I’m curious if anyone has opinions about fusing the roles of product manager and product owner into one. (as in a single person handling both). especially in a huge organization with low product maturity.
Has anyone dealt with this in the past? If so, do you have any advice on how to make it work? Or should it simply be avoided altogether?
Any ideas or feedback are much appreciated.
I think I’m working on such a role. Being my first PM role, i have very little understanding of the difference. Would love for an experienced PM to break this down. Also, any tips for the above PMs?
@HeatherKurtz, PMs typically have less direct involvement in routine engineering tasks. Understanding the consumer, the competition, the market, pricing, packaging, and determining the types of innovations that will result in revenue growth are now our main priorities.
POs are typically more actively involved in daily engineering tasks. They place a greater emphasis on honing user stories, explaining to engineering what is in and what is out of scope, prioritising the product backlog, and other related tasks.
The PO is typically more focused on execution, whereas the PM is frequently more focused on the strategy end. The two frequently combine, although they frequently divide at some point.
- You are CERTAINLY a PO if you attend an engineering standup.
- You are DEFINITELY a PM if you provide a 9-month product strategy to sales.
- If you complete both, congratulations to you
I presently work both positions, which is difficult. 4 teams working on a large product. (Should be five teams, but staffing)
Therefore, I am part of my team’s execution level. I then have to assist the other three teams in comprehending the present and upcoming features. In addition, you need to find time to make endless presentations and learn about new features and epics.
We just held a planning gathering, and three teams simultaneously asked me to join their breakout. I wish I could take a step back from the execution and concentrate more on the approach. We can only hope that happens in the upcoming months.
This isn’t what I meant when I said “do both” @DamianMarshall. I’ve actually loved doing both, as I enjoy both sides of the execution / strategy spectrum.
Your problem is that you’re doing both for four teams. And that dog won’t hunt.
Call me more of a PO then. My title is Associate Product Manager. I came from Supporting this product for over 8 years. My focus currently is mostly on customer bug backlog and being a ‘consultant’ for other PMs that have features depending on my product.
That being said, there’s a whack load of things I’d LOVE for us to get done and into product, that we’re not making much or any headway on.
I have been in the same situation when I was just starting my product management journey…It is very common in early or mid stage startups…this will help you gain certain skills w.r.t execution, people management and avoid conflicts etc.,
Just be aware of how much time you are spending managing people/tracking tasks Vs actual product management work…
Happy to answer any specific questions.
@DanCoelho, according to what I understand, it takes someone who has a basic understanding of both roles to be able to determine which talents are required when, and being able to transition between them regularly requires patience and excellent time management!
Any advice on how to prioritize your time if you have PM urgencies (such as strategic vision and roadmap development and stakeholder management with leadership) in addition to PO obligations (such as scrum people management chores)?
I guess it’s really getting down to excellent time management I’m thinking.
Generally, PO tasks can be done by setting up processes such as daily scrums, catchup with teams, etc., While PM tasks are mostly without a deadline it needs their own sweet time to perform any meaningful contribution…Since you will be handling PO tasks as well …u will have a lot of ad-hoc meetings on timelines/bugs/sync meetings etc.,
Some tips to do your job without burning out yourself:
- Set aside a daily 3 to 4 hours for your PM tasks on your calendar and do not allow any meetings or queries at this point.
- Check your email/slack/teams only 3 to 4 times a day
- Try to delegate your non-trivial work to some of your team members…this can only be done by building up leverage…team bonding helps.
- Look at the patterns for PO tasks and set a recurring meeting for the same. For example daily scrum meetings, Weekly RCA meetings with the team for P0/P1 bugs, Weekly meetings with the sales/business team to address their concerns, etc.,
- If your PM tasks are more try to have a no-meeting day in a week.
- Have weekly/monthly 1:1’s setup with your manager, tech lead, and business counter head on how can they simplify your life or what help you need from them, etc.,
- Meetings are inevitable…before attending any meeting assess what value you can add…if it’s not significant politely decline…or ask questions about the agenda/what you need to be prepared to make that meeting successful…especially for client meetings ask the business team to have one-pager on what the clients want and what are their questions so that you are prepared and can avoid multiple back to back meetings on the same.
- Train your business team to answer basic product-related questions…this can be done by having good documentation and giving them transparency on what getting shipped in a sprint …also share with them the near roadmap so that they don’t bug you in the middle.
- Follow the urgent/important framework…only respond to urgent queries and try to postpone important asks…important doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be solved instantly…when you postpone the so-called important queries they become unimportant with time
So helpful thank you! A year into my first PM role and realized 1 month end I was dealt an interesting hand.
