In the search for a Product Management role, many people become confused by the deceptively similar descriptions, expectations, and requirements that they find for Product Owner and Product Manager roles in various organizations. I’m sorry to say, this is another reflection of the inability of our Product Management culture and discipline to adopt a clear standard for what a Product Manager is and what a Product Manager does. The roles are similar enough that there’s an easy and excusable amount of confusion, but they are also different enough that it’s important to discuss these differences, why they exist, and what they really mean for a person seeking a “true” Product Management (or Product Owner) role.
To be honest, I could have chosen any number of seeming homonyms for Product Management — there’s Business Analyst, Program Manager, Product Leader, Product Designer, and many, many more. But the problem with picking any of those other terms is that they’re just as amorphous and nebulous as “Product Management” is. Thankfully, that’s not the case with the term “Product Owner” which has some clear definitions and expectations thanks to its close relationship with Scrum/Agile development practices.