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How is a product owner different from a project manager?

They are vastly different roles.

A project manager is primarily concerned with the delivery of products within a predetermined time frame. A product owner is primarily concerned that the right product is built, and that the right problems are being solved in order of priority.

In short, a project manager manages projects within specified time frames whereas a product owner is focused on creating and developing products through a process of continuous improvement.

A project manager has a great degree of responsibility.

Often, they have sole responsibility for ensuring that a product or project is delivered within the predetermined time frames and costs.

In an environment where there is a great deal of complexity, it can set one person up for failure time and again.

A product owner works within a team environment, trusting the developers and to focus on how best to solve the problem or how best to create the right product.

The people with the expertise, in this case, the developers, are the people who estimate how long something should take and work together to ensure that the best version of that product, service or feature is created.

The Product Owner acts as a CEO of the product.

They are engaged with customers and stakeholders to ensure that the right thing is being built, in the best way, and they are engaged internally with the team to provide feedback and guidance on what is being built.

The product owner holds the product vision and invests a great deal of time ensuring that the right problems are being solved for customers. Their mission is to create and develop products, services and features that truly delight customers.

In essence, a product owner is a great source of achieving competitive advantage because they are so focused on making sure that the best possible product or service is being created.

Their ownership of the product space encourages continuous improvement and innovation in the product, which in turn leads to increased competitive advantage within the marketplace.

A project manager has a focus on a specific project and in delivering that project within the agreed times, costs, etc. which doesn’t set them up well for continuous improvement of any kind.

Once the project is delivered, it is onto the next project and so forth.

Sure, they may learn through the process and become better project managers over time, but the rigid framework within which they operate doesn’t lend itself toward continuous improvement or innovation over time.

If you would like to become a Product Owner, visit our Certified Scrum Product Owner course page as well as the Advanced Scrum Product Owner course page for an idea of progression within the field.

Frequently Asked Product Ownership Questions

Frequently Asked Product Owner Training Questions

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John McFadyen Managing Partner
John McFadyen is an Executive and Enterprise Agile Coach with proven experience working on some of the UK and Europe’s largest, most complex Agile Transformations. As a Certified Scrum Trainer, John brings a wealth of experience as an Agile coach, Agile practitioner and software developer into each of the four core courses he provides. The war stories, the insights into successful Agile transformations and everything he has learned from coaching high-performance Agile teams combine to provide course delegates with a unique, compelling training experience that transforms as much as it empowers.

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