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What is the Difference Between Product Owner and Project Manager?

Last updated on Jul 13,2020 782 Views

Scrum is a very powerful agile framework for implementing wide varieties of iterative and incremental projects. Transitioning to Scrum brings with it a set of new roles and concepts that can seem a bit confusing when compared with traditional roles. In this article on the product owner vs product manager, let’s compare two such roles the product owner and project manager.


Similarities Between Project Manager vs Product Owner

Product manager, product owner. The titles don’t sound all that different on their own, after all, both are management roles.

  • Both a project manager and a product owner oversee teams who strive and work hard to bring projects across the finish line together. Which means both of these roles need excellent communication and people skills.
  • Both of these roles need to build trust and facilitate communication between team members and others with an interest in the project’s success.

Bottom line, both of them are responsible for the successful delivery of the project’s final outcome. It is the underlying structure of a project that the organization is working on that guides a project manager or a product owner.

Before we discuss the key differences, you need to understand the roles and responsibilities of both product owner and product manager.


Who is a Project Manager?

Usually, a project manager comes into play when a project takes a traditional Waterfall approach. Project Manager is someone who is responsible for the project’s structure – planning it, executing it out and making sure everything goes well throughout the entire project lifecycle. There are many things to take care of when it comes to software development. Project Manager has to manage them all and put them together in order to develop the best product possible.

Project Manager - Product Owner vs Project Manager - Edureka

The traditional role of a Project Manager is a leader, a decision-maker, a planner who manages the project and his team and is the person accountable to the business for accomplishing the project objectives. There is a long list of the roles that a project manager has to follow over the life cycle of a project, like:

  • Planning and defining the scope of the project

  • Gather requirements and good time management

  • Monitor the progress of the team and the quality of the product

  • Cost Estimation and Budget Development

  • Ensure customer satisfaction

  • Risk management

  • Manage reports and other important documents

To manage all these tasks, the project managers are usually detail-oriented, motivational, highly knowledgable, deadline-driven and company driven. In short, Project Managers should always have control over the project and should be aware of its every aspect.


Who is a Product Owner?

According to the Scrum Guide, the Scrum Product Owner has the responsibility to maximize the value of the product on which the Development Team is working on. The Product Owner is responsible for the work the team is supposed to complete. The main role of a product owner is to motivate the team to achieve the goal and the vision of the project. While a project owner can take input from others but when it comes to making major decisions, ultimately he/she is responsible.

Product Owner - Product Owner vs Project Manager - Edureka

Unlike the project manager, the product owner doesn’t control the team, thereby, a project lead by a product owner becomes more flexible. Instead of the usual hard deadlines for each task, a product owner breaks the project down into a series of work periods, or sprints, and asks their team to decide how many tasks they can complete per sprint.

The responsibilities of the product owner include:

  • Managing the product backlog & making sure that it is visible, transparent, and clear

  • Guiding the team to achieve the best goals and missions in a desirable time

  • Progressing the value of the work done and making rational decisions

  • Collaborating with the development team and stakeholders

  • Managing team economics and actively participate in meetings

  • Ensure transparency into the upcoming work of the product development team

To fulfill all these responsibilities, the product owner needs skills such as facilitation, conflict management, creative thinking, and the ability to influence the team and other stakeholders. In general, product owners are highly flexible, big-picture thinkers, experimental, product-driven and customer-focused.

Now that you have an idea of who a product owner and project manager are, let’s check out the major differences between them.

Product Owner vs Project Manager

The terms are often used interchangeably, and admittedly there is some overlap. Yet, those two are indeed different roles. The table below lists the basic differences between them.

FeaturesProduct ManagerProduct Owner


Project Managers thrive in pre-planned, organized systems

Product Owners work best in constantly changing project environments


They are more strategic. The project managers focus on the product’s vision, company objectives, and the market

They are more tactical. Product owners translate the strategies into actionable tasks and work with cross-functional agile teams more closely

Product Vision

Project Managers are more detailed oriented and deadline-driven

Product Owners are more experimental, flexible and product-driven

Skills Required

A Project Manager needs more organizational skills

A Product Owner needs more communication skills 

The key difference between the two revolves around their mindset when approaching a problem to be solved and project to be delivered.

This brings us to the end of this ‘Product Owner vs Project Manager’ article. I have covered all the basics that you should be aware of if you are planning to become a product owner or a project manager. Hope you are clear with all that has been shared with you in this article. Also, to gain confidence in this area, you can opt for a certification program for product owner. Happy learning!

Make sure you are well versed with the Scrum terminology before you start using it.

Got a question for us? Please mention it in the comments section of this “Product Owner vs Project Manager” article and we will get back to you as soon as possible.


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