What’s the point of product management? 

Well, let me tell you a story – some of it you may recognize… 

The early years 

You’ve got a product management team that’s been in place for a few years. Most of them have come from other parts of the business and haven’t experienced product management in other companies. They learned what to do “on the job.” This seems to translate into doing whatever the senior person shouting loudest wants at any point in time. They end up working on detailed requirements, handling sales questions, and managing lots of stakeholders. 

A lot of stakeholders have a technical background. They aren’t really clear on what they should be doing, so they tend to gravitate to the technical and operational activities with which they are most familiar and where they feel they add the most value. They have little focus on understanding the market, customers, or competitors. 

Other people aren’t really sure what Product Management does. So, they assume that any product problems are the product manager’s job to sort out. 

And to add to the confusion, there is a Product Marketing team, which seems to do some product stuff but also gets involved in marketing communications activities as well. Unfortunately, their messaging is often quite vague and poorly aligned to the product capabilities. 

Product managers are really busy. They spend almost half their time “putting out fires” and fixing issues. They’ve learned that sorting out customer issues and troubleshooting product problems make them feel like heroes. And, it’s much easier to deal with the constant stream of emails landing in their inbox than it is to think about the long-term direction of the product or get out of the office to talk to people about the market.