I can provide you with some insights on combining a Product Owner and Product Manager role into one.
First, it’s important to understand the differences between these two roles. A Product Manager is responsible for the overall strategy, vision, and roadmap for a product, while a Product Owner is responsible for the day-to-day management of the product backlog and ensuring that the development team is building the right features in the right order.
Combining these two roles can work in certain situations, especially in a low product maturity environment where there is not a lot of complexity in the product development process. However, in larger organizations or more complex product development processes, it may be challenging for one person to effectively manage both the strategic and tactical aspects of the product.
If you decide to combine the roles, there are a few things you can do to make it work:
- Clearly define the responsibilities of the combined role. It’s important to have a clear understanding of what the person will be responsible for and what they will not be responsible for.
- Ensure that the person has the necessary skills and experience to handle both the strategic and tactical aspects of the product. This may require additional training or hiring someone with a diverse skillset.
- Set up a clear communication plan with stakeholders, development teams, and other departments to ensure that everyone is aligned and understands the role of the combined position.
- Regularly review and adjust the responsibilities and workload of the combined role to ensure that the person is not overwhelmed, and that the product is on track.
Overall, combining a Product Owner and Product Manager role can work in certain situations, but it’s important to carefully consider the complexities of the product development process and the skills and experience of the person who will be handling both roles.
In early-stage startups, wearing both hats is a win rather than a loss - a chance to experience being customer-facing and team-facing at the same time and manage the whole product-related process. From my experience, there should be a well-balanced program you have so that the way becomes manageable rather than a mess…
A product manager that doesn’t suffer the impact of their own backlog mismanagement is not a product manager. The separation is completely artificial to enable “consultants” to play the PM role without actually building anything themselves. The victories and defeats of actuality building something reflect upwards into your strategy thinking over time. Disconnect the two and you have brain dead PMs and useless POs.
In a small org, there is only a PM. Do the research, manage the roadmap, write all the stories, go to all the meetings. A PO SHOULD do almost all of those things, but for only a small product, or a subset of features in a large product. A PO should work for a PM. Combining the two roles seems wrong and kind of meaningless.
Even though my organization isn’t small, the products aren’t developed enough. For a data engineering team that creates work for internal use, I serve as the PO. There isn’t a PM. I collaborate with different business team leaders to organize the backlog by priority and schedule springs accordingly.
There are no product managers present, not even in our application teams. Where agile teams have been established, project managers (my official title is also project manager) fill the PO role.
It may depend on the type of work being delivered whether a small, product-immature organization should use a PO or PM.
@HerbertWarnick, I think the big challenge of not having product managers is all of the features in the roadmap are either requests from customers (some are widespread issues, some are not) or something an executive just thought up. None of them tend to be eithwr inspired by, or validated by, any kind of research. So it’s difficult to get ahead of competition, who are doing the same thing.
I specialize in working for startups that either haven’t yet found product market fit or are close.
Early in my career, being a PO was the agile definition, which means a heavy portion of strategy and customer interaction as well as the tactical. It was a grind, for sure.
Generally, once we get more than 2 scrum teams is when I look to get a PO, but they still need to have strategic context and input. I rely heavily on the PO for facilitating input for our optimization stories (closeness to QA and support), and expect neutralization and some differentiation input.
Now I generally don’t do any direct work with the scrum teams, and focus on Prod strategy and prod marketing which feeds GTM, Product, Sales.
As POs mature, and do well with the strategic direction, i promote them more into strategy. Honestly, it’s writing. Can you write a nice product release blog that clearly and succinctly shows who cares about what you’ve built, why, and how that’s better than alternatives? If you can’t do that, then i can’t give you room to make bigger decisions.
In general, a PO that’s only doing execution isn’t being setup for prof growth. If you are now being given more strategy work, that’s great, congrats!
You can and should be able to do both. But as the organization grows, depending on business complexity, it might be beneficial to have a dedicated PO who makes sure all requirements are written out as clearly as possible going down to the nitty gritty details (less bugs, shorter regression). I am a PM and I have a PO - I handle the strategy, customer interactions, and tickets all the way from discovery to validation. Once it moves to ready for delivery, tech team and PO collaborate to finalize needs and then I sign off to ensure the initial idea request was intact. If I had to write every single ticket in detail I’d never have time to walk customers through prototypes, meet with leadership, do some competitors research etc….
Each company has different need. If you are a PM you must have PO skills, but to say the two should merge shows that really people still haven’t grasped what a PM really does. And according to many experts in the field, it’s definitely not writing tickets.
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