Understanding Key Product Development Roles: Product Owner, Product Manager, Development Manager, Customer Advocate, Project Manager, Programme Manager, and Change Manager

This guide delineates the distinct yet interrelated roles of Product Owner, Product Manager, Development Manager, Customer Advocate, Project Manager, Programme Manager, and Change Manager within the product development ecosystem. It aims to clarify the focus, responsibilities, and objectives of each role, highlighting how they contribute to the successful development and management of products.


In the fast-paced world of product development, understanding the specific roles and responsibilities of team members is crucial for success. The Product Owner, Product Manager, Development Manager, Customer Advocate, Project Manager, Programme Manager, and Change Manager each play vital but distinct parts in bringing a product from idea to market. By examining these roles individually, we can appreciate their unique contributions and how they interlock to drive product success.

The Distinct Roles Explained

The roles of Product Owner, Product Manager, Development Manager, Customer Advocate, Project Manager, Programme Manager, and Change Manager each play distinct yet complementary parts in the lifecycle of a product, from conception through development to delivery and feedback integration. Here’s a brief overview of each role and how they differ from one another:

Product Owner

The Product Owner is integral to the Agile development process, acting as a liaison between the stakeholders and the development team. They prioritize the product backlog, ensuring the team focuses on work that delivers maximum value.

  • Focus: Represents the stakeholders’ interests in a Scrum or Agile development process and is responsible for the product backlog.
  • Key Responsibilities: Prioritizing backlog items based on stakeholder and customer needs, ensuring clarity of requirements for the development team, and accepting completed user stories to ensure they meet the predefined criteria.
  • Objective: To ensure the development team delivers value to the business by focusing on the right features and priorities.

Product Manager

  • Focus: Oversees the entire lifecycle of a product, from identifying customer needs and opportunities, defining the product vision, to strategizing its roadmap.
  • Key Responsibilities: Market research, product strategy, roadmap development, feature definition, and working across teams to ensure product meets market needs.
  • Objective: To ensure the product meets the market needs and drives long-term success for the business.

Development Manager

  • Focus: Manages the software development team and processes to ensure efficient delivery of software products.
  • Key Responsibilities: Resource management, scheduling, process improvement, technical oversight, and ensuring the development team has the tools and environment needed to succeed.
  • Objective: To ensure efficient and effective software development processes that deliver high-quality software within time and budget constraints.

Customer Advocate

  • Focus: Acts as the voice of the customer within the organization, ensuring that the products and services meet the customer’s needs and expectations.
  • Key Responsibilities: Gathering customer feedback, representing customer interests in product development discussions, and ensuring customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Objective: To ensure the product or service continuously evolves in response to customer feedback and needs, thereby enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Project Manager

The Project Manager ensures projects are delivered on time, within budget, and according to scope. They lead the project team, manage resources, and communicate with stakeholders to navigate the project from initiation to completion.

  • Focus: Oversees specific projects within an organization, managing the scope, timelines, budgets, and resources to ensure successful completion.
  • Key Responsibilities: Planning, executing, and closing projects; defining project scope, goals, and deliverables; communicating expectations to team members and stakeholders; managing project timelines and budgets.
  • Objective: To ensure projects are delivered on time, within scope, and budget, meeting or exceeding stakeholder expectations.

Programme Manager

The Programme Manager oversees multiple related projects to ensure they align with organizational goals. They focus on strategic alignment, managing project interdependencies, and optimizing outcomes across the program.

  • Focus: Manages a group of related projects (program) to achieve outcomes and realize benefits that are aligned with organizational strategic objectives.
  • Key Responsibilities: Overseeing the coordination and administration of multiple projects that are linked under a single program; managing program resources; ensuring alignment with the organization’s goals; addressing program-level risks and opportunities.
  • Objective: To ensure the program delivers the intended business benefits and value, coordinating efforts across multiple projects to work towards the organization’s larger strategic goals.

Change Manager

The Change Manager facilitates and supports change within an organization. They focus on the people affected by change, ensuring smooth transitions by managing resistance and fostering stakeholder engagement.

  • Focus: Focuses on managing the human aspects of change within an organization, including changes to business processes, systems and technology, job roles, and organizational structures.
  • Key Responsibilities: Developing and implementing change management strategies and plans that maximize employee adoption and usage and minimize resistance; working to drive faster adoption, higher ultimate utilization of and proficiency with the changes that impact employees.
  • Objective: To facilitate and ensure that changes are smoothly and successfully implemented to achieve lasting benefits, minimizing employee resistance and maximizing employee engagement.

Key Differences

  • Product Owner vs. Product Manager: The Product Owner role is more tactical, focusing on the day-to-day development process in Agile teams, whereas the Product Manager has a broader, strategic role that encompasses market fit and long-term product vision across all development methodologies.
  • Development Manager vs. Product Roles (Owner/Manager): The Development Manager is focused on the “how” of product development—managing the team and process—while Product Owners and Managers are more concerned with the “what” and “why” of the product.
  • Customer Advocate vs. Other Roles: The Customer Advocate specifically focuses on representing the customer’s perspective, ensuring their needs and feedback directly influence product decisions, whereas the other roles may balance customer needs with business objectives and technical feasibility.
  • Project Manager vs. Programme Manager: While a Project Manager focuses on the success of individual projects, with specific deliverables, timelines, and budgets, a Programme Manager oversees a set of related projects (or program) to ensure they align and contribute to strategic business objectives. The Programme Manager operates at a higher level, focusing more on strategy, alignment, and interdependencies between projects.
  • Project/Programme Manager vs. Change Manager: Project and Programme Managers are primarily concerned with the logistical, temporal, and financial aspects of projects or programs, focusing on tasks, milestones, and outputs. In contrast, a Change Manager focuses on the people side of change, including changes that may result from those projects or programs. The Change Manager’s role is to ensure that organizational changes are adopted smoothly and effectively, addressing resistance and building support among the workforce.
  • Change Manager’s Unique Role: Unlike Project and Programme Managers, Change Managers deal directly with the impact of change on an organization’s culture, processes, and people. Their work is critical for ensuring that changes are not only implemented but also embraced, adopted, and sustained over time, ensuring the long-term success of project outcomes and strategic initiatives.

These roles, while distinct, often work closely together in organizations to ensure that initiatives are successfully planned, executed, and adopted, leading to sustained improvements and achievement of strategic objectives.


The Project Manager, Programme Manager, and Change Manager each play essential roles in driving organizational success through effective management of projects, programs, and change initiatives. While their areas of focus and responsibilities may differ, their collective efforts are crucial for aligning projects and programs with strategic objectives and facilitating smooth transitions during periods of change. Understanding the unique contributions of these roles enables organizations to more effectively plan, execute, and manage their strategic initiatives, ensuring that goals are met and that the organization can successfully navigate the complexities of change and growth.