One of the questions we get asked most by our clients is something along the lines of “I own this product. Why do I need a product person on your side?” Or “Why do I need a product manager for my custom app development?”

It’s a valid question and it’s something we at Mutually Human feel very strongly about. For our projects, we assign a project manager to each of our clients from the very beginning of the custom app or software development process.

The role this person plays can be confusing to our new or potential clients. So let’s take a look at the differences between product owners and product managers and why it’s so necessary to have both on a custom app project.

Product Owner vs. Product Manager When Creating a Custom App

First: the product owner. The product owner is you, the client. You are the final decision maker. You are the one who has the overall vision for what this product is, what this product does, and how this product will help people. 

As for the product manager, that person helps you, the product owner, see the product as a whole. They keep the train moving and ensure everything is getting done. They stay mired in the details so that they can make the product better.

A product owner may or may not have a software development background. Our product managers all have a software development background. They have the skills and knowledge to bring all the technical pieces together from other developers as well as the user experience (UX) designer.

Why do I need a product manager?

In an ideal world, the product owner and the product manager would be the same person. But this is not an ideal world. As a business owner, as a startup founder, or whatever your role is, it is likely you have a lot on your plate. Often times, creating and maintaining the software project isn’t the only thing you are accountable for at your company. 

A product manager is there to handle the day-to-day work (writing stories with clear acceptance criteria, running iteration meetings, reviewing and testing features, planning releases, managing the workload of the developers and designers, tracking the progress and budget, etc.) that needs to be handled to ensure the project comes in on time and on budget. Having a person to handle the details allows the product owner to stay high level and to continue to think about strategy without having to context switch between thinking about that and thinking about all the details.

At the end of the day, you need a product manager because they can save you money in the long run. Without a product manager that can keep an eye on the details while the product owner focuses on strategy, you run the risk of getting distracted and building parts that you don’t end up needing or using your developer’s time to investigate options that don’t go anywhere.

Spending a little more time and money in the planning stage allows the whole team, including the product owner and product manager, to have a clearer idea of what the product should do and be so that the development team spends its time wisely and on things that matter. 

A product manager is addictive added to the team. That is to say, the math of having a product owner and product manager is not 1 + 1 = 2. It is so much more than that. A product manager can save you time, money, and stress. We believe strongly that it’s worth it to have one on your custom app team.

Ready to start on your own piece of custom software? Schedule a free consultation to learn more!

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