Who is the Boss? or Why Cutting the Product Manager in Half Can Be a Total Disaster
The best product managers deal in complex environments where they are responsible for the successful product development. Their contribution is recognized externally because they are product experts, and they are trusted internally because they collaborate with the clients and are “thought” leaders in the project.
In many companies (especially bigger corporations) they want to split the role, thus having one person to be the “external” product manager, and one to act as the internal “product owner”. The reason is the simple need to split the product leadership, but in many opinions this is not completely good. And finally, there should be one person, which will drive the project forward.
The companies that have accepted the agile project methodology experience different managing problems. The product manager represents the voice of the customer, and his responsibility is also to achieve customer and market success. At the same time, agile development teams demand that the customer representative (aka the product owner) must provide detailed user stories, participate in daily scrum meetings, and be available for questions all the time.
Good product managers should understand the big picture and in the same time manage the details. If you strictly separate the project and the product management, the consequences will affect the entire business.
On the other side, project managers are people responsible for all activities during the preparation and implementation of the company’s projects. They plan a project, the rules, set the deadlines, schedule of work and control the work of employees. Project managers perform their work within the offices located within the institution they work for. Depending on the type of project, they can also spend time outside the company’s premises, although often their working time is spent in meetings in order to create better conditions for the project.
Product owners are in charge of the specialized management of all items related to a product. Due to the organization of the work product owners should ensure that all team members are familiar with the items in the product backlog. They are responsible for managing of the product backlog. During the realization of the project they allocate these items from the backlog into the sprint.
Product owners have the following duties:
- Coordinate and supervise the development of the product, or group of products offered by the Company to the clients;
- Express and order Product backlog items in a clear way, in order to achieve the desired goals;
- Developing instructions, procedures, guidelines and interpretations for the product items;
- Monitoring of implementation of items (tasks) related to the product;
- Ensure that the Product backlog items are visible and transparent to all team members;
- Optimizing the value of the outcome by the team work;
- Spotting new trends of product development.
Who is the boss?
Both types of managers should make decisions and responsibility which are accountable for them. If you analyze deeply, it will not give you an answer who has what authority. Almost in every organization there are situations with confusion and undesired interruptions as it is not obvious who has the final word on complex decisions. Product managers and product owners need to meet at least twice a week to make sure they are on the same page and able to fill in the gaps for one another when needed.