Product Manager and Product Owner (Case Study)

How do you link the Business Stakeholder with teams? This is a common problem for Lean-Agile at any level of scale. SAFe does it by defining strategies that map to themes that land on the release train. We suggest another approach, adding a role to facilitate the linkages. We call this role the Product Manager or (Business) Product Owner. This role becomes increasingly important to address the complexities at mid-scale and large-scale.This article summarizes the points made during a webinar that included a case study about the Product Manager. Jump to the end to watch the session.


Here are some cases that motivate this recommendation.

  1. The Simplest Case: One stakeholder and one team. The stakeholder creates MBIs, prioritizes and sequences the MBIs, assigns them to the team product backlog, and off they go to create value. This is “Classic Scrum.”
  2. A Harder Case: One stakeholder and multiple teams. The stakeholder creates MBIs, prioritizes and sequences the MBIs. The MBIs are assigned to the various team product backlogs in a concerted fashion. Teams must keep the big picture in mind (as described by the stakeholder). With that understanding, teams may self-organize and choose what to work on from their product backlog.
  3. The Normal (Tough) Case: Multiple stakeholders and multiple teams. Very often, the stakeholders talk to Product Owners who then talk to teams. And the Product Owners end up being stretched way too thin. They end up doing project management and stakeholders even bypass the Product Owners to get things done (known as “shoulder taps). See Figure 1.

Figure 1. Product Owners get stretched too thin

The Product Manager addresses this tough case by serving as liaison to stakeholders and working with Product Owners to decompose and prioritize.

  • The Product Manager represents the stakeholders, prioritizes MBIs, decomposes MBIs into components, and represents the stakeholders to Product Owners.
  • The Product Owner acts as the SME to the team, represents the team to Product Managers, works with Product Managers to decompose MBIs into components, and decomposes components into stories.

This scheme works very nicely in mid-scale organizations because planning can be very dynamic without the need for a full-on Program Planning Event.

Figure 2 Product Managers and Product Owners working together


Watch Al Shalloway reflect on this as he considers a case we encountered.

Always keep the goal in mind

The Product Manager is the point of contact for stakeholders to keep them apprised of progress. This becomes increasingly important as the organization gets to the mid-scale and larger because it can be very hard to find Product Owners who are comfortable talking to VPs and executives, especially when it comes to representing the product in Business-oriented, strategic terms.

Always keep the goal in mind: Bridging the gap between stakeholder, IT, and team! Does it bring them closer or does it separate them? Do everything you can to bring them together in such a way that you realize Business agility more quickly.