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What Is Product Management, Anyway?

June 15, 2016 | By Lisa Singer

  • Summit 2016 featured SiriusDecisions’ first-ever Product Leadership Exchange
  • Product leaders agreed that product management needs to become more strategic and less tactical
  • There is confusion within organizations about the roles of product management and product marketing

During SiriusDecisions Summit 2016, we had the pleasure of hosting product management leaders for our first-ever Product Leadership Exchange. The half-day session allowed leaders in a range of industries to share success stories and engage in a focused discussion on the challenges facing product leaders today.What Is Product Management, Anyway?

One of the key things product leaders agreed on was the need for product management to become more strategic and less tactical. One participant noted, “Over the past 10 years, the pendulum has swung toward product managers becoming more reactive and product-focused, [but] it seems that this is slowly moving back to a level where the big picture is gaining more attention.” Some of the key barriers to more effective product management that attendees mentioned included too much time spend on sales support, a lack of clarity around the mission of product management, and a tendency to focus inwardly on product development (rather than having a market and business focus).

Tackling the issue of the clarity surrounding a product management role is not easy – we often hear there is confusion regarding the roles of product management and product marketing. Role profiles and job descriptions are helpful, but often don’t have the granularity and specificity that is key to ensuring each function can fully understand and embrace its roles. In addition, role profiles tend to be quite general and overlap with one another.

How can product management leadership help clarify the role of product management for the rest of the organization and to the product management team? Below are three areas where SiriusDecisions clients felt they showed results from during the PLE session:

  • Developing a value proposition for product management and metrics to measure success. When product management, marketing and sales agree on the desired outcomes and how product management plays a key role in delivering those outcomes, the thought process behind the roles and responsibilities becomes much clearer. For example, if the desired outcome is on developing customer-driven innovations, the value proposition should indicate that product management – the experts on the customer – is the best function to embrace this promise. The metrics should specifically link to the value proposition. If a key component of the value proposition is to enhance customer satisfaction with the offering, then product satisfaction is a key metric to track.
  • Using a tool such as the Product Management and Marketing Model. This includes the 65 activities and deliverables we have seen organizations follow to successfully innovate and bring an offering to market, and map specific activities and deliverables to the product management and marketing functions. We have worked with organizations that use the PMM Model and the value proposition as guideposts to specifically detail the job of product managers and product leaders as well.
  • Providing product managers with best-in-class examples of key deliverables. We still hear about product managers hunting for templates on the Internet or opting to use templates from previous roles. The problem with this approach is that each product manager has a different view of what it means to complete an activity and do a thorough job. Our PLE participants agreed that the use of consistent templates for key deliverables such as product requirements and business cases plays a key role in clarifying what is expected from each product manager.

Want to learn more about how SiriusDecisions defines the role of product management and uses the PMM Model to articulate its key responsibilities? Attend the “Foundations of Product Management” webcast  on Thursday, August 4, when I will be presenting an overview the critical elements of effective product management. 

Lisa Singer

Lisa Singer is a Senior Research Director of Product Management Strategies at SiriusDecisions. Lisa has more than 20 years of international experience with global marketing and product management, with an emphasis on strategic alliance and business development. Follow Lisa on Twitter @lisagsinger.