What is product management, really? Simply put, product management is a lifecycle organizational role that deals with research, conceptualization, development and marketing of a product or service. Yes, there could potentially be more or less to it depending on several organizational factors.
Now, product management is an over-arching function that consists of two vital and complementary fields – product development and product marketing. Yet, these may or may not fall within the wheelhouse of the same individual.
Often, at a specific link in a product’s value chain, there is a transitional phase where the product changes hands between the product development team and the product marketing team. Aside from the benefit of shared research, these fields have very different focal points. Product development is obsessed with solving a customer/user problem. Product marketing is determined to communicate value and gain buy-in from potential users. This includes retention and referral strategies.
While this isn’t rocket science, there still exists a lot of confusion over the subject. The situation does not improve as organizations, hiring managers and recruiters often transpose the titles – Product Manager, Product Marketing Manager and Product Development Manager. Much of that confusion stems from ‘who does what?’. So, let’s have a look at what each role entails.
PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT MANAGER
The Product Development Manager (PDM) mainly focuses on defining the product’s vision and features. He/She is fundamentally focused on understanding users, helping them to solve problems and removing frustrations. The PDM acts as a subject matter expert, the voice-of-the-customer and the essential ‘glue’ that moves the product along from concept to final development. The PDM manages a network of functions/stakeholders related to the product.
PRODUCT MARKETING MANAGER
The Product Marketing Manager (PMM) on the other hand, is responsible for go-to-market strategies. The role manages all marketing related activities that facilitate customer adoption through the product’s lifecycle. Essentially, once the product is ready, the PMM oversees communication to the intended audience. The marketing efforts range from building product awareness to motivating the target audience to act in favor of the business.
In truth, product management is an all-encompassing function that drives both product development and product marketing. Hence the product manager oversees both sub-sets of activities. The role is responsible for the overall performance of the product or category and may include sales and financial responsibility.
Why separate the roles?
There are many reasons for organizations to split the product management function. A few of them are listed below.
- Company size
- Country-specific trends
- Type of product
- Intricacy of product
- Size of product portfolio
- Market complexity
- Geographic coverage,
- The speed of lifecycles
- Distribution channels
It also draws from the amount of time and attention devoted to the various activities in the value chain. It is not uncommon to find more than one product development manager working with a single product marketing manager or vice versa.
If the need for separation is inevitable, there must be a seamless relationship and information flow between the two functions. This ensures a successful product-market fit. Such synchrony ensures that the right product is marketed to the right people at the right time and in the right manner.
For more articles on the subject of product management visit the “product files” on the blog.