The Product Management Concept … and Variations in the Wild! Part B

Continued from Part A

As with any concept, the Product Management concept has morphed into various forms in the real world – leading to different approaches and, looking at companies or even an industry as a whole, outcomes.

Businesses make certain trade-offs during the implementation of a concept – especially when there is a rush to emulate / institute a certain pattern. These trade-offs are sometimes made consciously and judiciously, and sometimes driven by urgency and constraints. In any case, over time, we see several variations (mutations?!) of the original idea. Yes, mutations are an integral part of the evolutionary process. But then again, not all mutations lead to a relative or competitive advantage – so it is valuable to be able to tell the difference / evaluate their relative effectiveness!

The graphic below shows some of these variations that are often seen within enterprises. Depending on the route a particular individual or an organization has taken (e.g. starting with a software development background; or a visual design skill set), the Product Manager role shifts to cover (or be centered on) different areas shown on the map. This shifting leads to a different focus, perspective & style – with a corresponding influence on outcomes for the overall process – and the organization.


Web Product Management - Cross-functional Collaboration

Place your mouse over the image (hover) to see the original map.

Looking at job descriptions and even articles / writings in this field, it becomes evident that this shift is quite common. And perhaps reflective of a lack of clarity – about the original concept, role and skills of Product Management – and its relationship with its close cousins – Product Marketing and what I would call, Production Management.

Perhaps the maps above will help to add to that clarity a little bit. Ultimately, it is the organization’s prerogative to define the Product Manager role (its responsibilities as well as expected skills) – and reap the benefits & results that come from that choice. It is a strategic and consequential decision – and a clear understanding & application of the Product Management concept can help make that a sound decision that maximizes those benefits and results.

Bottom line: Do you have a Production-centric Product Management role or is it centered more in Product Marketing or Design? Is the focus (priority & effort) on the core Product Management tasks (as shown on the map) – and the consequent benefits to the business / organization – getting diminished or heightened as a result?

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