Product Management Maturity

Tall TreeAt a recent meeting of the Toronto Product Management Association, there was a discussion of the maturity level of the Product Management function within technology companies. There were, of course, different views on this topic.

Some argued that the function had matured over the last 10 years and that the existence of specific tools, such as requirements management tools, for Product Management was proof of this. Others, including myself, argued that, while the role of Product Management has matured over the last 10 years (it would be impossible not to), it lags far behind in the maturity process when compared to most other major functions in technology companies, be they sales, engineering or marketing.

In fact, if one were to look at how software engineering has matured over the last 10 years, not only through tools to better manage the complexity of software development, but also through well defined and understood roles of software teams, and numerous widespread development methodologies, it is clear that the Product Management role has a lot of development ahead of it.

Think about it this way. It is very difficult to argue what the roles of a software engineer, or a software architect, or a development manager, or a QA engineer should be. The responsibilities, the skill sets, the background experience, the tools etc. are reasonably well understood and reasonably consistent across companies. If you went to work in a software company, and they had no distinct QA team, you’d most likely run away quickly.

Now apply the same test to Product Management. Are the roles, responsibilities, skill sets, background experience etc. for the Product Management team as consistently defined across companies? Does every software company have a well defined and skilled PM team? Why not?

Now the good news is that, companies are starting to “get it”, though it is taking a lot longer than I think it should. So the question is, what can we as Product Managers do to help accelerate this process?