Should Product Management and Product Marketing be parts of the same department?


Here’s another organizational structure question for you.

Given the tight working relationship that Product Management and Product Marketing (ideally) should have and knowledge, roles and objectives that they have, should these two teams be part of the same corporate organization?

e.g. a “Products” Department reporting up into a VP Products, that is independent of Engineering and Marketing, but works with those groups.

I see value in bringing these teams together on a parity basis. i.e.  One team doesn’t report to the other, but the individual PMs/PMMs work in small product or business focused teams that *could* include Technical Product Managers, Competitive Analysis Specialists etc. I won’t say more for now, but please submit an answer on the poll below, and leave comments for discussion.

I know there are some companies that have this kind of org structure. If you work for, or have worked for such a company, I’d really like to hear your thoughts about how well it worked, what challenges you faced.

Saeed

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21 responses to “Should Product Management and Product Marketing be parts of the same department?

  1. Are PMMs and PMs equals, or are PMMs marketing’s account execs for PMs? If the latter is true, then the product manager needs a TPM (project manager) to do the same on the engineering side of the house.

    This is always going to be a matter of the corporate culture war between marketing and engineering. But, in terms of revenue and cash flow responsibilities, they always lie with the produt manager.

  2. I see individual PMs and PMMs as peers. Now they would report up into something like a Dir. Products who has overall product strategy and even revenue responsibility, and a number of Dir. Products headcounts would report up to a VP Products.

    Something like that. There are other roles of course, such as TPM, Comp. Analysis etc. but I don’t see PMM as subordinate to PM, but simply another role (set of roles) in the Products organization.

  3. One additional point. The objective here is to have a product focused organization that is independent of Marketing and Engineering, but is staffed and equipped to drive the product vision, strategy etc. throughout the organization. So Marketing is more pure marketing, but equipped with tools/info that comes out of the Products group. The same is true for Engineering.

    There is far too much that PM and PMM have in common and far too much interdependence for them to be separate teams in separate departments in a company. Working closely together reduces overlap and brings out efficiencies.

  4. I think it depends on the organization, but in many cases the responsibilities and tasks of product marketing and product management are done by the same person (typically in smaller technology companies). I find product marketing key in helping to perform market sensing in the form of win/loss analysis and customer visits. Sometimes product managers are also involved in those tasks. When preparing for product launches or releases they have tightly integrated tasks to perform. The same argument can be made about development and sales during the launch process. Outside the launch process product marketing and management work together in many aspects. I’ve seen in some organizations they have a Chief Products Officer who has product management and product marketing report to the CPO. They each have specific responsibilities but because of the close interactivity required, they are in the same organization. Both product marketing and product management have responsibility for the overall product success or Profit/Loss. Outside of quality and efficiency, development/engineering is typically not responsible for the product success. Product marketing and product management have to understand the market needs and validate that the solution being designed is valuable to the market. I think in many organizations rolling these to groups into on makes sense, as long as we distinguish product marketing from marketing communications.

  5. Derick

    Agreed. And also agreed that Product Marketing is very different from MarComm. MarComm is a pure tactical Marketing function.

    In small companies PMs and PMMs may be one and the same, but for some reason as a company grows, the roles tend to separate and split with PM being very Development-centric and PMM being part of Marketing. It causes a gulf in information flow and efficiency.

  6. I recently visited with one company similar to the one Saeed mentions in the 10:01pm comment. It was a big problem that the Product Management team was way to development centric and the Product Marketing team was way off in never-never land. Some of the product managers (technical product managers) didn’t even know the product marketing managers that they were supposed to be working with. The gulf of information was huge, and it was extremely difficult to get a new release that was market focused, because each group had its own idea of what the release should do, and each one even had a different idea of what the release did. Not only was it hard for the two team to develop products, but it was even harder for the rest of the company to head in a specific direction.(relating to product strategy and sales)

  7. Here’s a quick brain dump on benefits and drawbacks of having PM’s in the same organization. Admittedly, these can be seen as gross generalizations.

    Benefits of being in the same organization:
    – Strategic alignment of resources if everyone is under the same executive officer.
    – Reduced politics and silo behavior between PM’s and developers.
    – More agile development practices, due to closer interaction and tighter relationships.
    – Reduced likelihood that the “inmates will be running the asylum.”

    Drawbacks of being in the same organizaton:
    – PM’s get pulled into too many technical details.
    – PM’s tend to become disconnected from the other 3 P’s, segmentation, targeting, and positioning.
    – PM’s can lose sight of the outside world, become too product focused and less customer focused.
    – PM’s more easily fall into the trap of creating market requirements that match the product that is being developed.
    – Developers are more likely to challenge position of PM’s as experts in market requirements.
    – PM’s can become heavily focused on usability design and distracted from meeting market needs.

