Ran across this posting on the Infoworld site. Some interesting tidbits here. And if you think working as a PM in a commercial ISV is tough, it’s much more complex in an Open Source environment where developers clearly have a lot of pull. But, some things are the same all over. For example, the Engineering view of what Product Managers do:
When I joined MySQL four years ago, there was quite a lot of debate about product management. We didn’t actually have any product managers and the view in Engineering was “we don’t need ’em.” The rationale was that we were so far behind in implementing features requested by customers that there was no need to have another opinion. “We already know exactly what we need to do” or “The Community tells us what we should focus on” were typical responses.
So the engineering view is that Product Managers are only focused on feature prioritization. I worked for a company that had that view. I said to the head of the PM group, that I didn’t join the company to be “requirements boy”. i.e. it’s not just about collecting and prioritizing requirements.
The post goes on to describe how the engineers were convinced that they needed to have Product Managers.
By focusing on the skills of the candidates rather than the grey areas of the role, it became a much more productive discussion. Everyone saw that they brought a real world perspective that would be valuable. And we were successful in recruiting the candidates. A few months later, the question became “Where do we get more guys like this.”
I think this is a good strategy if you work in an environment that doesn’t understand the need for and value of Product Management. Identify the gap in the company and show how the PM team can fill it. It may not always work, but in my experience, there is rarely an overabundance of real-world experience of the target audience inside a software company.