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

In recent times, the explosion of software-based merchandise and the rising reputation of Agile frameworks have dramatically reworked the sector of product administration, which now contains a lot 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 corporations, there may be usually a couple of individual chargeable for the product administration operate, 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 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 target is on the supply aspect, rent a product proprietor, somebody who will work particularly on options, consumer 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 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 degree of your small business.

A product supervisor shouldn’t be essentially a technical content material knowledgeable, however they’re able to deep and broad discussions with different departments about constructing worthwhile enterprise models. Not like the product proprietor, who is worried with granular processes akin to dash planning and check planning, the product supervisor is chargeable for the broader aims round strategic pondering, analysis and aggressive evaluation, advertising and marketing, and enterprise and monetary evaluation.

Product Supervisor vs. Product Proprietor: Roles and Obligations

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 crew.” Product proprietor tasks embrace:

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

Compared, product supervisor is more and more a cross-functional position. A product supervisor’s aims are to guide your complete product crew throughout growth whereas additionally:

  • Creating a multiyear product technique.
  • Discussing know-how roadmaps with R&D to tell find out how 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 scale 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 growth. However what distinguishes a very good product supervisor from an ideal one? That is how I imagine nice product managers needs 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 flexibility to get the funds and employees they need is commonly misguided, notably at smaller organizations. A terrific product supervisor understands that buyer wants should be balanced with these of inside stakeholders; their position 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 pondering to how their merchandise and different elements of the group work collectively. When you design a product that meets all the precise business specs however doesn’t work effectively along with your technical or operations methods, then it’s not going to extend income or carry the shareholders worth.

For instance, I not too long ago 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 by utilizing exterior merchandise slightly than creating them in-house.

Sourcing these new merchandise would certainly have elevated the variety of units the corporate might ship and boosted income. Nevertheless, the corporate’s know-how didn’t correctly operate on the third-party merchandise, and it will have taken vital funding to repair that. The technical and monetary realities had 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 provide specialist colleagues completely different views and choices.

For instance, I not too long ago labored with a proficient engineer who had in depth data of the operations required to maneuver a brand new product by the provision chain and into manufacturing. What she lacked was the broader view of analysis and growth, undertaking administration, and product technique. I coached her on the “Why” to display how her piece match with all the opposite items. In consequence, 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, an ideal product supervisor ought to spend much less time and a focus on.

Defining Necessities

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

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

Partaking With Prospects

It’s, after all, essential to be acquainted with 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 data of the technical and gross sales groups, but when development is the goal, 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. Somewhat than what has occurred, have a look at what is occurring or what would possibly occur.

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

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

The Product Supervisor in Motion

A undertaking I labored on not too long ago 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 development and the corporate’s decline indicated a possibility to enhance efficiency if a clearly superior product may very well be carried out in report time. I used to be introduced in because the product supervisor to guide 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 crew leaders with new product growth. The undertaking was in the end profitable not solely in considerably enhancing income, but in addition in creating inside efficiencies and methods that continued to positively affect the underside line.

Steps Taken


  • Recognized key product efficiency differentiators by interviews, observations, and quantitative and qualitative evaluation
  • Assessed rivals’ positioning and technical capabilities
  • Chosen an offshore associate keen 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 growth crew
  • Launched a brand new product
  • Elevated income by 17%
  • Lowered product line complexity by 80%
  • Improved stock effectivity
  • Enhanced product growth 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, based mostly on the scope of the undertaking and the duties and tasks concerned. Whereas a product proprietor’s targets are centered round prioritizing the necessities mandatory for constructing a product, a product supervisor determines what needs to be constructed and why. On this explicit state of affairs, market analysis, aggressive evaluation, cross-functional collaboration, and communication with exterior suppliers had 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 not too long ago undergone a complete replace to include the most recent and most correct data.