HomeBlogAgileProject Manager vs Product Owner [Detailed Comparison]

Project Manager vs Product Owner [Detailed Comparison]

06th Jun, 2024
view count loader
Read it in
8 Mins
In this article
    Project Manager vs Product Owner [Detailed Comparison]

    For most of us, the role of a Project Manager is quite well defined. But how many of us know the role a project manager plays in an Agile project? Some other questions that often boggle budding Agilists are, exactly how different a product owner is different from a project manager? And are these roles interchangeable? It is important to understand Project Manager and Product Owner Responsibilities for better differentiation. It is important to understand Project Manager and Product Owner Responsibilities for better differentiation. To learn more, check out the certification for Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.

    This blog is an attempt to help you learn more about the Project Manager Vs Product Owner role and how these two fit into a modern project setting.

    Project Manager vs Product Owner [Comparison Table]

    In the following table, let us take a closer look at the project manager vs product owner differences revolving around the various aspects of product development.

    AspectProduct Owner (PO)Project Manager (PM)
    FunctionGuides the development team, owns product vision, defines user stories, and ensures the product backlog reflects business priorities.Ensures overall product success, focusing on market strategy, development priorities, deadlines, and alignment with business goals.
    Product VisionWithin Scrum, the PO creates the vision, identifying goals and defining them, with full authority for development, alteration, and value optimization.PM executes the organization's vision, crafting a plan for timely project completion with efficient resource allocation.
    CollaborationCommunicates closely with the Scrum teams frequently to ensure product goals.Their main task is to supervise the project and meet regularly with the team.
    OwnershipThe PO owns the product features.The PM owns the projects and developmental tasks.
    Leadership RoleMotivates and is responsible for steering teams in the right direction.Manages the task at hand in line with the requirements.
    Process managementMaintains the process backlog.Is concerned about the finer details, such as work creation and management.
    PhilosophyBased on the Scrum framework flexibility and adaptability.A long-established discipline that draws from diverse fields.
    Fundamental CharacteristicsEntrepreneurial, visionary, and decisive.Time management, negotiation, and risk management.
    SalaryThe average salary is $99,410 in the United States.The average salary is $1,34,379 in the United States.

    Difference Between Project Manager and Product Owner

    1. Project Manager Vs Product Owner: Function

    The product owner directs the product by taking charge of the product vision. They are also responsible for strategy, goal development, managing the product backlog, and deciding the essential features. Understanding the ideal customer is crucial for the product owner, and it highlights a major difference between project managers and product owners when it comes to project manager versus product owner. They conduct customer profile analysis to be able to create concrete product goals.

    On the other hand, the project manager oversees the project, assigning tasks and ensuring they align with project constraints. While project managers set project goals, they do not bear responsibility for the product vision, distinguishing their role from that of the product owner.

    2. Project Manager Vs. Product Owner: Product Vision 

    The product owner, operating within the Scrum framework, takes charge of creating the product vision by identifying goals and objectives and defining the overall vision.  Having full authority from stakeholders, the product owner bears the responsibility for product development and optimizing its value.
    In contrast, the project manager’s role is not centered around creating a vision but executing the organization's established vision. The project manager formulates a plan for timely project completion, emphasizing efficient resource allocation and utilization.
    While the product owner exercises complete ownership over the product, influencing its vision as needed, the project manager lacks significant control over the project's vision and concept, highlighting a major project manager vs product owner difference.

    3. Project Manager vs Product Owner: Collaboration

    A product owner's collaboration style is more hands-on compared to a project manager. A product owner remains consistently available to the team. They guide the team on what and why they're creating while addressing queries and offering crucial feedback on product development.
    Project managers, on the other hand, focus on meeting deadlines and task assignments and do not necessarily engage in daily communication. Their clear expectations with regard to the tasks eliminate the need for constant updates, and periodic check-ins are enough to ensure smooth progress.

    4. Project Manager vs Product Owner: Ownership 

    Project managers take charge of the project, overseeing resources and ensuring timely, cost-effective product delivery within a set budget, schedule, and scope. Despite significant responsibilities in the project, traditional project managers have limited influence on the project's concept; instead, they focus on orderly delivery decisions.

    In contrast, a product owner concentrates on product features, wielding authority rooted in stakeholders' trust. Acting as a bridge between Business and Development, the product owner ensures the team understands business needs.

    5. Product Owner vs Project Manager: Leadership Role 

    In the realm of leadership with overlapping product owner and project manager roles, a product owner serves as the team's motivator. Similar to a ship's navigator, they ensure the right course through constant communication and close collaboration with the development teams.

    On the other hand, a project manager functions as the captain, focusing on timely and precise task completion. Their refined leadership skills are crucial, as the team looks to them for guidance on project issues and execution. Despite their distinct roles, the product owner and project manager each contribute to the overall success of projects, right up to efficient project delivery.

    6. Product Owner vs. Project Manager: Process Management

    The product owner is dedicated to creating and maintaining the product backlog, serving as its custodian. The backlog, which is considered the project's backbone, contains crucial information, such as feedback from all sources, starting from the stakeholders to developers and users.

