The Product Manager vs. The Product Owner: What's the Difference?

The Product Manager vs. The Product Owner: What's the Difference?
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There is a lot of confusion about the role of a product manager and a product owner. Some people think they are the same thing, while others think that they are two completely different roles. In reality, there is some overlap between these two positions, but there are also some key differences. In this blog post, we will discuss the responsibilities of both a product manager and a product owner, as well as the differences between these two roles.

The Difference Between Product Manager and Product Owner

In a company, everyone has a role to play. Normally, these roles are clearly defined to ensure the proper function of the business. However, there’s always been a lot of debate over two roles, Product Manager and Product Owner.

At first glance, they might seem fairly similar. Some might even think they are the same role, just with a different name. After all, there is some overlap between them. Even so, each one has a unique purpose, and understanding the difference between them is what will allow you to make the best of them.

So, if you are not clear on what the difference between a product manager and a product owner is, consider this article your guide.

Product Manager and Product Owner: Which is which?

To understand the difference between the two roles, we must first define them. In short, a product manager is in charge of the long-term strategy. They think of the product roadmap, and let the team know what users need and what features have to be prioritized.

On the other hand, the product owner is the one that works with the team directly to maximize the value of the product that comes from their work. As a side note, the term product owner comes from the Scrum framework for product development.

You might see organizations where a product manager is undertaking responsibilities meant for a product owner, or vice versa. This could be due to lack of resources, poor role definition, or just the way that they run things.

However, that doesn’t mean they are the same.

But that is just a taste of what they do, let’s take a more in-depth look at each of them individually:

Product Manager

A product manager focuses on the entire life of the product, from product discovery to delivery. They seek to understand what the customer needs and use that information to create a trajectory for the product. But most importantly, product managers drive outcomes that achieve business or company objectives.

They do this through market and user research, creating product roadmaps, and aligning the different teams in regards to the strategy and direction of the product. They look at what the customer wants and aim to deliver those features.

Product managers work their product team and leaders to set the product strategy. Additionally, product managers look after the entire product lifecycle from discovery to go-to-market. A product manager leads the product team (or agile team) through customer insights, product analytics, and the strategic roadmap.

Product managers...

Product Owner

A product owner works more directly with the product development team, especially when it comes to the product backlog. They are tasked with creating user stories that allow the development team to see the perspective of customers, as well as ensuring that the development team is always clear on what task they must focus on.

Another key aspect of the product owner role is attending the team coordination meetings, and relaying to the product manager any feedback on the product roadmap. Product owners are part of the scrum team. Backlog grooming is a key activity for the product owner.

Product owners...

  • Are highly tactical, focusing on the next 1-3 sprints
  • Are responsible for delivery and agile ceremonies
  • Own the backlog of tickets, sometimes working with epics
  • Measure success through burn down, definition of done
  • Leverage internal stakeholders for feedback
  • Look to external stakeholders for guidance

What Makes One Different from the Other?

There is a good way to think of each role in order to set them apart. Where the product manager focuses on long-term vision, the product owner worries more about how to translate that vision into reality.

Where the product owner is interested in optimizing the day-to-day work of the development team, the product manager is focused on the product roadmap.

The product manager is the face that interacts with customers, while the product owner is the voice that speaks for them through their story development.

Side-by-Side Comparison

If you want a more concise look into their differences, you can use this table for reference:

Product Manager vs. Product Owner

Which One Do You Need?

You don't necessarily need to choose between one and the other, as they fulfill different roles. What you need to ask yourself is what your desired outcome is, as this is what will tell you what management roles you need to round out your team.

Whatever product management position you have, and a product owner is a type of management position, what matters is that their roles are defined and that you have structures in place that allow your team to work effectively.


Both the product manager and the product owner have an impact on the development of a product, but whereas one focuses on long-term vision, the other is more preoccupied with turning that vision into reality.

A successful product launch is a team effort that requires the coordination of many different roles. By understanding the difference between a product manager and product owner, you can set your team up for success.

At the end of the day, what’s going to matter most is what your company and customers need. You could have both roles blended into one, but they will shine better if each is allowed to focus on what they do best.

One day we will look at project management vs. product manager vs product owner.