Product Managment should not be overburdened with Project Management

As a product manager, after delivery of requirements to the development organization, I find myself spending significant amounts of time doing the marketing related tasks I expected to do, but even more time managing the development and QA effort to get the product to market.  The role of product management is well known to be responsible for be delivering overviews of the product to the technical writers, trainers and sales people.  What it is NOT known to be responsible for is the daily follow-up on defects reported by quality assurance, and the job of maintaining intense focus to “get things done” by the dates promised.  I’ve also written about this before.  Is this a frequent problem in the industry, or the sign of an immature organization?

Signs suggest this is common:

If the product management surveys are to be believed, most product managers spend very little time doing the things we know that we should be doing, and instead spend all our time managing logistics, and doing detailed work in marketing, development, or sales.

I am responsible for three products of highly varied scope and type.  Each product, in order to be great, needs the dedicated attention of a product manager who spends time out in the market discovering the problems customers would pay to solve.  I find that merely managing ONE product through the development cycle has severely limited my ability to interact with the market, to the detriment of the other two products for which I function as the market spokesperson.   The organization continues to come to me for detailed information about not only high-level milestones but also low-level defects and test pass rates, so while I suspect I need to become better at time management, I also suspect that the organization just doesn’t “get” product management.

Reviewing Steve Johnson’s Pragmatic Marketing e-book on The Strategic Role of Product Management, I am struck by this extract:

For technology companies, particularly those with enterprise or B2B products, the product management job is very technical. This is why we see many product managers reporting to Development or Engineering.  However, we’ve seen a shift away from this in recent years, from 19% in 2001 to 12% in 2008. The problem appears to be that technical product managers spend so much time writing requirements that they don’t have time to visit the market to better understand  the problems their products are designed to  solve. They spend so much time building  products that they’re not equipped to help  deliver them to the market.

In my organization, it’s not that I spend too much time writing more and more precise requirementsin fact, we avoid use cases so that customer requirements avoid stepping into design.  However, our problem is that several high priority products are under the guidance of the same product manager, who cannot manage all of them well.

Does this strike a chord in your experience?

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~ by John Peltier on February 14, 2009.

One Response to “Product Managment should not be overburdened with Project Management”

  1. John,

    I have published an article that rhymes with your blog post: product management vs project management. The article is excellent and draws the difference between the two. Let me know what you think!

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