My first job after business school was serving as a product manager for an Internet commerce software company (Open Market, IPO'96). Back then, we learned the "HP way" – methodical, waterfall, process-driven. The art and science of product management has changed radically in the years since, with agile and lean methodologies replacing the more centralized, older methods. One constant, though, is the centrality of the role – sitting in between the market and the engineering team, the product manager (or VP of Products or any other derivative title) is a critical component to a start-up's success.
Thus, when my friend and colleague, HBS Professor Tom Eisenmann, suggested we write a short piece summarizing the modern role of the Product Manager, I jumped at the opportunity. We collaborated with NextView's Rob Go and drew on some of the work of author/consultant Marty Cagan as well as numerous others. We interviewed dozens of product managers from the Valley, NY and Boston and debated the different ways product managers impact the business and drive operations. We tried to capture the issues the role faces in business to consumer as well as business to business companies, very early stage to more mature, agile to waterfall and everything in between. That research culminated in this note, which I'd welcome folks reading and providing me with feedback:
To explore more about the role of the product manager, there is alot of rich activity on Quora, including:
- What makes a great product manager at Google?
- What is Amazon's approach to product management?
- What makes a great product manager at a tech startup?
- How does one build muscle as a product manager?
Finally, a few blogs that do a nice job covering this topic include:
- Growth Hacker is the new VP of Marketing (by Andrew Chen)
- Product Management – then and now (by Marty Cagan)