He opened with the the Product Owner vs. Product Manager job title thing, which I’ve also been thinking about.
When I joined the NHS Choices team a few years back we had Product Leads who each looked after a specific area of the service. They did a great job of defining the changes needed for their particular products, but didn’t always interact directly on a day-to-day basis with the people building those products.
Changing titles to indicate change
We spent a couple of years changing this as we implemented agile methods across the programme. At the time I pushed for these roles to be called Product Owners, mainly because I wanted to force a distinction between the old and the new way, and that’s what the methodologies we were adopting (like Scrum) tended to call that role.
Shared ownership rules
I tend to associate the Product Owner role title with Scrum, and over time have gone off it a bit. Partly because I don’t like the idea of sticking with just one fixed methodology, and partly because it could imply one person having sole ownership of the product. I much prefer the idea of a team collectively owning the product that they build and run together.
Instead I shifted towards the Product Manager job title. This seems to be much more of an industry-standard these days. If I see a Product Owner job ad I think “they do Scrum”, when I see Product Manager I think “they have Product teams”. Generalisations I know, but that’s what it conjures up in my mind.
Most recently I’ve come back around to Product Lead. I like the idea of somebody leading the development of a product, rather than managing it. I think we all know the difference between a manager and a leader.
Managing a product could perhaps be read as holding it back, pruning it, keeping it in check (thanks to @st3v3nhunt for this). Whereas leading it talks of setting a vision, inspiring progress, and taking the product forward to exciting new places!
Does it matter?
I’ve thought about this mainly because I’ve been taking on a product role myself, but really, as Benji said in his post;
job titles are interchangeable and frankly unimportant, but what matters is the impact you make each and every day.
Good luck in NYC, Benji. See you on the sun deck!