More on Agile Product Managers and Product Owners

In a recent post, How to be the Ultimate Agile Product Team, Jennifer Fawcett opines on the evolving roles of agile project managers, agile product managers and agile (and traditional) product managers in a fast growing ISV/Embedded systems environment.

Like some others, Jennifer has concluded that the Product Manager role in an agile environment continues to focus primarily on mostly traditional PM responsibilities – market analysis, business case, new products and features, product roadmaps, etc. – while the new Agile Product Owner role focuses primarily on working daily with the team in support of implementation. That’s not to say that the APO doesn’t own or drive the vision for the feature or component that the team has responsibility for, rather it’s more a matter of focus (implementation (APO) vs. market needs analysis (APM) and the level of abstraction (feature or component level (APO) vs. product or system level (APM).

She described her view of the differing responsibilities in the following table.

Agile Product Manager (APM) Responsibilities Agile Product Owner (APO) Responsibilities
Tracks industry trends Tracks internal cadence and deliveries
Defines release objectives Defines iteration objectives
Provides overall strategic direction Provides day-to-day tactical direction
Delivers business level use cases or stories Provides system level use case or story elaboration
Has a solid understanding of current solutions Has an understanding of architectural component and subsystem design
Defines external roadmaps Defines user acceptance tests
Manages release and portfolio priorities and backlogs Manages the iteration and cross project priorities
Manages the changing needs of the market and customer base Unblocks and focuses the portfolio or feature teams throughout the iteration
Manages market messaging and positioning Defect scheduling
Provides the overall vision Provides the implementation
Lives in Marketing Lives in Engineering
Communicates daily with the Product Owner (shares a brain with the PO) Communicates daily with the Product Manager (shares a brain with the PM)
Delivers The Release Delivers The Iteration

Perhaps more importantly, she goes on to note that building an effective set of relationships between these roles requires Collaboration, Partnership and Trust. For that discussion, I refer you directly to her article.

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