In some larger organizations, you may find that these two roles are split. And although I heavily disagree with this decision, they aren’t technically wrong. Truth is the founders of Scrum didn’t explicitly say that the Product Owner is the Product Manager. If they had, the role of a Product Owner wouldn’t be so ambiguous. Nonetheless….
A Product Manager, as defined by wikipedia, “considers numerous factors such as intended demographic, the products offered by the competition, and how well the product fits with the company’s business model. Generally, a product manager manages one or more tangible products. However, the term may be used to describe a person who manages intangible products, such as music, information, and services.”
Whereas a Product Owner is really just a subset of tasks via the Scrum Agile methodology. I would argue that a PO shouldn’t be confined to just this role, because this person can get too consumed in the trenches and instead of helping improve the process they’ll inevitably make it worse by being another filter to the team from the PM, Executives and Customers.
Instead of the typical breakdown of PO vs PM, I’d argue that it should be broken down via strategic and tactical responsibilities. Sure there are a plethora of tasks a PO can do that would make it justifiable to be it’s own job title; and the same is obvious for a Product Manager; however, if you’re doing it that way you’re doing it wrong.
Development teams don’t want the PO to simply be a pass-through between the actual PM and the team; what real value would they be adding? Instead if your company is large enough, it’s common to have a high-level PM.. either a Director of Product Management, or a VP of Product Management that will set the over-all direction of all the different products. That person would usually work with several teams. Each of these individual teams could have their own PO, which would then maintain the backlog for each of their respective teams and the PM would be more customer facing; However, neither of these parties should be too disconnected from either real customers or the actual team that’s building the product. Because when the team has a question about a particular story for a feature, they’ll have to ask the PO, who will then have to ask the PM because they wouldn’t know either; they wouldn’t have enough context to holistically understand the real problem the user stories are trying to solve and thus wouldn’t be capable of answering and solving those types of questions on their own.
A true Product Owner needs to be able to do just that, genuinely own the product that their team is working on. To do so, they have to have more than just tactical tasks like grooming the backlog and explaining user stories to the team.