Product Management Then and Now
Occasionally in my work with technology product teams around the world, I run into product managers that are still practicing the role as it used to be defined back in the PC era of technology. These organizations are inevitably frustrated, as the role was not terribly effective and often not respected.
There are many possible reasons why these organizations have never moved forward. Perhaps the leaders are simply perpetuating what they learned many years ago. Perhaps the organization received "training" from one of the many non-technology firms that try to apply their models of the past to Internet-era companies. Perhaps the old role has been institutionalized in a formal corporate product development process.
In any case, after I explain the new role to the team, I find that it sometimes helps to highlight the key differences.
I think this probably works better in person, but I want to try this in written form. Let me say up front that this is a little bit exaggerated (but not much) to shine a light on the key behaviors.
New: Product (Product Management plus User Experience Design), a Peer to Technology and Marketing
New: Computer Science or User Experience Design
Old: Writing Requirements Documents
New: Product Discovery / Pursuing Minimum Viable Product
Learns About Customer Behavior:
Old: With Focus Groups
New: With User Testing and A/B Testing
Makes Case For Project Funding Based On:
Old: A Business Case
New: Customer and Product Discovery
Old: The Wall Street Journal
New: TechCrunch and GigaOM
Deep Knowledge In:
Old: How To Use Excel
New: His Customers
Old: To Be The Boss
New: To Apply Technology To Solve Problems
Old: "The Business"
New: His Product Team (Designers and Developers)
When Things Don't Go Well:
Old: He Blames The Developers
New: He Blames Himself
Strives To Please:
Old: His Stakeholders
New: His Customers (because he's learned that's the only way to really please the stakeholders)
Makes Decisions Based On:
Communicates With Stakeholders:
Old: With PowerPoint
New: With Prototypes
Old: Believes His Ideas Are Great
New: Knows At Least Half of Ideas Won't Work
Old: His Competitors
New: Taking Care Of His Customers
Old: Killer Features
New: User Experience
Strives To Create:
New: Value (because it's the best path to sustained profits)
This last point may not be so obvious to people and it is the subject of an upcoming article.