Project Managers vs. Project Owners

Project Managers vs. Project Owners in SovTech

Project Manager

The traditional Project Manager is responsible for leading a project from the start till the end, which includes planning, execution and delivering the project on time, in Scope and in budget and helping the team. The traditional Project Manager is a leader, a decision maker, a planner who manages the project.

The project manager defines a roadmap to show upcoming work related to each release and a timeline for completing it all. The project manager identifies dependencies and does resource planning.

The project manager has extensive experience helping teammates stay on schedule and meet deadlines. They know how to estimate the time it will take to complete a project and identify potential problems related to scope or limited resources. They are tactical and oriented towards internal execution.

What a Project Manager does -

  • Creating and managing the business case;
  • Managing changes and change requests (to Scope, Time and Budget);
  • Managing the project organisation;
  • Creating and managing project plans, including the Project Initiation Document, Project Plan, Gantt Charts and others;
  • Tracking and measuring project/team progress;
  • Managing quality;
  • Identifying, tracking and managing project risk;
  • Delivering administrative services for the project;
  • Advice and guidance on project management tools or configuration management;
  • Administering configuration management procedures of the Change Control Approach.

Product Owner

The product owner supports the development team by prioritizing the product backlog and creating user stories. They serve as an internal customer expert for engineering and development teams, answering questions and clarifying requirements.

The product owner does not typically build a roadmap that is discrete from the product roadmap set by the product manager. But they should work closely with the product manager to review the product roadmap and make sure priorities are aligned.

The product owner is an expert on gathering requirements and documenting detailed user stories. They take a more technical approach to internal needs. In an agile environment, they are responsible for participating in daily scrum meetings and managing sprints.

What a Project Manager does -

  • Accountable for the success or failure of the product;
  • Provide direction to the product;
  • Provide the resources and authorize the funds for the product;
  • Visible and sustained support for the product;
  • Maximizing the Value of the Product for customers, users and the organization. This means that a Product Owner actually owns the product. The Product Owner is the person who is responsible for making sure that the product delivers as much value as possible. This also means being responsible for the Return on Investment, Budget, Total Cost of Ownership and the defining, maintaining and sharing of the Product vision for example.
  • Backlog Grooming; such as clearly expressing Product Backlog Items, prioritising
  • Stakeholder Management

Project Manager vs Project Owner

The PO stays constantly in contact with the development team and keeps discussing and elaborating on what they should be building and how it needs to be built. Communication is also essential for feedback that improves product value. Similarly, explaining backlog items and clearing the scrum team’s ambiguities on time will ensure timely delivery.

The project manager doesn’t rely on communication and collaboration for project success. Everything is systematic and documented, and everyone knows what they're supposed to do, when they'll do it, and how to do it.

Product Owner builds the vision. The project Manager executes the vision.

Both a Product Owner and Project Manager are concerned with what to build. They both identify the customer and user needs. They both manage and engage with stakeholders in order to see what to build and what not to build for the product. So the overlap here is that a Project Manager manages his “work breakdown structure” and “project plans”, and a Product Owner manages the Product Backlog. A big difference here is though that a Project Manager manages somebody else’s wishlist, whilst a Product Owner manages his own wishlist. This means that a Product Owner has full control over the Product Backlog, whilst a Project Manager typically is told what to add to, or remove from, the wishlist.

Both a Product Owner and Project Manager have to deal with the Iron Triangle’s elements of Time, Budget and Scope. A Project Manager typically has to manage a fixed scope, (pretty much) fixed Budget and (pretty much) fixed Time, on behalf of someone else. A Product Owner though, typically has a fixed Budget, a fixed Time and a flexible Scope. In addition, since the Product Owner owns the Budget, and decides on the Time (decide when to release), a Product Owner has much more control and ability to steer.

SovTech Project Manager

We as PM’s need to wear multiple hats: Project Manager and Product Owner, while guiding the client to be better Product Managers.

We as PM’s are not Product Owners and do not make the call on the products, our clients do.

As project managers, we need to take ownership of the client’s vision and know the product better than the client does. Enabling them to meet their customer and user needs.

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