November Summary: Product Manager v Product Owner!

How many times can the product community talk about the differences between product managers & product owners? Apparently we’re not at max conversation yet!

This was one of the topics suggested during Product Camp and while it didn’t have enough votes on the day, we had several people ask us to run it as a session.

Steve Bauer, a product manager at Telstra Wholesale assembled 3 folks with different backgrounds who have been across the 2 roles to hash out the differences & how they can work together.

Our panelists included Michael Sloan who has recently changed roles from product manager to product owner at NAB. Nadia Gishen who’s currently a product owner at Aconex but has been a product manager before. Manoel Pimentel is an agile coach at elabor8.

One man who feels strongly about this debate is Nick Coster from Brainmates. Unfortunately Nick couldn’t attend as he was overseas but he made a guest appearance. 😉 You can read his thoughts about the Dynamic Duo on the Brainmates blog or watch the talk he gave at the 2015 Product Camp Melbourne

@nick.coster makes a guest appearance #prodanon

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Before kicking off the discussion, we wanted to know what roles the audience had – were they more owner or manager? Much to our surprise, they were neither! In the audience, 40% were not product owners OR managers (!!!!), 25% were product managers, 20% were doing both roles, 15% were product owners.

If you work in product, you already know companies define the role in a variety of ways. If you are a product manager and work with a product owner (or vice versa), how do both of you set yourself up for success? Our panel agreed that talking with each other to clearly understand what you feel responsible for and what the company thinks you’re responsible for is required. This should be a conversation you have – not a job description.

Some other random tidbits from the evening…

The business analyst (BA) role typically sits between product & development to write very detailed requirements but with the rise of the product owner role, BA roles are disappearing.

A danger of being a product owner is being an order taker in terms of what is built, how & when. Product owners need to think & talk about how they can support both the product manager and the team. They can add value in many ways so determine what works best for your current situation.

No matter which role it is, our panel recommends looking for a few things when hiring someone – problem solving ability, communication, resiliance and someone who doesn’t tire easily 🙂


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There was some conversation regarding ‘product manager’ being a cooler title than ‘product owner’ – until Manoel suggested the future title will be ‘problem owner’.

The slides for those who want the references and the jokes 🙂

Thank you to inspire9 for hosting!!!

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This was our last event for 2017. Product Anonymous will kick off in February 2018 so sign up to our newsletter, add yourself to meetup, follow us on twitter, join the slack group, follow in instagram… all that good stuff! See all the links.