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Agile teams have a lot of moving parts, and it can be difficult to understand where product responsibilities fall across team members. And a mobile product manager or mobile product owner role can be difficult for only one person to take on.

Mobile product managers spend time straddling two worlds: the external customer’s world and the internal team’s world. The priorities and product requirements coming from these two sides are quite different from one another, and can be highly competitive. For mobile product managers, bridging the gap is where problems can arise.

For example, if a product manager focuses most of their time externally on customers, the internal engineering team’s needs can get lost, and the team may suffer. Product requirements aren’t detailed enough, developers waste time waiting for answers, and the speed in which product progress is made suffers.

On the flip side, if a product manager spends too much time focused solely on internal engineering priorities, the product may lose alignment with market fit and true customer needs. Collecting customer feedback for use cases gets tossed aside, non-technical teams won’t have new user stories to keep the product relevant in the market, and testing with customers becomes an afterthought.

Although it can be done, juggling internal and external requirements is difficult for most people—even for experienced product managers. To avoid collision between the two worlds, and ultimately, product failure, many teams with a sizable engineering team (more than a handful of engineers, give or take) split the above tasks into two roles: mobile product managers and mobile product owners. This post highlights the differences between the two.

Mobile product manager vs. product owner: What’s the difference?

At a high level, the difference between product managers and product owners is whether their focus lies externally or internally.

A mobile product manager’s focus is more—but not exclusively—external. Product managers are tasked with communicating the voice of the customer, while still bridging the gap between customer and market success. They focus on the long-term vision, and are oftentimes tasked with being the “buffer”between development teams and the rest of an organization.

A mobile product owner’s focus is more internal. They support the engineering team and manage software development details, while still ensuring customer requirements drive the product.

Below is a handy chart to help you navigate how most companies divide tasks between the roles.

mobile product manager vs. mobile product owner

As noted above, mobile product managers’ responsibilities typically include:

  • Owning long-term product strategy. When it comes to market fit and long-term roadmapping, product managers lead the charge.
  • Acting as the point-person for non-technical teams, prospects, focus groups, and other stakeholders. In many cases, product managers are the liaison between technical and non-technical worlds.
  • Supporting the engineering build of the product and the non-technical efforts for the product (Customer Success, Marketing, Sales, etc.). They help to bridge the gap between needs on both sides.
  • Tracking market changes and competition to ensure market fit and product evolution are competitive. Product managers then deliver feedback based on learnings to the rest of the product stakeholders.

And mobile product owners’ responsibilities typically include:

  • Documenting technical story details after reviewing the work that needs to be completed with development teams.
  • Owning, assigning, and clarifying technical product requirements. Product owners work with product managers to help explain product progress to non-technical teams and other stakeholders.
  • Acting as point-person for technical questions, whether they come through the product manager or elsewhere.
  • Working with UX to create feature mockups before technical requirements are built around the plans.
  • Documenting feature releases for technical teams.
  • Leading backlog grooming when new work needs to be assigned, along with creating and assigning stories to technical team members.

But to best understand the differences, we also have to understand where the roles overlap. Mobile product managers and product owners both typically:

  • Own and attends daily/weekly stand ups to ensure everyone touching the product is on the same page.
  • Demo product iterations to the rest of the company, including to both technical and non-technical teams.
  • Write test and acceptance criteria to help uncover areas for improvement within the product.
  • Socialize product changes, both with customers and throughout the rest of the organization.
  • Most importantly, collect and implement product feedback from customers, technical team members, commercial team members, and other stakeholders.

Separating mobile product manager and product owner responsibilities into internal and external categories is standard, but keep in mind every company’s needs are different. Depending on the size of your engineering team, product complexity, market fit, competitive landscape, and myriad other factors, the way you divide the roles may look slightly—or drastically—different.

How does your team approach separating roles and responsibilities? Leave your thoughts in the comments below so we can get the conversation started!