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The difference between PO and PM

Maksim Shalamov
01-25-2021 16:08
The difference between PO and PM


Nowadays the agile methodologies are widespread and are actively used in various companies. However, there is some confusion in understanding the Agile roles and general implementation of Agile in a company. There are a few questions and nuances about the positions of PO (Product Owner) and PM (Product Manager). A lot of vacancies even mix these roles. I've seen various outcomes of these experiments and I am going to tell my point of view on how to split the duties between these positions in order to set the work efficiently.
The most important point is that these specialists and tasks they undertake are different.

The duties and responsibilities of PO

  • PO is a person who is responsible for the product. (S)he should know how it is going to work and how it works now;
  • PO should have a development strategy for the product. This person should know the steps that should be taken to achieve the improvement;
  • PO is responsible for the team's backlog. (S)he should set the priorities and direction;
  • PO should bring the value of new tasks to the team, present a backlog and roadmap of a project;
  • PO should gather feedback from the users and negotiate with the partners;
  • PO is responsible for business metrics because (s)he is choosing the trajectory of the product and priorities;
  • PO accepts the completed tasks.

PO doesn’t

  • Perform Agile ceremonies;
  • Participate in all the meetings (except for those (s)he is presenting the tasks on);
  • Lead the tasks and describe the details of them;
  • Stay in constant disposition of the team at any time (due to the frequent attendance of external meetings). However, (s)he should be attentive to the team’s questions concerning their tasks.

The duties and responsibilities of PM

  • PM works with the team and is accessible during the work day;
  • PM participates (or even performs) in team’s ceremonies;
  • PM receives the tasks’ details from PO;
  • PM describes the tasks in detail for the development team;
  • PM participates in tasks acceptance procedure, but doesn’t define ‘done’;
  • PM helps when it comes to communication between team and PO;
  • PM performs or participates in final demo;
  • PM participates in setting deadlines. (S)he can move tasks in terms of Sprint so the tasks could be focused on one objective;
  • (S)he is responsible for the quality and deadlines of completed tasks.

PM doesn’t

  • Set the objectives and priorities for the team;
  • Hold the backlog (although can manage the backlog in terms of Sprint);
  • Take responsibility for business metrics.


As we can see – these tasks are pretty different. They demand varying knowledge and skills. If a team is small, the combination of roles is acceptable, however, frequently the PO role squeezes out the PM’s tasks. Thus, the team is constantly waiting until a person answers their question or raises the tasks’ priority in terms of Sprint or Release. Such combinations I’ve seen lead to the dissatisfaction of a team and a person who combines PO and PM roles. All it goes together with working process problems. I recommend separating these positions and sticking to each role’s duties and responsibilities.
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