  8. Oops – I commented on why development and PM’s should be in the same organization.. 🙂

  9. Mike,

    Thanks for the comment. I have another post where that might be more applicable.

    http://onproductmanagement.net/2009/01/25/eng-report-to-pm/

    But feel free to add your comments about PM and PMM in the same org.

  10. I’ve seen the PM & PMM roles work in various combination’s, each of which was a result of company culture and how products and organizations had evolved.

    For me having Product Managers doing both inbound (traditional PM) and outbound (PMM like) activities with a shared PMM (pure play) resource all reporting into the same VP .. aligned and executing on the same strategy works best.

  11. Saeed, we have to start with what we expect from the PM and PMM roles. We know that titles are a mess and don’t always represent the roles. While PMs should be the messengers of the market, they often are sucked into Development hell, rarely to be seen again. I’ve seen this happen with “products” groups that start out with the best of intentions but magically get taken over by the VP of Development at some point, returning to hell again. Product marketing managers should be the experts on buyers, the buying process and buying criteria first and then the product second. For that reason I prefer PMMs be part of the Marketing organization (big “M” of marketing not the little “m” of marketing as in coffee mugs and t-shirts).

  12. Marcom is tactical in some situations. There are some situations where it is strategic. I’ll blog on this later today.

  13. I defintely think they should be in the same department. The overlap in knowledge and skillset is great and in a smaller company, the ability to leverage a core group of people for all product-related activities provides the greatest amount of flexibility.

  14. Saeed,

    Assuming that we are talking about organizations producing software/high-tech goods (dynamics between the relationships and some of functions performed by PM and PMM will vary based on what an organization produces (e.g. consumer/retail market goods vs B-2-B industrial products etc…).
    Having product management and product marketing report into organizational head who has responsibility for P&L for a particular product line makes a lot of sense (Whether it is VP of products or CPO). Keep in mind that product management has a lot of interfacing responsibilities within and outside an organization. Before product is defined, deeper interactions with customer/sales, industry analysts and marketing are critical. As product is defined, deeper interactions with development organization are necessary. After product is defined and is being developed, deeper interactions with marketing, early customers, industry analysts are critical (from positioning, messaging and feedback prospective). Any organizational structure which does not encourage, mandate this level interaction (from Product Management team) is detrimental for the product growth.
    In my opinion, the problems about gulf between product management and product marketing which were discussed earlier purely stem from lack of proper goal and vision setting within combined organization. When clear cut goals are set to achieve vision, it is much easier to align everyone behind that vision and measure each individuals (and groups) performance. Clear cut definition about ownership of deliverable(s) (and participation) also goes a long way to manage relationship between these two constituents.

  15. Darayush, thanks for the comment. While there are lots of configurations that CAN work, I think an optimal one is one where these two groups — PM, PMM — work closely together and share a common foundation of market awareness and understand AND are independent of groups like Engineering and Marketing.

    It’s too easy to get pulled in one direction or another in the organization IF you are part of or too closely aligned to that organization. e.g. PM being too closely associated with Engineering.

    Saeed

  16. David,

    I see your blog post here on the topic here. http://www.noozit.com/article/.ee84dab

    What my experience has been with Marcom teams is that they are neither product experts, nor market experts, nor customer experts, but primarily an execution team that coordinates activities across other teams to product, as you discuss, whitepapers or other collateral. That is why I describe Marcom as tactical.

    You make some valid points in your article and it is worth more than a comment on my part. In fact reading through it, some of your ideas resemble my own thoughts on what I call an Information Supply Chain.

    You can read more about that in these locations:

    http://onproductmanagement.net/?s=information+supply+chain

    Also, there’s a webinar on the Product Management View here.

    http://community.featureplan.com/community/2007/03/past_webinar_information_suppl.php

    Saeed

  17. Tabita,

    Thanks for the comment, and you hit the point correctly. A lot of the benefit is around leveraging a core group of people and knowledge around the product.

  18. Hi Vish,

    Thanks for the comment. Yes, the assumption is around companies who are focused on high-tech products. As for interfacing with other groups, both Product Marketing and Product Management do that, and in many companies, with completely separate teams, the communication across those teams is disjoint and incomplete.

    Having there two teams working collaboratively together, sharing a common information foundation and then taking that out to other teams in the company or in fact outside the company as needed will minimize message and information gaps.

    Agreed, that clear goals and objectives help, but what I’ve found is that even with goals (which only state intent in many cases), the activities of teams morph over time to address issues — usually tactical ones — that arise. Thus Product Marketing becomes a tactical support arm of Sales, or Product Management becomes too inwardly focused as Engineering meetings consume more of their time.

    These are just examples, but fairly typical ones that I’ve seen across several companies.

    Saeed

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  20. Saeed, I’ve worked and led PM and PMM teams in numerous organizations. While I’ve lived through my share of “where should PM and PMM work”, the synergy, energy and united front definitely comes from a “complete” team. I’ll go as far as saying that if a senior leader (VP PM) owns Marketing as well, it becomes a trifecta that learns, executes and teams well together.

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