Product Manager vs. Product Owner, is there a difference and do you need one?

Anya Salhi, August 11, 2023

Product and delivery management may seem similar, but they serve different purposes. Some think both roles are necessary for their organisations to thrive, while others believe that product management alone is enough. It can be confusing to navigate these roles.

Let’s ask some experts to help us with the topic. Luckily, we already got them as Jon Shanks and Jay Keshur discussed all the challenges product management and delivery management present and how each helps you succeed.

Efficient Delivery Management and Strategies for Product Success

If you want your product to be a hit, one of your top priorities must be managing deliveries efficiently. In the early stages, having a clear vision and aligning efforts toward this vision is essential. As Jon briefly puts it, “Depending on the stage of the product, until you are getting good traction from and feedback on that traction really well and probably a little bit more en mass plus like data to start to inform decisions, then the vision is probably more important at that stage on what you’re trying to build until the point that others can steer the product for you.”

However, as the product grows, things change, and you must shift towards data-driven decisions is inevitable with increasing traction and feedback. To ensure your product does well, think about how complex it is and what users want when developing  strategies.

Rethinking Traditional Roles in Agile Teams and Product Management

Here is a little tip that could help improve  your team’s efficiency . Instead of assigning specific roles to people based on their skills and abilities, why not focus more on processes? In agile teams, a delivery manager could play the role of a scrum master, lead developer, or even a regular developer, depending on their skills. 

Sure, people tend to stick to what they’re comfortable with, but sometimes stepping outside of your comfort zone can lead to amazing results. Jay highlights this fluidity of roles: “A lot of the time, you see people just leaning into where they’re comfortable and what they enjoy the most because there’s momentum. You do what you’ve always done for the most part. And it takes a lot of foresight or planning to do something different because you need a bit of a catalyst to change.”

Therefore, reshaping roles to leverage individual strengths and project needs might significantly improve effectiveness. So why not give it a try?

Roles and Responsibilities in Product Development

When it comes to developing products, it usually requires a team effort from product managers, service managers, and agile coaches. However, the real work is carried out by the team members with the necessary domain expertise.

Product managers use their in-depth knowledge of user needs to guide development, while delivery managers oversee stakeholder communication and monitor progress. Even though this division of labour may not always be clearly defined, successful teams skillfully balance their strengths and weaknesses to create exceptional products.

Delivery Managers and Product Managers in Different Life Cycle Stages

The roles of delivery and product managers  constantly change  and adapt  to the different stages of a product’s life cycle. Jay underlines the change in requirement for these roles, “If the team dynamic is quite well organised and they’re quite democratic in how they’ve organised themselves, or it’s a small team, then maybe you don’t need a delivery manager because you are in that discovery phase… But then I think as you grow, then you lean more into the process because that’s the only thing keeping you going. So you might need both.”

However, as the product grows, the need for a delivery manager’s expertise becomes more significant for maintaining efficient workflows. Ultimately, the decision to use both roles depends heavily on the team dynamics and desired outcomes.

Although the worlds of product and delivery management may appear to be in competition, they are complementary. Both are crucial to a product’s successful development and maturity, each playing its part at different stages of the life cycle. But it all comes down to understanding these roles better and finding ways to leverage them for optimal product success.

Subscribe to receive resource and product updates