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Project Manager vs Product Owner

It sometimes happens that people confuse the differences between the Project Manager and the Product Owner roles. Some say that PMs are POs, some say it is a totally different position. Why is that? Because the scope of their responsibilities and values overlap in some matters. Let’s face this challenge and try to describe this seemingly complicated topic.


.02 November 2017

Where it all Started?

Project Management, in its modern form, was initiated only a few decades ago. In the 1960s companies and other organizations began to appreciate organized project work. The view that the project should be at the forefront was evident when organizations began to see the need for communication and collaboration between employees, and to integrate their work with other departments, professions and even industries.

The Product Owner term is much, much younger than the term Project Manager. It originates from the Agile approach; hence, the PO position is great for both complex and flexible systems where conditions change on daily basis. That is why we can say Project Managers prosper in well planned and organized projects, contrary to Product Owners who are prepared to work in constantly changing systems.

Project Manager vs Product OwnerComparison of the Project Manager (PM) and Product Owner (PO)

Project Manager

  • Project ManagerProvides the comprehensive knowledge needed to successfully manage PRINCE projects
  • Outbound (strategic); imposes technical solutions in accordance with prescribed guidelines
  • Deals with other Project, Marketing and Sales Managers and with Customers
  • Defines project scope
  • Creates project plan and defines work breakdown structure (WBS)
  • Owns vision and release
  • Optimizes time, costs and budget
  • Manages project team, project schedule and risks
  • Ensures project proceeds according to assumed plan

Product Owner

  • Provides the comprehensive knowledge needed to successfully manage Agile projects
  • Inbound (tactical). Technical solutions are delivered by self-organized team
  • Deals with stakeholders and development team
  • Defines iteration objectives
  • Creates product backlog and defines acceptance criteria
  • Owns implementation and iteration. Vision is created together with stakeholders
  • Optimizes business value
  • Leads product backlog – prioritized features list for product
  • Product Backlog is dynamic – it constantly changes

How does it look here at Lama Media?

At our company we work in Scrum, an Agile framework. Hence, we value and base our work on the three pillars of – Transparency, Inspection and Adaptation. Product Owners at Lama Media have a clear vision of the product and define those visions in the form of well defined user stories. Moreover, they prioritise them and estimate with the team in order to have clear time line of the product. Here are some more responsibilities which they have to face:

  • Preparation and Participation in PI Planning
  • Iteration Execution (Maintaining the team backlog, Iteration Planning, Story Elaboration, supporting acceptance test-driven development, accepting stories, understand enabler work and participate in team demo and retrospective)
  • Program Execution
  • Inspect and Adapt

As you can see, Product Owners play a crucial role at our company – they act as a middleman between the development team and the client. In each situation our Product Owners are typically at the center of problem solving and are continually advising our clients on how to successfully execute their strategic vision with digital means.


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