Sigh! This can be one of the most frustrating questions when it comes to explaining the product management role to a new acquaintance, a well-meaning friend, or just about anyone who isn’t somewhat involved in software or high technology. Inevitably, people try and fit your response into a box they understand, and I get one of the following reactions:
- Hey, I know of some project managers at my company!
- Oh, a production manager …
- So, you’re in marketing?
- What’s that?
No, I’m not a project manager … although I need to understand how to lead such that projects are delivered on time, on scope, and on budget. No, I don’t have anything to do with production in manufacturing sense … although I am responsible for producing results. No, I’m not “in marketing” the way you are probably thinking about it … although marketing is a critical outbound aspect of my role if I want to be successful. But is the Product Management role really that hard to understand?
One of the easiest ways that I have begun approaching an answer for this question is to pose it this way … consider the role of a CEO, I have the same role but rather than being responsible for an entire company, I own the responsibility for a product or set of products.
Just to ease my mind that I wasn’t overstretching bounds here, I did a little digging into the roles/responsibilities of a CEO and compared them to a couple of job descriptions for Product Management (director and/or VP level). I realize this is over simplifying things a bit, but in looking at just 5-6 major categories you begin to see the parallels!
|Strategy||Develops business strategy for a company, including establishing policies, goals and mission statements.||Develops overall strategic direction of a product – including ideation, development, oversight, and execution.|
|Visionary/ Information Bearer||Ensures staff and Board have sufficient and up-to-date information; Looks to the future for change opportunities.||Builds, updates, and communicates the product line vision and road map for executives, core stakeholders and for external consumption.|
|P&L/Financial/ Budget||Plans, develops, and implements strategies for generating resources and/or revenues for the company.||Manages P&L for product, creates annual plan for product and tracks performance against plan.|
|Planning/Objectives||Reviews activity reports and financial statements to determine progress and status in attaining objectives and revises objectives/plans in accordance with current conditions.||Reviews competitive landscape, market trends and customer win/loss data to understand overall market position and revises strategy as necessary.|
|Evangelist/Thought Leader||The face of an organization, represents company at public events. Networks with other top executives, promotes company and meets with existing or potential clients.||The face of the product, represents the product at conferences, meetings, etc. Drives thought leadership through white papers, webinars, and speaking engagements.|
|Leader/Manager||Advises the Board; advocates / promotes organization and stakeholder changes related to organization mission.||Leads, coaches, and motivates cross-functional product team. Mentors and continuously improves the skills and capabilities of team.|