Product manager, not owner

Why we don’t have any product owners at GitLab

At GitLab, we have product managers. We don’t call these people product owners because it implies ownership they don’t solely have.

Product should be owned by the company — or, in open source projects, the community as a whole. Engineers, working on the product, are responsible for critically evaluating what they are working on. Both from a technical, as well as a user-facing perspective. Sales people listen carefully to the feedback they receive from the customers and communicate that. Marketing makes sure the product tells a coherent story, and so on.

Product people manage input from all these sources (and add their own) and from that set a direction for the product. The product is owned by people in the organisation, not by the product people. Therefore they are product managers not owners. Calling these people product owners takes away the ownership from the rest of the organisation. Everyone in the organisation should care deeply about the product they are building, selling, marketing and managing. Only by working together you can build amazing products.