May 21, 2018 // By John Doucette
Which role is more important when developing software: that of product owner or product manager?
The difference may sound like semantics, and in many cases the titles seem to be used interchangeably. But when it comes to formulating a working team charged with developing your innovative software products, it’s important to ensure the team lead is acting as a product owner.
The role of product owner is becoming increasingly important among U.S. firms; CNN recently ranked the job as the 59th best job in America based on “big growth, great pay and satisfying work,” projecting a 15 percent boost in demand between 2014 and 2024.
In general terms, a product manager focuses on market strategy and product viability, with the customer needs front and center when it comes to formulating new products. A product owner, conversely, has the role of ensuring a software solution will be effective from both a market and a logistical standpoint. Ideally, he or she should be technically astute enough (consult on the “how”) to understand what the team must do to meet deadlines, while ensuring the solution (“what” and “why”) has the functionalities needed to perform well in the real world. A skilled product owner will troubleshoot with your engineering, sales and customer service teams, ensure quality control and effectively manage product backlogs, sprints and iterations.
Without this key person in place to unite your entire team, the development process can become chaotic, increasing the risk of not having enough quality stories, missing deadlines and overrunning budgets.
So what qualities should you look for in a competent product owner?
- The capacity to make smart, educated decisions with confidence
- Ability to gather and parse the opinions of multiple stakeholders, often acting as the middleman between your development team and other company leaders
- Open-mindedness when considering new and/or deviant feature ideas
- Ability to put himself or herself in the customer’s place and identify his key needs and pain points
- Business acumen; accuracy in estimating the market size and viability of a prospective product or feature
- A true passion for technology
- A personality that can resolve conflicts and motivate your team to realize its full potential — without spurring resentment
- Ability to set and meet deadlines
- A positive and optimistic attitude
- A finger on the pulse of what your competitors are doing
Finding a leader with all those skills may be difficult, but you’re far more apt to achieve excellence in software development if you take time to put a product owner — not just a product manager — at the helm.
Learn more about how today’s product owners can greatly improve the success of your digital transformation efforts in our most recent editorial.