You may have heard the expression ‘where the rubber hits the road’?

It’s the point at which a theory or idea is put to a practical test.

It often seems that the people working on creating new products get all the glory compared to those of us working on in-life products.

New product development is exciting. It’s a world of possibility. Working on ideas that will potentially bring big rewards to the business. It’s all about the potential upside with little talk of failure – which makes it easier to get people enthused and on-board.

It’s also a chance to learn new stuff, get in front of senior management with good news stories and develop your career.

In-life, on the other hand, is where reality bites. Of course, things can go well, but often they don’t. Let’s be honest, most products fail to hit their commercial targets. The job is about dealing with day-to-day problems, firefighting, and troubleshooting. Perhaps the product is underperforming or internal sales teams are focused elsewhere. So, you have to battle within the business to get things fixed.

In-life product management can feel like doing roadworks – a necessary evil. The job is tough and unglamorous. You often have to work hard with little recognition, get your hands dirty and persuade unwilling people to do what’s best for the product. But if you don’t, everything grinds to a halt.

Who, in their right mind, would swap working on new products for working on in-life products?

Well, we would.

In-life products bring in the money – your role can have a huge impact. And working in the trenches helps you develop a strong feeling about all the moving parts needed to deliver success. It’s a great education in the realities of established business and not just start-up daydreams.

In many jobs, you will be working on new product development and in-life product management at the same time. Don’t neglect the in-life part – it’s where the rubber meets the road.

Andrew Dickenson
Director, Product Focus

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Hi Andrew,

I really enjoyed reading your article and i can backup everything you have said as this is my and others on the product team’s reality. It can be a hard slog to continuously have to fight the blazes and come up with new ways to motivate and say the same thing in different and progressively simpler ways to get sales buy in and activity. But it is as you said the role that gives you the best insight and experience as to how your organisation actually works or does not work, with the latter being much more valuable knowledge.

Thank you, it’s nice to know that the same situation exists in other organisations.



I think most important is the last sentence – in reality PM often works and manages portfolio of the products that exist in the mix of different states of it’s life cycle : about to launch, recently launched, in-life mature and growing, maintenance and sunsetting.

For in-life products if it’s still strategic and growing it also will have new releases and new iterative launches.

Most interesting how quickly any difference is eliminated between emerging or completely new product and in-life product: after successful launch of new it will get it’s own legacy issues, dependencies and technical debt quite soon. It’s the point of the truth where PM actually opens to responsibility for all strategic and tactical decisions that were made along the way.

Thats why we are trying to evaluate Product Manager by proven track record of how many things, iterations or products were shipped and managed after as it defines how mature PM is.

Thanks for the article,

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