Product owner or project manager?

Product owner or project manager?

In the agile software development method SCRUM (, the role of the project manager is no longer foreseen. One reason for this is that development takes place in short, regular cycles (iterations). The actual progress achieved is constantly monitored in this way. The project can react more flexibly to changes in the market.

The product owner defines the work packages (user stories) with priorities for the development team. In this sense, the product owner replaces the project manager.

To start a project, stakeholders still need a business plan with costs and deadlines and, as the project progresses, regular reporting.

In addition, coordinating the work before and during iterations requires many project management skills, such as stakeholder and risk management, leadership, teamwork. The latter are partially subsumed under the product owner role in SCRUM.

This means that certain project management tasks are indispensable for the product owner.

On the side of the “classical” project management, the project manager role is provided, which often includes tasks and competencies that are assigned to the product owner in SCRUM. For example, the project manager must address the concerns of the business, define the work packages and prioritize them.

Ultimately, the person who takes the lead role is essential to the success of a project. She should be passionate about the project and / or the product and take full responsibility towards the stakeholders. She should focus on the project and / or product vision and continually inspire the team and project stakeholders.

The (First) Project Management in a Pandemic

The (First) Project Management in a Pandemic

What has changed in project management with the Corona pandemic? What are the advantages and what are the disadvantages? What are the risks and the opportunities?

Projects can be very different, but today all project leaders have something in common: managing a project during a pandemic. Lockdown, teleworking, delays in product manufacturing and deliveries, days of virtual contact with the project team, complex travel arrangements and hours of face-to-face time, new meeting room design.

The pandemic has been going on for months now and no one knows if and when we will be able to live and work as we did before.

What does this mean for the project management?

There are concrete risks, such as the delay of deliveries or the absence of employees, which mean that project planning in general becomes more uncertain. Despite previously defined measures to minimize risks, project management must revise plans, and these may have to be reworked. When teleworking and home office are mandated and coffee machine conversations are no more possible, the project manager loses informal exchanges and important information. Holding “delicate” conversations or negotiations as well as celebrating successes becomes more difficult. The implementation of change projects, in which new organizations and / or processes are defined and implemented, is more complicated.

As a further aspect, the fears of employees who must go to the office, for example, have to be taken into account. The project manager must take measures to protect the employees.

The creativity and organizational talent of each project manager are particularly needed in the current situation.

What can we use as a guide?

The current situation is not completely new; for example, we find similar challenges in offshore projects that can inspire us to find solutions. In these projects, the employees or the teams are geographically distant from each other and communicate virtually. When planning offshore projects, the aspects of distribution are taken into account, for example, by allowing time and/or monetary reserves for communication and travel.

Are there also advantages?

Leading with virtual means such as (video) calls dan improve the culture of trust and goal orientation that are the foundation of agile software development methods and lean management. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter when or where employees work on work packages. What matters is that they get it done, according to expectations and deadlines.

Another opportunity is the work-life balance, which in the home office benefits all employees, including the project manager.


Depending on the type of project, the advantages and disadvantages of the current situation can compensate each other. Many things that were considered impractical yesterday work without problems today. The end of the pandemic is difficult to plan. The development of the current situation and the influence in the respective project should therefore be kept in mind to be able to act as proactively as possible in the project – to determine it oneself – and not to have to react – to be externally determined.