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

Lately, the explosion of software-based merchandise and the rising recognition of Agile frameworks have dramatically reworked the sphere of product administration, which now contains plenty of roles and specializations. This growth has led to misconceptions in regards to the obligations of product managers, in addition to some confusion round the place and the way they’ll add worth.

At massive corporations, there may be typically multiple individual answerable for the product administration perform, whereas startups and small companies will sometimes rent a single product skilled. In any state of affairs, although, leaders ought to guarantee they’ve the appropriate individual for his or her enterprise wants.

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

If the aim, nevertheless, 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 strategy: 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 upon the distinctive context and maturity stage of your online business.

A product supervisor isn’t essentially a technical content material skilled, 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 anxious with granular processes similar to dash planning and take a look at planning, the product supervisor is answerable for the broader targets round strategic considering, analysis and aggressive evaluation, advertising, and enterprise and monetary evaluation.

Product Supervisor vs. Product Proprietor: Roles and Duties

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 Information defines as having accountability for “maximizing the worth of the product ensuing from the work of the Scrum workforce.” Product proprietor obligations embrace:

  • Managing the product backlog.
  • Speaking the product aim.
  • 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 targets are to steer your complete product workforce throughout improvement whereas additionally:

  • Creating a multiyear product technique.
  • Discussing expertise roadmaps with R&D to tell the best way to higher use present and rising applied sciences.
  • Working with advertising and gross sales to create a go-to-market plan.
  • Working with provide chain and vendor companions to plot methods to enhance margins and/or cut back prices.
  • Touring to buyer websites and conferences, assembly with prospects 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 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 a great product supervisor from an amazing one? That is how I imagine nice product managers must 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 latest 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 that the product supervisor has the power to get the funds and employees they need is commonly misguided, notably at smaller organizations. An incredible product supervisor understands that buyer wants should be balanced with these of inner 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 accessible is a collaborative effort.

Defining Product Technique

The necessity for product technique could seem apparent, however many product managers don’t apply strategic considering to how their merchandise and different components of the group work collectively. Should you design a product that meets all the appropriate business specs however doesn’t work properly along with your technical or operations techniques, then it’s not going to extend income or deliver 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 aim was to cut back price and complexity through the use of exterior merchandise quite than growing them in-house.

Sourcing these new merchandise would certainly have elevated the variety of gadgets the corporate might ship and boosted income. Nevertheless, the corporate’s expertise didn’t correctly perform 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 initiatives, and their generalist data means they’ll supply specialist colleagues totally different views and choices.

For instance, I just lately labored with a gifted engineer who had in depth data of the operations required to maneuver a brand new product via the provide chain and into manufacturing. What she lacked was the broader view of analysis and improvement, undertaking administration, and product technique. I coached her on the “Why” to exhibit how her piece match with all the opposite items. Because of this, she was simpler at her job—and I gained extra data on the brand new product introduction course of too.

Issues Nice Product Managers Don’t Focus On

There are some areas that, whereas nonetheless necessary, an amazing product supervisor ought to spend much less time and a spotlight on.

Defining Necessities

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

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

Partaking With Clients

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

Reviewing Metrics

Utilizing historic metrics to information you ahead is like driving by trying within the rear-view mirror. Quite than what has occurred, take a look at what is occurring or what may occur.

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

  • The options which might 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 might be doing badly (the underside 15% to twenty%): Don’t waste time making an attempt to enhance them; quite, attempt to get rid of 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 undertaking 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 selling and R&D had decided that the big disparity between business progress and the corporate’s decline indicated a chance to enhance efficiency if a clearly superior product could possibly be carried out in document time. I used to be introduced in because the product supervisor to steer this bold undertaking.

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 exercise, and supporting workforce leaders with new product improvement. The undertaking was finally profitable not solely in considerably bettering income, but additionally in creating inner efficiencies and techniques that continued to positively influence the underside line.

Steps Taken


  • Recognized key product efficiency differentiators via interviews, observations, and quantitative and qualitative evaluation
  • Assessed opponents’ positioning and technical capabilities
  • Chosen an offshore companion keen 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 through which hiring a product supervisor was the appropriate selection, based mostly on the scope of the undertaking and the duties and obligations concerned. Whereas a product proprietor’s targets are centered round prioritizing the necessities mandatory for constructing a product, a product supervisor determines what must be constructed and why. On this explicit state of affairs, market analysis, aggressive evaluation, cross-functional collaboration, and communication with exterior suppliers have been all wanted to be able to obtain the specified outcomes.

Whereas the market has advanced, and can proceed to evolve, there stays a necessity for the abilities and experience of each a product proprietor and a product supervisor. By contemplating the character and scale of a undertaking, and understanding the abilities and obligations related to every distinct function, leaders can guarantee they rent the appropriate 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 info.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles