Product Supervisor vs. Product Proprietor: Who’s Who?

Product Supervisor vs. Product Proprietor: Who’s Who?
Product Supervisor vs. Product Proprietor: Who’s Who?

Lately, the explosion of software-based merchandise and the rising recognition of Agile frameworks have dramatically remodeled the sphere of product administration, which now contains quite a few roles and specializations. This enlargement has led to misconceptions concerning the duties of product managers, in addition to some confusion round the place and the way they will add worth.

At giant corporations, there’s usually a couple of individual accountable for the product administration operate, whereas startups and small companies will sometimes rent a single product skilled. In any scenario, although, leaders ought to guarantee they’ve the best individual for his or her enterprise wants.

You can begin by asking your self: Do you want somebody with the talents and information to ship a product or to construct a enterprise round a product? If the main target is on the supply facet, rent a product proprietor, somebody who will work particularly on options, consumer tales, backlog prioritization, and Agile sprints.

If the purpose, nonetheless, is to construct a enterprise round a brand new product, and create and exploit progress alternatives, you’ll want somebody with a broader talent set and a unique method: a product supervisor. That stated, hiring a product supervisor doesn’t essentially negate the necessity for a product proprietor—whether or not you want each will rely on the distinctive context and maturity stage of your enterprise.

A product supervisor will not be essentially a technical content material professional, however they’re able to deep and broad discussions with different departments about constructing worthwhile enterprise items. In contrast to the product proprietor, who is worried with granular processes similar to dash planning and take a look at planning, the product supervisor is accountable for the broader goals round strategic considering, analysis and aggressive evaluation, advertising and marketing, and enterprise and monetary evaluation.

Product Supervisor vs. Product Proprietor: Roles and Tasks

So what precisely is the distinction between a product proprietor and a product supervisor? The product proprietor is a Scrum-specific function that the Scrum Guide defines as having accountability for “maximizing the worth of the product ensuing from the work of the Scrum workforce.” Product proprietor duties embody:

  • Managing the product backlog.
  • Speaking the product purpose.
  • Representing stakeholders.
  • Serving to the workforce keep aligned with the product roadmap.

Compared, product supervisor is more and more a cross-functional function. A product supervisor’s goals are to guide the whole product workforce throughout improvement whereas additionally:

  • Creating a multiyear product technique.
  • Discussing know-how roadmaps with R&D to tell easy methods to higher use present and rising applied sciences.
  • Working with advertising and marketing and gross sales to create a go-to-market plan.
  • Working with provide chain and vendor companions to plan methods to enhance margins and/or cut back prices.
  • Touring to buyer websites and conferences, assembly with clients to promote present merchandise, and gathering buyer knowledge for future merchandise.
  • Assembly with the C-suite to debate monetary knowledge and methods to enhance enterprise operations.
  • Speaking with all departments and in any respect ranges. This might imply discussing product technique with executives within the morning, hammering out minute technical particulars with engineers noon, and clarifying the finer aggressive factors with gross sales and advertising and marketing personnel within the afternoon.

What Nice Product Managers Focus On

In a 2022 article, McKinsey & Firm emphasised the rising want for ever-stronger product administration capabilities throughout industries as corporations improve their investments in software program improvement. However what distinguishes an excellent product supervisor from an incredible one? That is how I consider nice product managers ought to be spending their time:

Great managers divide their time among tasks such as defining product strategy, collaborating with other functions, and engaging with customers.


A lot of the current dialogue surrounding the product supervisor function has been centered on the idea that this individual is the CEO of the product, however a giant realization for me has been that this isn’t essentially true. The concept the product supervisor has the power to get the funds and employees they need is commonly misguided, significantly at smaller organizations. An awesome product supervisor understands that buyer wants should be balanced with these of inside stakeholders; their function is to serve all events. Making a profitable product that’s each engaging to the goal market and achievable with the sources out there is a collaborative effort.

Defining Product Technique

The necessity for product technique could appear apparent, however many product managers don’t apply strategic considering to how their merchandise and different elements of the group work collectively. Should you design a product that meets all the best business specs however doesn’t work properly together with your technical or operations programs, then it’s not going to extend income or carry the shareholders worth.

For instance, I just lately labored on sourcing new Web of Issues merchandise for an organization within the transportation and logistics business. The purpose was to cut back value and complexity through the use of exterior merchandise relatively than creating them in-house.

