Product Management has been around for as long as there have been companies selling products, but Product Management is on the rise. Product Managers are in short supply – named as one of just five key roles in the Startup Talent Gap report released in July 2018 by start-up peak body StartupAUS in collaboration with Microsoft, the University of Technology Sydney and Google – alongside coders, startup-focused sales roles, user experience designers, and data scientists.
So why are Product Managers in short supply now?
Says Nick Coster, “Since 2004-2006 when Facebook, Twitter and other social media ushered in a new era for the internet as a two-way medium, people shared the successes and failures of their product experiences with huge networks that enabled viral spreads of customer experiences. This meant that great products could flourish, and bad products had nowhere to hide.
“Also the capital cost of establishing a start-up has dropped to nearly zero, enabling global competition in nearly every niche imaginable.
“Older business models rely heavily on having the best marketing or trying to establish the best technology to win in both corporates and start-ups, but these models are failing.
“The only way to deliver business success today is to deliver a product that matches the needs of a market better than any other offering. This is the domain of professional Product Management.”
Shortage of Product Managers
The current shortage of Product Managers goes back to how modern day Product Managers began – organically. The current generation of Product Management professionals had little, if any, formal training in Product Management and found their own ways to get the best outcomes.
As Product Managers go from strength-to-strength in their roles, the successful ones often move on to become more senior managers or even CEOs of their own businesses, using the invaluable customer-centric approach and business focus gained in Product Management as a key advantage.
“The rate of change of the current market place is now outstripping the supply of these experienced product managers which is naturally pushing up the asking rate of Product Managers,” says Nick.
Very few, if any, organisations offer structured Product Management training in-house or development pipeline, that takes a candidate with the right mindset, and skills them up for the job. Additionally, most employers don’t consider hiring a junior or associate Product Manager and investing in their ongoing development.
Preparing yourself to move into a Product Management role
Aspiring Product Managers can invest in themselves to get ready for a first Product Management role, through Brainmates’ new half-day ‘Moving in to Product course’ running regularly in Sydney and Melbourne.
This gives aspiring Product Managers the essential language and framework to evolve their current thinking so they can position their professional experience and map this to the Product Management activities that they may already be performing. The course also provides guidance on Product Management resume writing and interview preparation.
Many organisations never provide formal training to their Product Managers believing that Product Management is a skill developed on the job. But without some formal learning, the organisation isn’t getting the best of their Product Managers and, in some cases, this results in a great deal of wasted time money and effort as their influence cascades throughout the business and beyond, into the marketplace.
The Swiss Army Knife of any organisation
Experienced Product Managers are often a team of one – smart, capable, with a wide range of responsibilities, operating as the Swiss Army Knife of the company.
“Start-ups want to hire a Swiss Army Knife because they represent excellent value,” says Nick. “They have deep experience and expertise across a range of industries, the invaluable ability to quickly learn, adapt, and thrive plus the courage to try.
“But unfortunately, there are a small number of Swiss Army Knives, particularly in a small country such as Australia.”
To overcome this shortage, consider teaching Product Management to key functional groups within the business.
Applying the Product Management framework to your entire organisation
Start-ups are inherently risky and having just one Product Manager can be even more risky. Product Managers within start-ups tend to be responsible for execution and detail, while the founder owns the vision and strategy, and seeks funding.
When start-ups can’t find a suitable Product Manager at a price point they can afford, there’s a simple solution – train the whole business to think like a Product Manager. This minimises risk and builds capacity within the entire start-up in the critical early days. After all, the success of any business rests with the success of its products and services in the eyes of its customers.
Says Michael Bromley, a managing partner at Genpact, “the whole business should be doing Product Management, not just the Product Manager.”