First, let me just acknowledge that I am not the first to deal with this question … nor do I believe I will be the last to post about it.  But it continues to be a relevant topic within the realm of Product Management AND Agile discussions, and I am in the middle of working with teams to clarify these roles right now.  So I will do my part to share why I believe both are needed and necessary.

To be clear, I am a firm believer in the underlying principles behind the Agile manifesto and the benefits that the approach brings in more swiftly adjusting to the changing needs of the market, the customer, or competition.  But I am also a firm believer that in order to keep the organization “strategically-driven” vs. becoming “needs-driven”, having good product management practices in place is necessary.

There are many good sources out there to draw from, most of which I agree with, some of which have good points but often take examples to the extreme one way or another.  So rather than relying solely on the theory behind the argument, I am going to share a high-level perspective of what has worked for me in my various roles:

Product Manager Product Owner
Market/customer facing – Understand the market trends, competitor forces, and regional and global industry regulations

Business oriented – focused on running the business including P&L, pricing, licensing, etc

Own the product vision and initiates the product road map, articulating the epics and features that should seed the product backlog

Drives program increment and release content via prioritized features

Liaise with sales and operations and other internal organization members to know more about the voice of the customer

Solution/technology facing – Liaise with product manager to understand the features and changes in product requirements and support the release planning and sprint planning exercises

Initiate and translate product road map into manageable product backlog

Manage, adjust for risk, and prioritize product backlog

Drives iteration content via prioritized stories

Push the product manager and pull the team to maintain continuous velocity stream, ensure quality, eliminate escaped defects, and motivate team