Do We Need Product Management?

A product playbook ensures you build the product right and build the right product.

Product managers are in charge of whipping up all the other departments and getting them to work together. This is to make sure that the product gets pulled forward by a coordinated team of horses, rather than torn apart by horses running in different directions.— Donald S Passman, author

People in product management roles—product managers, product owners, product marketing managers, and consultants—often talk about job responsibilities, methods, tools, and templates. We start from an assumption that product management is valued, and we focus on getting clarity on its mechanics.

But what are the benefits of product management?

In a world of agile methods and lean startup and business pivot, aren’t the activities of product management already being done by someone? Some by development, some by sales and marketing, some by the leadership, some by the customers themselves. And with today’s product instrumentation, can’t the product itself gather statistics on what people value?

Do we even need product management?

Product management turns product ideas into business results. After all, anyone can have an idea; it’s figuring out the tedious details that turn an idea into a business. Product management does a lot of the hidden business analysis, research, and validation.

And product management extends beyond product development to promotion, selling, service, support, and operations. A business-savvy product manager answers these questions:

  • What markets should we serve?

  • What markets and businesses should we avoid?

  • Which types of customers (personas) will benefit from what we build?

  • Which features are most important for our market?

  • How do we pare the list of features down to the minimum sellable product (MSP)?

  • What are our business goals and what product decisions are necessary to achieve them?

Why can’t developers just build what they want?

Well, they can… if they are the target market. Vendors of development tools have good luck with building products for themselves but not many vendors have this luxury. Developers have asked product owners and product managers to bring market insights and business rationale to product planning meetings. Developers want market information so they can build the right product. And they expect product managers to provide it.