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

Lately, the explosion of software-based merchandise and the rising reputation of Agile frameworks have dramatically remodeled the sector of product administration, which now contains a variety of roles and specializations. This growth has led to misconceptions in regards to the tasks of product managers, in addition to some confusion round the place and the way they will add worth.

At giant firms, there may be typically a couple of individual chargeable for the product administration operate, whereas startups and small companies will usually rent a single product skilled. In any state of affairs, although, leaders ought to guarantee they’ve the precise individual for his or her enterprise wants.

You can begin by asking your self: Do you want somebody with the talents 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 development alternatives, you’ll want somebody with a broader talent set and a unique strategy: a product supervisor. That mentioned, hiring a product supervisor doesn’t essentially negate the necessity for a product proprietor—whether or not you want each will depend upon the distinctive context and maturity degree 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. Not like the product proprietor, who is anxious with granular processes corresponding to dash planning and check planning, the product supervisor is chargeable for the broader targets 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 position 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 tasks embody:

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

As compared, product supervisor is more and more a cross-functional position. A product supervisor’s targets are to steer your complete product workforce throughout improvement whereas additionally:

  • Creating a multiyear product technique.
  • Discussing know-how roadmaps with R&D to tell the right way 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 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 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 firms enhance their investments in software program improvement. However what distinguishes product supervisor from a terrific one? That is how I imagine 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 position 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 finances and workers they need is commonly misguided, significantly at smaller organizations. A fantastic product supervisor understands that buyer wants have to be balanced with these of inner stakeholders; their position is to serve all events. Making a profitable product that’s each enticing to the goal market and achievable with the sources obtainable 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 elements of the group work collectively. In case you design a product that meets all the precise trade specs however doesn’t work nicely together with your technical or operations programs, then it’s not going to extend income or convey the shareholders worth.

For instance, I just lately labored on sourcing new Web of Issues merchandise for a corporation within the transportation and logistics trade. The aim was to cut back value and complexity by utilizing exterior merchandise moderately than growing them in-house.

Sourcing these new merchandise would certainly have elevated the variety of gadgets 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 initiatives, and their generalist data means they will supply specialist colleagues completely different views and choices.

For instance, I just lately labored with a gifted engineer who had intensive data of the operations required to maneuver a brand new product by means of the availability 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 essential, a terrific product supervisor ought to spend much less time and a spotlight on.

Defining Necessities

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

At a longtime firm, a terrific 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 usually not have a workforce with huge expertise, so some subject material experience could also be essential right here with a purpose to outline necessities.

Participating With Clients

It’s, after all, essential to be conversant in the shopper and their wants, however until you’re new to the trade, you shouldn’t be spending an excessive amount of time on this. If essential, leverage the intimate buyer data of the technical and gross sales groups, but when development is the purpose, 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. Fairly than what has occurred, have a look at what is going on or what may occur.

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

  • The options which are doing nicely (the highest 10%): Study what options are working and how one can apply them to areas that aren’t performing as nicely.
  • The options which are doing badly (the underside 15% to twenty%): Don’t waste time making an attempt to enhance them; moderately, attempt to get rid of them.

Homing in on this knowledge will present tangible motion factors and have an even bigger affect on product success than frequently 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 every year. The vice presidents of selling and R&D had decided that the massive disparity between trade development and the corporate’s decline indicated a possibility to enhance efficiency if a clearly superior product might be applied in file 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, growing gross sales and advertising and marketing exercise, and supporting workforce leaders with new product improvement. The undertaking was in the end profitable not solely in considerably bettering income, but additionally in creating inner efficiencies and programs that continued to positively affect the underside line.

Steps Taken


  • Recognized key product efficiency differentiators by means of interviews, observations, and quantitative and qualitative evaluation
  • Assessed opponents’ positioning and technical capabilities
  • Chosen an offshore companion prepared to satisfy aggressive schedules
  • Carried out coaching seminars, new pricing approaches, and promoting enhancements throughout product traces
  • Coached key leaders on the brand new product improvement workforce
  • Launched a brand new product
  • Elevated income by 17%
  • Lowered 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 wherein hiring a product supervisor was the precise selection, primarily based on the scope of the undertaking and the duties and tasks concerned. Whereas a product proprietor’s objectives are centered round prioritizing the necessities essential for constructing a product, a product supervisor determines what ought to 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 with a purpose 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 undertaking, and understanding the talents and tasks related to every distinct position, leaders can guarantee they rent the precise individual to assist them develop and launch merchandise efficiently.

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