We’ve helped companies of all sizes across all industries transform their businesses. Read more about our experience and how we make business transformation happen

Read insight

Business Technology

Enhance value creation with a clarified product management responsibility 

In agile and product-led organizations, the structure around team, capabilities, and roles are essential in driving business success and customer satisfaction. Success requires complex collaboration, innovation, experimentation, excellent delivery practices, and bridging the traditional gap between development and commercialization.

Product Manager or Product Owner?

One common slippage we have experienced in many of our projects is underestimating the importance of the role accountable for the product’s success over time while bridging the market and business needs with the technical solutions. This role may be referred to as a Product Manager or a Product Owner in different organizations or frameworks. However, we have seen that the scope and expectations of these roles are ambiguous as various interpretations exist, leading to inefficiencies impacting product and business success. Sorting these ambiguities out will improve your product management practises and create better foundations for your organization to leverage product-led and agile principles successfully.

As adopting agile development practises and product-led organizations become increasingly common, the focus on the structures, ceremonies and roles that support the new operating models often act as guidance or rulebook to hold on to. Typical drivers for going agile and product-led are achieving higher speed of development, more frequent releases of value delivery and tangible improvements, reducing risk and enabling faster feedback loops with users. This trend is a response to the constantly increasing speed of change in customer demand. To stay relevant, companies need to offer products delivering real customer value faster. One of the most critical roles in both agile practises and product management is the Product Manager or Product Owner. 

Many have tried explaining the differences and ambiguities around the roles of the Product Manager and Product Owner. For example, if you are European, you tend to refer to the Product Owner role more than if you are American. The Product Manager role is also used in some frameworks and organizations as a more formal manager of staff or function, having less to do with product management. Regardless of the differences, the roles of Product Manager and Product Owner origin from the same family tree. 

The Product Manager role is traced back to the 1930s when the position was created as part of the marketing department. The role was supposed to incorporate the customer perspective into the development and production of the product. The Product Manager role mainly grew via two entrepreneurs adopting the position into their organization. You might recognize their names – Bill Hewlett and David Packard. They were standing behind the big IT-hardware company Hewlett-Packard.

The Product Owner, however, came as late as 1995 as a part of the largely adopted agile framework called Scrum. The creators of The Scrum Guide, Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber, supported the overarching responsibility of a Product Manager but believed the Product Manager role tended to lean too much towards the commercialization perspective rather than the engineering or development side. Therefore, they introduced the Product Owner – a position with a technical focus and overarching responsibility for the product’s success.

In many organizations Ascend has worked with, we have experienced situations where both these roles exist in parallel. That was never the idea by any of the creators. Their point was to establish one role in bridging the gap between the development and commercialization of a product. Instead, by introducing both a Product Manager and a Product Owner, the roles tend to focus on separate sides and make the gap even more extensive. Our experiences show that in such setups, the Product Manager becomes too distant from the development team, and the Product Owner becomes too distant from the users and the market. This creates uncertainty around who is really overall responsible for the value delivered by the product in the end.

From a historical perspective, the roles are very much alike since they originally were intended to contribute with much of the same value. It is not the decision between a Product Manager or a Product Owner that will help you set the overarching responsibilities right – clarifying the responsibilities will.  

Although product responsibility, ranging from market insights to solution development by default, is often too overwhelming for one person to manage, the answer is not to divide it into one role focusing on commercialization and one on development. Instead, what we have experienced as a more successful way, is to narrow the focus and scope of product responsibility down to the product’s value and viability, as described by Marty Cagan. There is a difference between the statements “doing the right product” and “doing the product right”, where “the product responsible” is accountable for the first statement. The second statement consists of two parts: feasibility and usability. Feasibility is ensuring the product is working and is available to the users, and usability assures the users can interact with the product. We recommend appointing a lead engineer to be responsible for the feasibility and a product designer for the usability. Together with “the product responsible”, these form a trio (of engineering, design, and product management) that work closely together, taking the overarching responsibility for the whole product’s success over time. In the end, building a great product is a team effort! 

