Does your company need a product manager?

June 16, 2009 at 3:49 pm 4 comments

I’ve been paying attention to the a particular blog post by Rick Chapman that challenges the role of product management in SAAS companies, or rather argues that PMs are not necessary in that environment. Rick has caused quite a stir by his post, and at last count, there were 22 (lengthy) comments by others since it was posted last week, not including Rick’s responses back!  If you haven’t read his post, I most definitely think it’s worthwhile.

Let’s say you disagree with Rick….how do you know if product management IS something your organization should employ? And once you decide that, how do you define the role so that it is set up to make the product more successful than it is currently?

I think many responses to Rick’s post answer the question of “Why”, but to answer the question of “How”, I’d like to point you to a great post I found last week (probably from someone I follow on Twitter but am forgetting to give credit to – sorry whoever that is!)

To give you a quick summary, Michael Schmier of suggests asking the following five questions to define the role:

  1. Should the role be inbound or outbound focused?
  2. Is the PM also a project manager?
  3. How much time should be spent outside the office?
  4. Does your PM need be to technical?
  5. Is the role more strategic or execution-based?

After reading Michael’s post, I’d love to know whether you think there are additional considerations to setting up a successful product management function. Feel free to comment directly on Michael’s post, I’ll be keeping tabs on it.

6/17 addition: Tom Grant, an analyst with Forrester Research, has posted an excellent retort to Rick Chapman’s proclamation that PMs are not necessary.


Entry filed under: product management.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jim Holland  |  June 16, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Robin – great thought provoking content and nice platform for the “is Product Management necessary debate.” I would add to your list:

    – Is there an established role to assess markets and stand as the “voice of the customer?
    – What is the personality of the company? Technology-driven, Sales-Driven, etc.? This makes a difference as all companies
    are not created equal and many believe they have all the “product leadership” they need.

    I’d be interested in other input and thoughts as well.

  • 2. Stewart Rogers  |  June 16, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Great post! Saw a tweet from someone today who couldn’t fill a product management role. My guess, their job description is wacked. Anyway, I found a post from Pragmatic on a decent job description.

  • 3. David Locke  |  July 7, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    Add the questions

    Is the product manager a leader or a manager?

    If a leader, who do they lead?

  • 4. Joe Baz  |  July 10, 2009 at 12:56 am

    Good find on the Five Considerations in creating a product management function!


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