Gabriel Steinhardt, Managing Director at Blackblot
Gabriel Steinhardt, joined Brainmates in Sydney during February 2007 and is a recognised international high-tech product management expert, author, lecturer and developer of practical tools and methodologies that increase product managers’ productivity.
What is product management?
I view product management as an occupational domain which holds two professional disciplines: product planning and product marketing. This is because we build product functionality for the user via product planning, and market the product’s value to the buyer via product marketing.
A somewhat more expanded interpretation would be to view product management as an occupational domain that is based on general management techniques, focused on product planning and product marketing topics.
In reality, most companies view product management as a collective term used to describe the broad sum of diverse activities, excluding sales and development activities, performed in the interest of delivering a particular product to market.
With such a vague definition you could fit most anything (even testing) in to the role of a product manager. As such, the title of product manager is as meaningful as the titles lawyer or doctor. You know someone is in a particular line of business, but you have no idea what their job description and responsibilities are. You do not know and can not know what they do or should do in their line of work.
This vague definition misleads many people to place their own personal interpretation on the issue of product management, and that accounts for the multitude of definitions in the high-tech industry. That is why I advocate abolishing the title product manager and using the titles product marketer and product planner. You can intuitively construe what the job responsibilities of a product marketer and product planner are. These two roles can also be defined quite clearly.
What do you believe are the main responsibilities of product manager?
Commonly the product manager is engaged in either or both product planning and product marketing activities and those are defined as follows:
Product planning is the ongoing process of identifying and articulating market requirements that define a product’s feature set. Product marketing is outbound activities aimed at generating product awareness, differentiation and demand.
What are the main issues facing product managers in general?
The main challenge product managers are faced with is the lack of professional focus. In reality, the product manager title is a collective term used to describe a combined role. The product manager often acts as a program manager, project manager, product planner, product marketer, product architect, and more. Many struggle to define their own role. Ask several product managers what their responsibilities are and you will get a variety of answers and descriptions. This situation can reach a point where several product managers working at the same company and department provide very different perspectives on their position.
The remedy to this situation is primarily based on the realization that being professional means being very focused and strategic; and by ensuring that product management roles and responsibilities are profoundly clear, understood by everyone in the company, and their interpretations are consistent.
Additional issues product managers are faced with include which product management methodology to use, where to find uniform work tools, which tasks and processes to execute, and how to manage relationships with other corporate departments. This matter is addressed by the adaptation of best practices.