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Product Owner VS. Project Manager: What’s the Difference?

4 minutes

Successful tech companies have two major things in common –​​ efficient processes and clearly defined roles. Rather than formulate plans as they go, teams plot out everything that needs to get done, and by whom, from the start. But that’s only half of it. The other part involves making sure that the plan is clear and visible to everyone involved. 

Certainly, project management software, such as Nutcache, plays a critical role in doing precisely that. However, a project management software can’t replace the role of a leader – someone who is responsible for making judgment calls, especially when it comes to defining the scope of the project, supporting the team, and looping in the right people at the right time. This is where Product Owners (POs) and Project Managers (PMs) come in.

When it comes to these roles, responsibilities can overlap and titles are often used interchangeably, so it’s important that the differences are ironed out early on so no one gets confused or steps on anyone’s toes. 

Product Owner

So…what exactly is the difference? 

A simple way to remember the difference between POs and PMs is that POs are responsible for answering the what? and why? questions, like what are we building and who are we building this for, while PMs deal with the how? and when? questions, like how, will our team execute this project and how long will it take based on our skill level, resources, and other variables. Of course, that’s just the short of it. Below is a deeper dive into what a PO and PM do on a daily basis. 

Who is The Product Owner?

The PO is an integral part of an agile project team and plays a major role in driving the product value, designating the backlog, and empowering the team. Typically, they represent the project’s key stakeholders. However, in some cases, they are the stakeholders who liaison with all other stakeholders and the development team. In short, they can be thought of as the keeper of the vision and goals for the product.

What Does a Product Owner Do?

While a PO’s role can vary depending on the environment, they typically define the scope of the project, create and maintain roadmaps, represent the business stakeholders, and act as the voice of the end-user on projects. Key duties include:

    • Maintaining the backlog: A PO maintains the list of business features and functionality in a product backlog. In fact, this is arguably the most important responsibility for a product owner. The product backlog is the development team’s ever-evolving and changing project to-do list. The product owner’s responsibility is to create this list, then prioritize each item based on the overall strategy, business objectives, and task dependencies. 
    • Overseeing development stages: The PO is involved in and oversees each phase of development, including planning, refinement, review, and sprint. They also play an integral role in evaluating product progress, identifying any pain points, and refining the process if necessary.
    • Communicating with internal and external teams: POs make sure there’s input from stakeholders on all major decisions as well as ensure clear instructions and deliverables for the developers.

Product Owner

Who is the Product Manager?

While the PO is responsible for defining the project, the PM takes care of the execution and serves as a single point of contact for the PO. PMs have a deep understanding of the product but are not typically required to do any hands-on creation, such as coding or manufacturing. In essence, the PM supports the team to make sure the project is delivered on time, schedule, and budget. Ultimately, the success or failure of the project falls on their shoulders.

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What does a Project Manager do?

Throughout the lifecycle of a project, the PM is typically tasked with: 

  • Staying on schedule
  • Sticking to a budget
  • Managing project resources
  • Documenting the progress of the project
  • Assessing risks
  • Troubleshooting
  • Leading quality assurance

The team relies on the PM to implement processes, monitor plans, and ensure the realization of goals. Whether running a marketing campaign, building a website, or launching a new product, the main duty of a PM is to define the customers’ needs as well as the larger business objectives that the product will achieve.

Product Owner

The PM works with IT, customer service, finance, legal, testing, and HR and is responsible for summing up all meetings to keep everyone on the same page. Often, they work directly with the project leads from each team, communicating action items from the meeting with their individual teams. Here is where Gantt charts, scrum boards, and kanban boards are used to showcase what needs to be done when it needs to be done, and who’s doing it.

Project Management Software for PMs and POs

Nutcache’s project management software has capabilities to track time and budgets, create reports, manage invoices, and share calendars across multiple teams. These features can save you time and effort so you can put your energy into building innovative products and strong client relationships. Ready to start? Sign up for a free trial or get in touch to learn more.

2021-08-13T12:57:41+00:00

About the Author:

As a marketing consultant, Andressa has joined the Nutcache team recently. Based in Brazil, she loves to work with content marketing and business communication to build, create, and establish brand awareness and brand reputation efficiently.