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 various roles and specializations. This enlargement 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’s usually a couple of particular person 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 correct particular person 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, nonetheless, is to construct a enterprise round a brand new product, and create and exploit progress alternatives, you’ll want somebody with a broader ability set and a special method: 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 rely upon the distinctive context and maturity stage of your corporation.

A product supervisor isn’t essentially a technical content material knowledgeable, 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 equivalent to dash planning and take a look at planning, the product supervisor is accountable for the broader goals round strategic pondering, 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 staff.” Product proprietor tasks embody:

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

Compared, product supervisor is more and more a cross-functional position. A product supervisor’s goals are to steer all the product staff throughout growth 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 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 enhance their investments in software program growth. However what distinguishes a very good product supervisor from an important one? That is how I consider 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 latest dialogue surrounding the product supervisor position has been centered on the idea that this particular person 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 price range and employees they need is commonly misguided, significantly at smaller organizations. A fantastic 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 enticing to the goal market and achievable with the sources obtainable 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 correct trade specs however doesn’t work effectively along with your technical or operations methods, 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 trade. The aim was to cut back price and complexity through the use of exterior merchandise slightly than creating them in-house.

Sourcing these new merchandise would certainly have elevated the variety of gadgets the corporate may ship and boosted income. Nevertheless, the corporate’s know-how didn’t correctly operate on the third-party merchandise, and it could 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 tasks, and their generalist data means they will provide specialist colleagues totally different views and choices.

For instance, I just lately 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, 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 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 important product supervisor ought to spend much less time and a focus on.

Defining Necessities

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

At a longtime firm, an important 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 staff with huge expertise, so some material experience could also be essential right here to be able to outline necessities.

Partaking With Clients

It’s, after all, essential to be aware of the client and their wants, however until you might be 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 progress is the intention, focus your time on partaking with clients in new markets.

Reviewing Metrics

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

Knowledge may be helpful, so optimize your time on this job 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 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 selling and R&D had decided that the big disparity between trade progress and the corporate’s decline indicated a possibility to enhance efficiency if a clearly superior product might be carried out in file time. I used to be introduced in because the product supervisor to steer this formidable 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 staff leaders with new product growth. The challenge was finally profitable not solely in considerably enhancing income, but additionally in creating inside efficiencies and methods that continued to positively influence 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 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 growth staff
  • 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 correct alternative, based mostly on the scope of the challenge 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 needs to be constructed and why. On this specific scenario, market analysis, aggressive evaluation, cross-functional collaboration, and communication with exterior suppliers had been all wanted to be able to obtain the specified outcomes.

Whereas the market has developed, 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 challenge, and understanding the abilities and tasks related to every distinct position, leaders can guarantee they rent the correct particular person 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 info.