How to name their role is reguarly discussed among product people at XING. I am always surprised how much emotion is at play.
I do not care how the role is called, as long as everyone agrees on what needs to get done. I suspect that the names represent different points of view about ones self identity. So the discussion is really about philosophy rather than the name itself.
I can see the positives as well as the negative stereotypes in both terms.
The notion of a product owner indicates possession. With possession comes responsibility – I like that. You hold yourself accountable, try to do the best for the entrusted product. The term product owner signals creative will and commitment.
Understood wrongly one only derives a possession claim. The product belongs to me, so I can do with it what I want. I alone decide what is right for the product. And there is no clarification if you’re up to the task and responsibility at all.
In positive light, the product manager is a dynamic person who gets things done. He has experience and is not a beginner. You can be sure that everything runs smoothly. Different perspectives of stakeholders are considered and effectively incorporated.
With a bad manager everything just goes on. The manager is doing a job. One doubts if he adds impulses and moves the product forward. Innovation feels different.
I am seeking product people who combine the positive aspects of both terms.
Regarding names, we have found a Solomonic solution at XING: the role in the teams is called product owner, the title on the business card reads product manager.