Product Management, a people’s business?

Above all product management is a business function focused on maximizing business value from a product and a product is used over time to deliver a significant value to customers.

Recently I attended a conference on professional product management in mechanical and industrial engineering, where I got puzzled again about all the fuzziness of product management. The range of the role and function definitions was huge. Though, the one kept me thinking about was the statement: product management is a people’s business. Is it?

Above all product management is a business function focused on maximizing business value from a product, and a product is used to deliver a significant value to customers. The users of a product and/or service care about the functional metrics and engage with the product to get their job done with least friction possible. The question all product managers should ask themselves is: How can I achieve that? How can I maximize business value from my product in the organisation I’m working for? This keeps lot of executives and product managers busy.

Product manager’s job is to lead the product through it’s life cycle, from ideation to retirement. She understands the jobs and pains the users of the product have. She sets the product vision based on market analysis, customers insights and competitors benchmarks (competitive intelligence), plans and prioritizes the solutions solving the problems customer has. She makes product strategic decisions delivering on the business strategy. Finally, a product manager makes sure everyone involved in the value generation chain clearly understands how they contribute to the product vision.

The latter one makes the product management job challenging and brings all the fuzziness. Lack of communication and coordination between engineering, marketing, sales, finance and legal teams lead to a disconnect between the strategic vision of the organisation, product vision and day-to-day activities. But honestly, is this a product management issue? Is this why people believe it’s a people’s business? Inert non-adaptive systems, organisational structures, culture and office politics lie in the core of the problem. It’s the organisational behaviour and culture bringing all the ambiguity into the role and function of product management. Those are leadership issues, not product management issues and cannot be delegated. Leadership creates the environment enabling great things to happen. A product manager cares about marketing the right thing at the right time & price using the right message.

The products, services and businesses give life to the cause, they are the tangible proof of what you believe. — Simon Sinek

Nevertheless, as a product manager you set the product vision and lead the product. You’ll have to inspire everyone involved in the product creation to believe in what you believe, follow you, deliver and bring your vision to life. By doing so you provide yourself and everybody around with clarity, direction and meaningful commitment.

What do you think?