OK…this one has been bubbling inside me for a while, and tonight I decided to lay it out and see what feedback comes in. I’ll put on the flame proof suit now.
In our little world, we (Product Managers) think we are all that. We view ourselves as a critical component of the software development process.
How would developers know what to do if we weren’t around to provide market and product requirements?
How would the “sales droids” make their quotas without the help of Product Managers on those big deals?
Who else could define a coherent product strategy that is both aggressive in the market but achievable with limited resources?
Who else has the ability to be as technical as the engineers, as sales-savvy as the sales team and as hip and aware as the marketing team?
We are so dynamic, we can think strategically when needed, but can switch into tactical mode as the inevitable fires need dousing.
Yup, we’re definitely cut from a special stone.
Perhaps we are what we think we are and have the impact that we think we have in companies.
If that is the case, then let’s look at ourselves honestly and ask:
- Why is it so hard to find a standard or generally agreed upon definition of what Software Product Management is across the industry?
- Why are there really no formalized education programs for Product Management?
- How can a 3 day training course even begin to prepare someone to be a product manager?
- Why are our blogs and books filled with an endless supply of “tips and tricks”, as if that is the route to success?
- Why do people think that a smart sales engineer will automatically make a good product manager?
- Why do so many senior managers think that hiring lots of engineers is more important than hiring a few more product managers?
- Why are so many PM consulting firms selling templates and spreadsheets that are both “comprehensive”, yet “fully-customizable” and that enable you to “increase your professionalism”? Really? Is that what will make us successful?
If we take a step back and look at our profession, there are many other questions like this that are left unanswered. I wrote a bit about this topic previously in Product Management Maturity and If we’re so smart.
Think I’m being hard or unreasonable? I don’t think so. I’ve been in Product Management for over 10 years and I’m not looking to jump ship yet. I want to see if we can accelerate the process of maturing this field and helping those who are looking to become product managers avoid the struggles we “veterans” have faced.
What have we done in the last 10 years to make our lot better? And I don’t just mean incrementally better. I mean significantly better.
Software Engineering has really evolved in the last decade. The latest greatest things right now seems to be Agile/Scrum methodologies and mature development management tools. Sales and marketing both have matured as well.
Certainly marketing has taken a big leap forward given the integration of the Web and. in particular, hard analytics into the marketing process. Branding, positioning and other traditional marketing activities are still important, but the potential sophistication of marketing today is an order of magnitude above where it was a decade ago.
Selling still retains a lot of it’s old characteristics. Certainly there is no electronic replacement for a good relationship with a buyer or prospect. But sales automation has improved and there are a lot of mature and time tested sales methodologies to choose from.
And then we come to product management. What have we done in the last 10 years to really improve our profession and define ourselves to those around us? Given that there still isn’t some well understood definition of what we do, I’d say we haven’t done enough.
Instead of getting all hot and heavy about the latest development methodology, let’s develop our own well defined, clearly beneficial and easily understood models for product management. No one else is going to do it for us.
And a few years from now, if I’m still writing this blog, I’d hate to have to look back at this post and say, gee, not much has changed has it.