Product managers and product owners play key roles in a SaaS (Software as a Service) business environment. As they work towards a larger goal, the distinctions between the two roles may not be overtly visible to outsiders or other teams, but they both have different responsibilities that determine the outcome of the product. Let us take a closer look at how they both approach their roles and how it ties in with the overall product development process.

Overall focus and relationship with the product

Product owners and product managers have distinct relationships with the product. Product owners are customer-centric; they keep the customers’ needs in focus and are responsible for communicating those needs to the product development teams. They will be aware of roadblocks for customers and are essential to translate the customers’ needs into features that will solve problems. They will consider the big picture of the project with a strategic and long-term focus.

Project managers will be the guides for the product development team for the project. They work with designers and engineers to flesh out the product from concept to finish. They steer the product development teams through the entire journey of the project and will be the decision-makers for steps along the way. They will be more detail-oriented, with a short-to-midterm focus.

Areas of responsibility

Product owners are responsible for the overall product vision. They will lead to customer discovery to find the right product that will match customer needs. They will study client and customer feedback to prepare a list of potential features and then narrow it down for the product manager and product development teams. They are responsible for getting buy-in from company, customer, and product development teams.

Project managers are responsible for translating the product vision into a plan of actionable requirements. They will aim to optimize the development process and will oversee the execution of the plan. In case of any bumps on the road, they will prioritize what features can be developed first. Also, often in the process of product development, the development team may have additional ideas that the product manager must sort through and decide if they can be implemented for the project. They will also work closely with engineers and designers to create the product.

Deliverables

Product managers own the product roadmap and minimum viable product (MVP). Product managers, on the other hand, have ownership of epics, user stories and backlog. User stories are short requirements from the end-user while epics are the larger body of project development work that is broken down into smaller tasks and user stories.

Stakeholders

Product owners will work with the company’s stakeholders to ensure that the product vision is agreeable to all. They will also deliver feedback from the product development team to the company and focus on getting everyone on the same page.

Product managers will often do cross-department work, engaging with engineers to perfect the code and QA for testing. They will work closely with sales teams to highlight the features and benefits for customers and clients.

Product owners and product managers have different responsibilities and what they bring to the table is distinct. Often organizations are tempted to save on labour costs by combining the roles, but the outcomes are not optimal. Investing in hiring the right candidates for the product owner and product manager can help organizations eventually, become more efficient and optimize ROI in software development.