If you encounter misalignment and unclarity around the role of Product Manager and Product Owner, or where the responsibility of product success is split into commercialization and development, keep in mind that these are signs of a potential malfunctioning product-led or agile organization. If you find yourself discussing choosing between the role of a Product Manager or a Product Owner, do not spend too much time choosing one. Instead, focus on giving the role the right conditions by doing clear splits between the responsibilities for value, viability, feasibility, and usability. We recommend looking to and understanding your organizational needs and prerequisites rather than too rigorously following a particular framework. 

With this said, this insight only touched upon the role’s primary purpose as having the overarching responsibility for a product delivering value and being viable. However, there are many more relevant details to sort out to make this role successful, depending on the organization’s context, product type and other factors.


Get in contact with Ascend if you want to learn and discuss more! 

Didrik Dahlström

Senior Consultant

Other articles you might like

Commercial Excellence

Why companies fail when collecting customer feedback and how to do it better

Read more

Business Agile

Leadership development of Northvolt’s senior leadership and executive team to build the leadership for the future

Read more

Business Simulations

Getting a global sales organization ready for the challenges of tomorrow

Read more

Business Technology

Delivering high-value services by modernizing an IT operating model

Read more

Business Technology

Cyber security strategy and organization

Read more

Business Technology

Cloud strategy to accelerate consumer product digitalization

Read more

Business Technology

Business values, cost savings and risks showcased through a cloud business case

Read more

Business Technology

Data lake enables consistent and simplified data consumption

Read more

Business Technology

Product organization to increase customer-centricity, speed and collaboration

Read more

Business Technology

Self-driving vehicle fleet for next generation airports

Read more

Business Agile

Agile HR for an increased employee experience

Read more

Business Agile

Establishing an agile operating model at a large retail corporation

Read more

Business Simulations

Supporting growth companies to develop their sales capabilities – from pitching to selling

Read more

Commercial Excellence

Sales Excellence program to establish a common foundation for future growth following several strategic acquisitions

Read more

Commercial Excellence

Improving margins and steering levers by implementing a differentiated price model supported by the ERP

Read more

Commercial Excellence

Strengthening the relationships with end-customers through common sales and marketing excellence

Read more

Commercial Excellence

Mapping internal processes to enable a charity organization to work more efficiently

Read more

Want to know more about our other cases and what we can do for you?

We’ve helped companies of all sizes across all industries transform their businesses. Read more about our experience and how we make business transformation happen

Read insight

Commercial Excellence

Why companies fail when collecting customer feedback and how to do it better

Customers express significant irritation towards feedback requests and customer surveys. They are even prepared to convert to a competitor only because of a poorly designed or negatively perceived survey. Learn about the most common traps when gathering customer feedback and how to avoid a bad customer feedback experience.

The customer survey dilemma

The most critical success factor for some of the highest-ranked companies on the US stock market is understanding and acting on customer experience. It’s clear how focusing on customer experience as a single factor assures revenue and expansion from a short- and long-term perspective. However, customers express significant irritation towards feedback requests and customer surveys. In fact, 60 % of customers are negative about the fact that companies collect customer data, and that number increases with every new generation.  

Customers even say they are prepared to convert to a competitor only because of a poorly designed or negatively perceived survey. One cannot overestimate the importance of designing good customer surveys and treating them as essential touchpoints. Meanwhile, companies experience a lower answer frequency than ever. Experts believe the answer frequency to be less than 0,3 % in 2025. Therefore, companies must find new ways of collecting customer feedback combined with technology to complete and organize existing customer data. 

In this article, you will get some excellent advice on how to handle this dilemma. But first, you will learn more about the most common traps you should avoid when gathering customer feedback.  

1. When the customer feels like being hunted or kept on at 

Loyal customers that interact with your brand or products on a regular basis, and therefore may be your most important customers, get struck by this a lot. To receive a survey each time they consume your services is not a very good way of saying “thank you for being loyal”. The customer might have already told you about their thoughts and feelings and would like the feedback stalking to stop. 

2. When companies do not respond to customer feedback 

Imagine the customer actually give some time and thought to the feedback process. That gift is pure gold that deserves a response or a reaction. Responding to and acknowledging feedback is an essential part of any relationship. To recognize the customer in this feedback touchpoint is as crucial as welcoming the customer to your store or office. If the customer believes they have a real impact, they become more loyal and are more willing to contribute with feedback in the future. 