    Conversely, the project manager takes on a broader role. They are responsible for organizing the backlog into a cohesive and executable project. Their duties encompass calculating task dependencies, planning and assigning tasks, allocating resources, and setting deadlines.

    7. Product Owner vs. Project Manager: Philosophy

    One of the major project manager vs product owner differences between the two is their fundamental philosophy. Product ownership is a fairly new idea that comes from the Agile methodology. Defined by Scrum, they embody flexibility and adaptability as the core principles of leadership and operation. Functioning in dynamic environments, they swiftly learn, unlearn, and adjust based on software development feedback.

    Project managers have roots in diverse fields as they originate from disciplines such as construction, military, and engineering. The project management field emphasizes a scientific approach and structured systems. Project managers excel in closed, organized environments, focusing on effective management rather than demanding flexibility. This makes their role distinct from the Agile philosophy of product owners.

    8. Product Owner vs. Project Manager: Fundamental Characteristics

    Product owners are basically entrepreneurs in their approach. They thrive on ideas, taking responsibility, and making conscious decisions to minimize risks. They embody the product vision, understand customer needs, and emphasize long-term success. They are also highly assertive and decisive about the desired results.  

    Project managers excel in time management and ensure projects stay on schedule. They are strong negotiators and navigate obstacles with project boards, teams, and stakeholders. Being proficient at risk management, project managers identify and address risks throughout the project lifecycle.

    9. Product Owner vs. Project Manager: Salary

    Comparing salaries across industries, product owners earn more than project managers. According to Glassdoor, the average salary of a project manager is $99,410 in the United States, while a product owner makes $1,34,379. Salaries across industries can vary depending on the experience, product, and attributes an individual possesses.

    Who is a Product Owner?

    The Product Owner is responsible for maximising the product value, representing the stakeholders, prioritizing the backlog, empowering the team, maintaining Agile and Scrum processes and defining the product vision.

    In recent times, the Product Owner has become an irreplaceable part of an agile project team. Their worth has been validated by their role in driving product value and enhancing stakeholder satisfaction.

    Know more about Project Description and Conflict Management.

    “The product owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the development team. How this is done may vary widely across organizations, scrum teams, and individuals.”—Scrum Guide 

    What are the Responsibilities of a PO, and What Do They Not Handle?

    • The responsibilities of the Product Owner include: 
    • Managing stakeholders and driving value 
    • Managing effective communication between the development team and stakeholders 
    • Providing the product vision to the development team 
    • Resolving conflicts and managing situations or escalations that may arise with stakeholders or development team members 
    • Prioritising items on the backlog 
    • Guiding the development team on Scrum values, principles and processes  
    • Helping stakeholders understand the value of Scrum 

    The Role of a Product Manager in a Project and Interactions with the Team

    A good product manager can be a boon to a team and conversely, a bad product manager can be disastrous to a team. A good product manager can set clear goals, define strategy and help the team to build the right things.  

    An effective product manager manages the project and at no point in time transfers the responsibility of managing parts of the project to the development team.  

    The development team’s sole focus should be on building a good product. The Product Owner should make sure that the team is proceeding in the right direction and the product is shaping up correctly.  

    The product owner plays an important part in the project as the person primarily responsible for prioritizing the scope, cost and deadlines of the product.  

    Who is a Project Manager?

    Most of us would have at some point in our careers worked under a project manager. A project manager’s role is extensive and includes everything right from successful initiation, planning, design to project closure. 

    As projects get more complex and pan global, the need for project managers has grown sharply in the past years, as they, with their expertise and skills are able to steer projects to success.

    Project managers are organized, passionate and goal-oriented, understand what projects have in common, and their strategic role in how organizations succeed, learn and change--PMI®

    What are the Responsibilities of a PM, and What Do They Not Handle?

    The responsibilities of a Project Manager include:

    • Planning, organizing, completing a project
    • Financial reporting
    • Developing a project charter
    • Resource management
    • Risk Management
    • Change Management
    • Scheduling
    • Cost Estimation and Budget Development
    • Controlling quality
    • Documentation
    • Tracking performance indicators
    • Vendor management
    • Managing reports and other important documents

    A project manager does not

    • Take responsibility for product success or failure
    • Approve resources or funding for the project
    • Work to provide seamless communication between stakeholders and team members
    • Specify the users’ requirements to the team
    • Maintain quality and ensure that the end product meets user needs

    The Role of a Project Manager in a Project and Interactions with the Team

    A project manager is responsible for leading a project from the start till the end, which includes planning, execution, and delivering the project on time, and on schedule and budget. They also have the responsibility to manage the people and resources and work with the team to make sure that the desired value is being delivered in the correct order.

    It is essential that a project manager has a combination of skills, including the ability to ask questions, resolve conflicts, understand unstated assumptions, and manage people around. The project manager as the PMI states is a change agent who ‘makes project goals their own, and use their skills and expertise to inspire a sense of shared purpose within the project team.’

