Agile Product Management: The Product Manager is the Product Owner (and Vice Versa, Clarified)!

Every Organization involves Business and Technology to deliver value to Customers. The heart of Business is Product Management, which involves planning and marketing products/services. The heart of Product Management is the Product Manager. The heart of Technology is Product Development or Engineering, which involves realizing product/services.

Agility is a value system that emphasizes people, results, collaboration, and responsiveness. Scrum is a simple “inspect and adapt” framework that organizes work for maximum efficiency and effectiveness based on Agility. Scrum involves three roles, three ceremonies, and three artifacts. Scrum rallies management & teams as well as business & technology around value.

To foster interdependence and a focus on value, Scrum integrates Business via a Product Owner role and Technology via a Scrum Team role (cross-functional and self-organizing with Define & Build & Test perspectives). Fundamentally, Agility is about responsiveness. Enterprise Agility is about the Business and Technology (as an Enterprise) being responsive to the Marketplace and Customers. Integration, interdependence, and ultimate alignment among Business and Technology is best achieved by ensuring that the organizational Product Manager role is Scrum’s Product Owner role.

As organizations adopt Scrum, people in the organizational roles of Product Manager, Product Owner, Business Analyst, and System Analyst (or similarly and amongst other roles) are enthusiastically debating their process roles. When organizations focus on the “letter of Scrum” rather than the “intent of Scrum”, these issues become debilitating! When organizations focus on the “intent” rather than “letter”, these issues become harmonizing and empowering!

If you are challenged or struggling with Product Management and Agility or Scrum, reply with your questions and thoughts via this blog entry or via email; then join in the Free Four-Part Agile Product Management Webinar Series where we’ll explore and further demystify Agile Product Management (including dispelling common myths and fostering clarity) in addition to addressing your questions (during the webinar and on this blog).


4 thoughts on “Agile Product Management: The Product Manager is the Product Owner (and Vice Versa, Clarified)!

  1. There is lots of debate and content on this subject. Most agree that the product manager is NOT the product owner. The product owner role is too tactical. However, most organizations are able to staff sufficiently and therefore the product manager becomes the product owner. The good product managers will work to keep an eye on strategy and try not to burnout from being the product owner too.


  2. Have you ever seen this, “while the Scrum Team is cross-functional and self-organizing to deliver the product.” I haven’t.

    Cross-functional? Hardly. The Scrum Team is full of developers. I’ve never seen a Scrum team with a marketer, sales trainer, or pricing specialist on it.

    Self-organizing? Really? They got hired to be on the team. After that, ok, self-organizing in the sense that Bill does this, and Jane does that, and some days everyone does this thing over here, but some functional manager had their footprint all over the team.

    Deliver the product? To whom? The user? The economic buyer? Sales? Shipping? No, they deliver the product to the rest of the company, and the rest of the company takes that code and embodies it in an offer. Programmers don’t develop offers, because there is hardly any code in an offer. So who coordinates the requirements for the code? The product owner. And, who coordinates the entire company in its effort to move that code to the market? The product manager. In math, it’s local vs. global.

    So even if there is a product owner, the product manager is never irrelevant.

    If the company considers the make or buy decision, the Scrum Team might be irrelevant. It depends on whether you are programmer looking up, or the CEO looking down.

    Myself, I would rather make than buy. If I buy, I’m not going to be on the phone at 3 am. I’d rather be a product manager for a product that was specified by product owners, one for each customer segment. That would be rich, wouldn’t it?

    • Thanks for the comment… I have not only “seen this” but fostered healthy work… Your comment emphasizes many frustrations with “unhealthy agility”.

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