Q&A - March 2022

Q&A - March 2022

Getting into a product career appears really challenging for many people, and this raises many questions. Below are a few of the questions I've seen this month and how I'd be looking to respond:

Can a Scrum Master perform the role of a Product Owner?

The short answer is yes, of course someone who performs the Scrum Master role can perform the Product Owner role, providing they have the right set of skills.

However, what I think the question really means is whether they can perform the roles simultaneously.  To this the answer is different.

If you check the roles defined within scrum you can see the different responsibilities that come with each of the roles.

The Scrum Master "is accountable for the Scrum Team’s effectiveness", which involves:

  • Coaching the team members in self-management and cross-functionality
  • Helping the Scrum Team focus on creating high-value Increments that meet the Definition of Done
  • Causing the removal of impediments to the Scrum Team’s progress
  • Ensuring that all Scrum events take place and are positive, productive, and kept within the timebox

The Product Owner "is accountable for maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the Scrum Team", which involves:

  • Developing and explicitly communicating the Product Goal
  • Creating and clearly communicating Product Backlog items
  • Ordering Product Backlog items
  • Ensuring that the Product Backlog is transparent, visible and understood

These roles are defined as such because they are full-time roles for an individual and they allow focus on the matters that are important to the performance of the Scrum Team.  Once an individual starts trying to perform both roles, then they may be able to do some of each task, but they aren't able to focus on their areas of accountability and thus aren't doing themselves, or the team, justice.

I would always recommend these roles being performed by different people.

Are "Product Manager " and "Product Owner" roles the same one or is there any difference between what they both do?.

As someone who has held both of these job titles, I can tell you that there is definitely a difference.

As we can see in the question above, Product Owner role is a day-to-day operational role, focused on working with the delivery team to get work done.  The focus is on preparing the work to be done, communicating what needs to be done, and then supporting the team through the development process until the work is completed. 

A Product Manager on the other hand is more strategic in their focus.  Here the work revolves around discovering what users need, understanding the company's  objectives, determining the product’s vision, and then getting everyone behind this vision through the development of a product roadmap. 

How do product managers manage their workload?

If you read the popular product management book Inspired by Marty Cagan, you'll see that Cagan believes that the product management role cannot be done in less than sixty hours a week. 

Now, I don't necessarily agree with this view point as I think there are more things important in life than working, but that's a different topic.  What is relevant from Cagan's view is that when you're a product manager there are so many things you can be doing.

Whether it's speaking to users, assessing the competition, analyzing data, prioritizing the roadmap, or any of the numerous tasks, the PM needs to be on top of it all.

As such, they need a range of tools that perform different functions for them.

Whether it is a place to store all the information you gather, how you track day-to-day activities, or your to-do list, there are specific tools that support the PM in keeping on top of the vast array of tasks and information.

I've covered some of these in this post on Medium, where I look at what types of functions you need tools for and which tools can support you in your activities.