3. When surveys are too long 

As concluded in the introduction to this article, most customers do not want to spend even five minutes answering a survey. Therefore, it’s not very wise to make them too long. Companies that don’t have an integrated and continuous feedback strategy often find themselves in an annual survey loop. Consequently, they make up questions that should support a whole year’s worth of customer feedback data. The result, however, is very few answers and a lack of statistically valid data. 

4. When customers feel like they can’t express themselves freely 

The instinct to ask specific questions is rational. It’s natural to wish we could ensure an answer to what we wonder about or need. But when surveys don’t have any room for free text answers, the customers might feel frustrated. That is because humans are urged to be congruent with what we feel and how we express ourselves. 

How to do it better 

There are a couple of things you can do to make sure you can increase customer insights and avoid a bad feedback experience. The following advice are based on two principles; dig where you stand, search for existing customer insights and let customers express themselves freely. 

1. Search for existing customer data 

Almost all organizations have goldmines full of customer data they don’t know or think about. For example, in internal systems such as chats, posts on the website, and e-mails, there is a lot of spontaneously given feedback from customers. Moreover, many companies can find customer comments in external channels such as forums and social media platforms. AI technology and scraping tools can quickly analyze qualitative data and give you new insights. 

2. Conduct open in-depth interviews 

In-depth interviews allow the customers to speak freely about their experience. The key is to keep it open, which means you should let the customer choose what’s important to talk about. By doing this, you’ll automatically notice the customer’s priorities. You’ll also see what they don’t talk about, which can be equally interesting. A Taxi Company would, for example, ask, “Tell me about the last trip”. This method is often very appreciated by the customers since they experience that someone really listens to them.  

3. Ask or interview front-end-employees 

Companies with customer service employees, sales representatives or receptionists are fortunate. The front-end employees meet customers daily and possess explicit and implicit knowledge about the customers. Somehow, the front-enders are often forgotten when managers design, innovate or create a customer journey. When initiating communication shortcuts for customer feedback and customer trends, an organization can detect trends and change faster than its competitors to match customer needs.

4. Show that you really care 

Like any other relationship, one of the most critical factors to make it last is listening and showing a genuine interest in one another. Show that you listen and that you aim to really understand. Research shows that we like people more when they are good listeners, and the same goes for companies. That doesn’t mean you have to talk to every single customer; rather, give some thought to how you design your customer feedback process and try to make it personal and genuine.

5. Choose your customer feedback system supplier carefully 

External help is excellent when you want to collect customer feedback which minimizes the risk of bias and helps you see the data from a different perspective. Just make sure to do your due diligence and choose the right partner. Some suppliers have a pay-per-answer setup, meaning they will spam your customers to do good business. You want to choose a partner that is conscious about and cares about your customers – especially the feedback experience touch point in itself. 

Get in touch

Elin Öster

Senior Consultant

Other articles you might like

Business Technology

Enhance value creation with a clarified product management responsibility 

Read more

Business Agile

Leadership development of Northvolt’s senior leadership and executive team to build the leadership for the future

Read more

Business Simulations

Getting a global sales organization ready for the challenges of tomorrow

Read more

Business Technology

Delivering high-value services by modernizing an IT operating model

Read more

Business Technology

Cyber security strategy and organization

Read more

Business Technology

Cloud strategy to accelerate consumer product digitalization

Read more

Business Technology

Business values, cost savings and risks showcased through a cloud business case

Read more

Business Technology

Data lake enables consistent and simplified data consumption

Read more

Business Technology

Product organization to increase customer-centricity, speed and collaboration

Read more

Business Technology

Self-driving vehicle fleet for next generation airports

Read more

Business Agile

Agile HR for an increased employee experience

Read more

Business Agile

Establishing an agile operating model at a large retail corporation

Read more

Business Simulations

Supporting growth companies to develop their sales capabilities – from pitching to selling

Read more

Commercial Excellence

Sales Excellence program to establish a common foundation for future growth following several strategic acquisitions

Read more

Commercial Excellence

Improving margins and steering levers by implementing a differentiated price model supported by the ERP

Read more

Commercial Excellence

Strengthening the relationships with end-customers through common sales and marketing excellence

Read more

Commercial Excellence

Mapping internal processes to enable a charity organization to work more efficiently

Read more

Want to know more about our other cases and what we can do for you?