Still More on Agile Product Owner vs. Agile Product Manager- A New Whitepaper

The Agile Product Owner/Product Manager category on this blog continues to get a lot of interest from readers. In the past, I’ve highlighted my opinions on the differing nature of the Agile Product Owner and Agile Product Manager roles at enterprise scale. This has stirred some interest and a little controversy and a number of others are opining on the topic as well.

I just noticed a new whitepaper Living in an Agile World: the Strategic Role of Product Management when Development goes Agile from Luke Hohmann (Enthiosys) and Steve Johnson (Pragmatic Marketing). I think this whitepaper does the best job to date of describing the yin and yang of APO (Agile Product Owners) and APM’s (Agile Product Managers). Moreover, both authors are experts in the field of software product management so they speak with knowledge and credibility from the PM role. I doubt that it’s particularly import to the authors, but I agree with most of the premises and conclusions of this article.

Here’s a grabber:

When you adopt agile development methods, you encounter new concepts, new artifacts, new planning methods, and new roles and relationships. It seems that agile teams do everything in a new way. And, as you attempt to integrate agile into your existing systems, you’ll also attempt to map these new concepts to your old, familiar concepts. And a product manager is now called a Product Owner… right?

Wrong!

Companies adopting agile methods know that product teams need a voice representing the customer. Developers need personas, market problems, and most of all, a prioritized list of requirements. Agile methods advocate a role called product owner to support the product team with customer and market information. Since the closest equivalent to product owner in most companies is the product manager, it seems natural to equate the two. But product owner and product manager are not the same. In fact, a product owner’s responsibilities are just a small subset of product management.

It continues to be my experience that “equating the two” does not work well at all at enterprise scale and a more refined set of roles must emerge. But I refer you to the article itself for a more meaningful discussion. The article is already receiving both supportive and (so far) mildly critical comments from readers, so be sure and check the comments section as well. Of course, comments are always welcome here, too.

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