    Similar Characteristics and Skills for the PO and the PM

    • Both Product Owners and Project Managers work as change agents
    • They both work towards completing the project and are thus valued members of the project team
    • They both have great communication, conflict resolution and facilitation skills. This skill is paramount for their success as either a product owner or a project manager as they should be able to effectively communicate with stakeholders, team members, users etc
    • They guide team members on processes and techniques to use to reach the final goal
    • They both have a broad toolkit of techniques that they use to steer projects into manageable chunks
    • They both have great people skills and have good organizational skills which come in handy when they have to deal with multiple requirements and projects
    • They are both passionate when it comes to continuous improvement

    Responsibilities that Overlap: Product Owner vs Project Manager

    In many organizations there is a very fine line between the project manager and the product owner. In fact, you may often find one carrying out the responsibilities of the other. These two roles have many responsibilities that overlap. To progress in your career in Scrum, enroll in the CSPO certification course

    • Both the product owner and project manager have the responsibility of steering the team to achieve the goal. This they do by ensuring that the team is on time and within budget and not straying
    • They both lead and work with cross-functional teams and are aligned with the team to ensure product success
    • They both create the product or project roadmap to help the team understand timelines and scope
    • They both make sure that priorities are aligned
    • They are both involved through the life cycle of the project
    • They both have to deal with the Iron Triangle’s elements of Time, Budget and Scope
    • Both have to ensure and focus on return on investment and can discontinue the project if it does not meet the projected profits

    How Is a Product Owner Different from a Project Manager?

    When it comes to project manager vs product owner, there are a few key differences that should be understood. What I have observed in all these years of having worked in this field is that a product owner primarily focuses on the product vision, aligns with the customer needs, and guides development. The product manager, on the other hand, ensures overall product success by strategizing priorities and business goals. The product owner’s approach is also hands-on with the daily decisions they make, the user stories they create, and the product backlog they manage. In contrast, the product manager, operating at a higher level, directs the broader product strategy and delegates tasks. Although both roles have numerous overlaps, there are a number of subtle differences between product owner and project manager. The product owner emphasizes Agile practices and constant adaptation, while the product manager navigates the technical roadmap with a strategic, business-oriented approach.

    Top Cities where Knowledgehut Conduct CSPO Certification Training Course Online

    CSPO Certification in BangaloreCSPO Certification in SydneyCSPO Certification in Chennai
    CSPO Certification in New YorkCSPO Certification in LondonCSPO Certification in Chicago
    CSPO Certification in SingaporeCSPO Certification in Pune CSPO Certification in Berlin
    CSPO Certification in TorontoCSPO Certification in DubaiCSPO Certification in Los Angeles
    CSPO Certification in HyderabadCSPO Certification in VancouverCSPO Certification in Delhi

    Examine the top trending  Agile Category Courses

    CSM CertificationCSPO CertificationLeading SAFe Certification
    PSM CertificationSAFe Scrum Master CertificationSAFe SPC Certification
    SAFe RTE CertificationSAFe POPM CertificationICP-ACC Certification


    In conclusion, understanding the distinctive roles of project manager vs product owner can make for successful project execution. In this article, I have focused on how product owners navigate the product's vision and daily intricacies while project managers uphold the broader, strategic view. For professionals aspiring to excel in these domains, certifications in project management and product ownership offer structured knowledge and recognition. Certifications, such as PMP for project managers and the CSPO certification course for product owners, not only enhance skills but also provide a clear career path. These certifications validate expertise, making professionals well-equipped to lead projects effectively. They will also be able to adapt to evolving industry demands and progress in their respective careers.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    1Is a product owner a Scrum role?

    Yes, the product owner is a key role in the Scrum framework. They are responsible for defining and prioritizing the product backlog, ensuring alignment with business goals, and representing the customer's interests.

    2Is a product owner higher than a project manager?

    Yes, the product owner is a key role in the Scrum framework. They are responsible for defining and prioritizing the product backlog, ensuring alignment with business goals, and representing the customer's interests.

    3Can a project manager become a product owner?

    Yes, a project manager can transition to the role of a product owner. While managerial skills give you a leg up, they are not essential to becoming a product owner.


    Lindy Quick

    Blog Author

    Lindy Quick, SPCT, is a dynamic Transformation Architect and Senior Business Agility Consultant with a proven track record of success in driving agile transformations. With expertise in multiple agile frameworks, including SAFe, Scrum, and Kanban, Lindy has led impactful transformations across diverse industries such as manufacturing, defense, insurance/financial, and federal government. Lindy's exceptional communication, leadership, and problem-solving skills have earned her a reputation as a trusted advisor. Currently associated with KnowledgeHut and upGrad, Lindy fosters Lean-Agile principles and mindset through coaching, training, and successful execution of transformations. With a passion for effective value delivery, Lindy is a sought-after expert in the field.

    Share This Article
    Ready to Master the Skills that Drive Your Career?

    Avail your free 1:1 mentorship session.

    Your Message (Optional)

    Upcoming Agile Management Batches & Dates

    NameDateFeeKnow more
    Course advisor icon
    Whatsapp/Chat icon