrospectives)
Given that all of these responsibilities are taken care of, is there really a need for a Project Manager?
The answer to this depends on different factors like scale and complexity.
Let’s consider a situation where there is a small, co-located Scrum team that delivers a software product with manageable risks and few stakeholders. Under such conditions, they will not feel the need for a Project Manager as the responsibilities of a project manager is being managed by the roles that Scrum provides.
However, with the increase in complexities, the demand of the team also increases, bringing in the demand for a Project Manager. A few of such factors are discussed below.
Project Size: Complexities increase with an increase in project size. Having a Project Manager becomes very useful for projects with various Scrum Teams. Teams focus on the tasks that are set for them and not on the problems faced by others. It becomes unrealistic for teams to organise themselves without an independent coordinating role.
Risk Profile: Scrum decreases the chances of a project delivering the wrong solution. However, there are many other risks that one might face and which needs to be managed in the traditional manner: identifying, logging and managing. This is where the role of a Project Manager comes into play.
Distribution of the Team: It is common for project teams to be distributed at different locations geographically. Scrum becomes hard to implement under such conditions. Hence, having a central coordination role to have proper communication is preferable.
Delivery Process: The process of delivering results becomes more complex for medium-scaled or large scaled projects as it requires a great deal of planning and structuring. Hence, a Project Manager plays a significant role under such condition as they handle all the three stages of initiation, delivery and transition.
The roles of a Product Owner overlaps that of the Project Manager. However, a Product Owner is authorized to make prioritisation according to requirements, having domain expertise. Project Managers don’t have the authority to do so. Apart from this, Product Owners lack the required project management skills. Hence, it can be said that a Product Owner is a Project Manager who is responsible for delegating the project team to a Scrum Master while at the same time is responsible for the success of the project and project environment.