Published March 24, 2021
When I started my career as a Product Manager, I was drawn to the challenge, excitement and glamor surrounding this still evolving job function. However, if someone were to ask me how to define Product Management, I would have fumbled for a coherent answer.
As I worked in different Product roles across numerous companies and product types, I started to get a better sense of what the discipline of Product Management truly entails. However, I was curious how others in the PM community define this still relatively new discipline.
So, over a 2 year period from 2019 through 2020, I ran an informal survey asking the open ended question — What is Product Management?
The participants in this informal survey were fellow PMs I met at conferences, friends, colleagues and my PM mentees.
I categorized the approximately 200 responses I collected over the two years. Below is a chart showing the distribution of responses in the different categories along with a snapshot of responses from each category.
These are catchy phrases that a lot of us have heard. They sound cool in an elevator pitch, but don’t really help understand Product Management
These are responses that focus on delivering a set of requirements. They address the operational aspect of building something.
These responses are closely related to the Requirements Focused view of Product Management, with a closer eye on the timeline and coordination of building something.
This view of Product Management focuses on the quality of the user experience.
Finally, the responses in this category were ones that I believe addressed the breadth of product management
My own version of a balanced response is as follows:
The discipline of delivering valuable solutions to a customer, while building a viable business for an organization.
In order to achieve the above one needs to:
That is a really long list with the need for a lot of specialization. It requires expertise in research, design, finance, business development and strategy, analytics, technology, project management and more. The Product Manager’s role entails bringing the right expertise together in order to achieve all of the above. Depending on numerous factors including the size of the company, the maturity of the product, the industry and the PM’s background, a PM might be focused on one or more parts of the spectrum of product management. However, it is critical to always remember what the broader function of Product Management is set up to accomplish.
So, defining Product Management as ‘delivering requirements on time and under budget’ or ‘providing the best user experience for customers’ is not incorrect — it is just incomplete.
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