Framework for Product Roles

Over the last year, I’ve interviewed dozens of candidates and reviewed hundreds of resumes for various product manager roles. One of the challenges that I’ve run into is the varying definitions of “Product Manager” and “Product Owner”.

I’ve put this graph together to roughly represent what I’ve been seeing.

“Product Manager” may mean someone who is mostly strategic, or who is expected to be strategic and tactical (with an emphasis on strategic). “Product Owner”, on the other hand, usually means someone who is mostly tactical, or someone who is expected to be both strategic and tactical (with an emphasis on the tactical).

And I’ve run into quite a few project managers and business analysts whose roles sound quite similar to PM/PO, but (so far) all have been more focused on the tactical.

This is an oversimplification, but a useful framework for thinking about product roles. If you apply to a “Product Owner” or “Product Manager” role, be sure to ask what kind they have in mind!

I realize the terms strategic and tactical are a little vague. Marty Cagan describes the difference in his article: “Product Strategy – Overview
“Whatever the goal is, your strategy is how you’re planning to go about accomplishing that goal.  Strategy doesn’t cover the details; those are the tactics we’ll use to achieve the goal. Strategy is the overall approach, and the rationale for that approach….So many of the companies I meet have a goal (like doubling revenue), and they have a product roadmap (the tactics), yet no product strategy to be found.”

What do you think? Is this a useful framework for you?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *