Thursday May 17, 2012 by Sarela Bliman-Cohen - President, Boston Product Management Association
In my 15+ years in technology I have had the privilege of working as a product manager who reported to various department heads. In some cases I reported to engineering, in other cases to marketing, and more recently to the head of product management.
Why isn’t product management its own department in every company? What are the risks and challenges when product management reports to engineering or sales & marketing?
When product management is part of engineering, ideas and products are driven by technology. The product manager ends up getting involved in designing the solution rather than identifying the market needs. Engineers expect the product manager to be the solution architect, and as a result, the product manager’s job ends up being compromised. Engineers are the product experts; the product manager should be the market expert.
When product management is part of sales & marketing he/she ends up generating marketing plans, sales presentations or becoming the demo person. While all these tasks are important, they are not product management. Sales tools, sales presentations and demos should be handled by sales. Marketing documents and collateral should be handled by MarCom and/or product marketing.
All this confusion stems from the fact that the role of product management is not well defined. In companies that are market driven, product management is a department of its own. Product managers do the market research, identify the market needs, create the business plan and work closely with engineering to define a new product. They work with marketing to get the messaging and positioning correct and with sales to address their unique needs. Companies who place product management under other departments end up having a hybrid person that is neither a product manager nor anything else. Companies should strive to have a person doing a great job wearing one hat rather than a mediocre role wearing multiple hats. More is less.
So when evaluating your next position ask yourself, do I want to join a company that doesn’t understand the importance of the role of a product manager?
Sarela Bliman-Cohen is a product manager with over fifteen years of experience in the high-tech industry. She is also President of the Boston Product Management Association. You can find this post, as well as additional content on her blog, located here. You can also follow Sarela on Twitter (@sarelabc) located here.