Monthly Archives: May 2013

Product Owner OR Product Manager?

Can one person be both a Product Owner and a Product Manager? After spending nearly three years combining the role, I have now come to the conclusion that the answer is no.  It is an “or” – you are either a Product Owner OR a Product Manager.  Now, that is not to say that one cannot grow from one role to the other, but trying to perform both functions at the same time can be counter-productive.  Here are the reasons that have led me to this conclusion.

Inward vs. Outward

The Product Owner needs to be inwardly focused and their highest priority is the success of the Scrum team that they are working with.  Ideally, they are co-located with the Scrum team, if not at the same table, then at least in the same building. The product owner needs to be accessible, engaged and integrated.

The Product Manager, on the other hand, needs to be outwardly facing.  The product manager is responsible for conducting client interviews, evaluating market trends and reviewing competitive activity.  Pragmatic Marketing takes is a step further to say, for the Product Manager: “The answer to most of your questions is not in the building.”

football_strategyTactical (and Technical) vs. Strategic

A great Product Owner is focused on the tactical deliverables of this sprint and the next few in queue.  Product Owners also tend to be fairly technical (sometimes very technical) in their knowledge of the product. They have to be able to collaborate with the IT teams on the best ways to deliver a desired feature. Of course, it is IT that ultimately owns the technology, but a strong Product Owner can banter about the technical alternatives and add significant value to the conversation.

By contrast, the Product Manager needs to be dialed into the strategic vision for the product and perhaps the portfolio of products.  The Product Manager should have a plan for where this product needs to be in two years or more.  Where is this product going? What is its place in the market? How do we differentiate ourselves today and how can we distance ourselves from the competition in the future? These are questions that the Product Manager needs to craft a strategy around.


The Product Owner and the Product Manager also vary in terms of the research, blogs and materials that they read and study.  Product Owners are likely reading about Agile best practices and studying how to write more effective user stories and conduct efficient grooming meetings and enhance communication between team members. Whereas Product Managers are likely spending time on the Forrester and Gartner websites, gleaning industry and market information about trends and adoption. Product Managers have Google Alerts set for updates from the competition and other trend-setters.

Levels of Client Engagement

It is common for Product Owners and Product Managers to have different contacts with existing clients and significantly different conversations with those clients.  The Product Owner might be deeply engaged with the user community of the software and discuss, in detail, the priorities of upcoming functionality. While the Product Manager is probably talking to the leadership of the existing client’s organization to discern their future business needs and how the product (or portfolio) needs to grow and adapt to the changing market.  Not that either conversation is more important, they are just different – different levels of detail at different levels within the organization.

Do they have any similarities? Of course! Both the Product Owner and the Product Manager are totally focused on the success of the product and driving the most business value for the company. Both are dedicated to the success of the IT teams and want to deliver a great product to the marketplace. Both are critical for the success of the product. By separating the roles between the Product Owner and the Product Manager, you can position both for success and create something to be proud of.

52 Blogs – Determined or Nuts?

Like everyone, I have some personality quirks that drive my behavior and response to situations. One of those – my determination to adhere to self-assigned goals – has been top of mind lately. You see, I set a goal of writing 52 blogs in 2013, one per week. No one asked me to do this and I am not sure that many people even read them. But I established this goal and I had a 4 week lapse in my delivery. Others might consider a job change and all of the associated networking, traveling and interviewing as a good excuse for a hiatus, but not me. I said 52, darnit, so I have some catching up to do.

52-weeks-to-awesome-500This personality quirk makes me smile. The need to honor my commitments to myself, even if it is inconvenient, is just part of who I am. Hopefully my tenacity will suffice and I will be able to write the full 52, even if that means I am blogging on New Year’s Eve!

But this gets me thinking – why am I this way and how can I turn this ‘quirk’ into an asset? Here’s is what I have come up with:

  1. Set meaningful goals –  Blogging for the sake of blogging might not be the best use of my time so I need to ensure that blogging is also contributing to a higher purpose, like furthering the brand of my company, or my personal brand. Or conveying information about subjects like Agile and Product Management that others might benefit from.
  2. Manage time effectively – make sure that the goals are achievable. Saying that I am going to work-out every day or write three thank you notes each morning or read for one hour each evening – those aren’t really achievable. I need to give myself the time to do what I committed to do and the flexibility to know that life will inevitably get in the way.
  3. Avoid tortuous activities – I need to only commit to the things that I enjoy and that serve a noble or entertaining purpose. For me to commit to gardening or (heaven forbid) cooking would be disastrous. I don’t enjoy those things, I am not good at them and I really have no passion develop an aptitude for them. I need to stick with what I enjoy – while certainly stretching and going outside my comfort zone – but not undertaking something that I would dread.

I hope this resonates with you and can help you set new goals and see them through. It is a great sense of accomplishment when you reach the finish line and you can say “Oh yeah, I did that!”

CDS Global in the rear-view mirror

It has been a month since my last blog and I actually have a good excuse for my lack of prose, which will also explain my new website. I am in the midst of a job change. I had three wonderful years at CDS Global and now I am looking forward to the next great adventure.

rearview mirror

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Before I focus solely on the windshield though, I always think it is beneficial to spend a moment looking in the rear-view mirror to savor and appreciate what was accomplished and learned. Here are the three things I am most proud of during my tenure at CDS Global.

1. Technology Roadmap

When I arrived in April of 2010, there was a keen awareness that we needed a technology story to get us to our next stage of evolution. Working with super-smart technologists, we started putting together plans. We had at least two false starts, but in September 2010, we unveiled a vision that has shaped our technology decisions ever since. The reason I am so proud of the Technology Roadmap is that we thought it through and then we stuck to it. Delivering on a tech vision is extra-challenging because the business and the technology changes as you are in the midst of implementing. Our vision was both solid and flexible, allowing us to adapt to new information while providing a strong foundation that advanced our capabilities. To be able to look at a document, nearly three years later, and realize that what were once boxes in a powerpoint diagram are now live, working elements in a layered architecture is pretty darn cool.

Access to CDS Global Blogs

While I was at CDS Global, I wrote a number of blogs and I want to provide access, in case these topics are of interest.  I have grouped them by topic.

Leadership (#leadership, #innovation)blogs-2

Journey to the Chief Product Officer
Lessons from an Ironman
Three Must-Dos for Driving Culture Change
What is your Technology Dream?
Memorable Nuggets
More Memorable Nuggets

Product Management (#ProdMgmt, #ProdMkting)

What exactly is Product Management?
Product Management: Assume Permission to Succeed
Product Management: An organizational retrospective
The Triple Constraint – It’s real and it has to be managed
The Third Option – Finding a new alternative
Product Management’s role in Sales Kickoff (SKO)

What does it take to launch a product?

Mobile Mind Shift Per Forrester

Agile (#Agile, #Scrum)

Agile Features – Matching Iterations with Marketing Plans
Executive Sponsorship of Agile
Agile Pitfalls

I hope you enjoy these blogs and all of the more recent ones too!