Product Management - Enter the Dimensions and Zone In
By Walter Knitl – CEO at Praxiem
Much has been written about product management from a variety of perspectives, including comparisons with roles such as product owner, product prime and project manager. Product Management and the Product Manager role are well understood by product providers that have them. Their definition and objectives, however, are not universal and sometimes differences exist even between lines of business at the same provider.
In other quarters, Product Management as function may be confusing. Because product management involves the breadth of a provider’s organization, it’s not surprising that product accountability is conveniently slotted into any one of the key areas or departments. Marketing, Development or Business Development often take on product accountability under several role titles, but the necessity to work the full space of product management considerations still remains. Unfortunately, this type of arrangement often does emphasize certain considerations over others based on the natural bias and specialized skills of the accountable group. It can result in poor alignment of provider and customer net benefits and ultimately diminished business outcomes.
A number of product management frameworks or models are offered by various consulting concerns, practitioners and in literature. They are sometimes disguised under marketing, product owner, project management and other monikers even if they do provide reasonable breadth beyond their namesake. In other cases they do in fact live up to their narrower billing emphasizing particular aspects of product management while glossing over the rest. For example – customer related aspects may be emphasized while the importance of development or regulatory concerns and constraints are underrepresented. The full product management universe has many considerations, some of which are depicted below.
It’s clear that product management isn’t just a process or just a linear set of checkpoints, and is not just customer facing or just internal development or testing, and is not just technology focused or just business minded. It’s all of these considerations and more. Organized in a framework or space. Its dimensions requiring simultaneous recurring attention.
The following are the key dimensions of the product management space:
- Product Scope embodies the set of product attributes and their interrelationships which define the product that best aligns provider and customer net benefits. It includes product objectives, requirements, specifications and metrics across several domains including technical, commercial, operational and others, and from several perspectives and contexts including the provider, customer, market, and regulatory.
- Product Lifecycle includes progressive activities, states and checkpoints over time from concept through incubation, delivery, useful life, retirement, to eventual end of life.
- Product Stakeholders include those that benefit from the product (namely provider owners and customers) and also those that influence, constrain and deliver the product. They may be internal provider functions, customer functions, or other market or regulatory influencers and bodies.
Zones of Accountability
So – must every product manager cover the full product management space?
Individual product manager’s accountability may vary from responsibility over the whole space to just a subset – or a zone of accountability. A zone is defined by a combination of segments (or ranges) along each of the dimensions.
To illustrate, a product manager may be accountable for only product inception and initial strategy. This zone might be characterized by early lifecycle; scope dominated by technology trends, market share and high level needs analyses; and stakeholders mainly representing owners, lead customers, and market and technology analysts.
Which zones are actually defined and worked depends on factors such as product maturity, product complexity, individual product manager skill set and availability. Situations with in-house skills or resource gaps can be addressed by services from reputable external product management practitioners. For example – managing introduction of opportunistic products, tutoring skills in a particular zone (e.g. competitive and market analysis), or retiring old products.
Voluminous, Not Linear
In summary, product management is a complex space of considerations and actions needing simultaneous attention, rather than a routine linear process.