Continuing from part 2 of this series, I want to respond to one of the comments that was posted by a reader.
James Peckham commented:
Why wouldn’t you have your product manager as your product owner? that’s the stupidest thing (sorry, it is) that I’ve ever heard. Your product manager is the perfect person (that is if they have the damn enthusiasm, knowledge, and willingness to get their hands dirty).
Yeah, so why wouldn’t you have your product manager as your product owner? Well, I could explain it in a lot of boring detail, but I’ll let others do it for me. I’m glad to see others on the web see this problem in the same way I do.
The difference between the two roles is very clear. From focus (strategic vs. tactical) all the way down to scope (release vs. iteration), the two roles are very different. There is no denying that external input is needed for the development team to be successful. The real question is who should provide that and at what level they need to provide it.
The CrankyPM, in her own unique way, also sums it up well:
You argue that in Scrum the product manager is the same as the Product Owner, and therefore the Cranky Product Manager needs to be constantly available to the team in order to make on-the-spot decisions within minutes of the asking. Ergo, you demand the Cranky Product Manager sit in that sticky-note-encrusted, windowless tomb with you all damn day.
Uh, no way. Not gonna happen.
Why not? Because the Cranky Product Manager needs to be the Voice of the Customer and the Voice of the Market. How is she to do that without actually VISITING some customers and prospects? And VISITING means that she actually needs to leave the office, hop on airplanes, and fly far, far away. She cannot answer questions from the dev team within 5 minutes if she’s on a plane, or in a meeting, or on the phone with a customer.
There are reasons and roles within a successful team that allow this to work (even if it’s not completely agile). I advocate that are two product-related roles within an agile enterprise:
- The Enterprise Product Manager, who typically reports into marketing, and who owns the RELEASE
- The Agile Product Owner, who typically reports into engineering, and who owns the ITERATION
So, I hope this puts the question of Product Manager = Product Owner? to bed. There are clearly two roles, with difference responsibilities, and levels of focus. They need to work together during the development cycle to ensure that product development proceeds efficiently and correctly.
In part 4, I’ll talk about where the role of Product Owner should sit, and whether there is such a thing as an “Agile Product Manager”.