Sourcing these new merchandise would certainly have elevated the variety of units the corporate might ship and boosted income. Nonetheless, the corporate’s know-how didn’t correctly operate on the third-party merchandise, and it could have taken important funding to repair that. The technical and monetary realities have been in opposition to the product technique.

Cross-functional Teaching

Nice product managers perceive the cross-functional nature of tasks, and their generalist information means they will provide specialist colleagues completely different views and choices.

For instance, I just lately labored with a proficient engineer who had intensive information of the operations required to maneuver a brand new product via the availability chain and into manufacturing. What she lacked was the broader view of analysis and improvement, challenge administration, and product technique. I coached her on the “Why” to show how her piece match with all the opposite items. Consequently, she was more practical at her job—and I gained extra information on the brand new product introduction course of too.

Issues Nice Product Managers Don’t Focus On

There are some areas that, whereas nonetheless vital, an incredible product supervisor ought to spend much less time and a focus on.

Defining Necessities

Necessities ought to be excessive stage and there shouldn’t be too many initiatives in progress at one time, so an incredible product supervisor shouldn’t be spending a lot time on this job.

At a longtime firm, an incredible product supervisor makes use of what they know and what they’ve discovered from market analysis, and combines this with their group’s collective information and former buyer experiences. A startup will sometimes not have a workforce with huge expertise, so some material experience could also be mandatory right here with the intention to outline necessities.

Participating With Prospects

It’s, after all, vital to be accustomed to the shopper and their wants, however except you’re new to the business, you shouldn’t be spending an excessive amount of time on this. If mandatory, leverage the intimate buyer information of the technical and gross sales groups, but when progress is the intention, focus your time on participating with clients in new markets.

Reviewing Metrics

Utilizing historic metrics to information you ahead is like driving by trying within the rear-view mirror. Moderately than what has occurred, have a look at what is going on or what would possibly occur.

Information could be helpful, so optimize your time on this job by specializing in two issues:

  • The options which can be doing properly (the highest 10%): Be taught what options are working and how one can apply them to areas that aren’t performing as properly.
  • The options which can be doing badly (the underside 15% to twenty%): Don’t waste time making an attempt to enhance them; relatively, attempt to remove them.

Homing in on this knowledge will present tangible motion factors and have a much bigger influence on product success than regularly reviewing all metrics.

The Product Supervisor in Motion

A challenge I labored on just lately demonstrates the worth of a product supervisor. A $250 million engineering and manufacturing firm was experiencing a five-year decline in income and revenue from its largest product line whereas the market grew at double-digit charges annually. The vice presidents of promoting and R&D had decided that the big disparity between business progress and the corporate’s decline indicated a possibility to enhance efficiency if a clearly superior product might be applied in report time. I used to be introduced in because the product supervisor to guide this bold challenge.

In partnership with the corporate, I labored to introduce a variety of enhancements, together with conducting in-depth analysis and aggressive evaluation to find out product positioning, rising gross sales and advertising and marketing exercise, and supporting workforce leaders with new product improvement. The challenge was finally profitable not solely in considerably bettering income, but additionally in creating inside efficiencies and programs that continued to positively influence the underside line.

Steps Taken


  • Recognized key product efficiency differentiators via interviews, observations, and quantitative and qualitative evaluation
  • Assessed rivals’ positioning and technical capabilities
  • Chosen an offshore accomplice prepared to satisfy aggressive schedules
  • Carried out coaching seminars, new pricing approaches, and promoting enhancements throughout product strains
  • Coached key leaders on the brand new product improvement workforce
  • Launched a brand new product
  • Elevated income by 17%
  • Decreased product line complexity by 80%
  • Improved stock effectivity
  • Enhanced product improvement effectiveness and effectivity throughout all departments
  • Improved provide chain effectivity
  • Elevated gross margin by 1%

That is one occasion during which hiring a product supervisor was the best alternative, based mostly on the scope of the challenge and the duties and duties concerned. Whereas a product proprietor’s targets are centered round prioritizing the necessities mandatory for constructing a product, a product supervisor determines what ought to be constructed and why. On this specific scenario, market analysis, aggressive evaluation, cross-functional collaboration, and communication with exterior suppliers have been all wanted with the intention to obtain the specified outcomes.

Whereas the market has advanced, and can proceed to evolve, there stays a necessity for the talents and experience of each a product proprietor and a product supervisor. By contemplating the character and scale of a challenge, and understanding the talents and duties related to every distinct function, leaders can guarantee they rent the best individual to assist them develop and launch merchandise efficiently.

This text has just lately undergone a complete replace to include the newest and most correct data.