Quite often, the biggest mistake a company can make in product management relates to how it is set up in the first instance.
Far too often product management is seen as existing purely to support development. They get bogged down in day to day engineering detail and start to act more like project managers. In fact, there are many product managers who really are project managers but took a job title change!
The issue here is that any expected change that came from starting a product function never materialises and then confidence gets lots, product gets politicised and is seen as just another layer of corporate administration to navigate.
So, how do we avoid this?
You may enjoy reading our Frequent Agile Question on “what is the difference between a product owner and a product manager in SAFe”.
Really, product managers should focus their time looking externally and to the future. This means customers, trends, competitors, opportunities and threats. Their role is to define problems that need to be solved on behalf of the business and their users. Wisely done, they then prioritise their findings relative to one another then work with engineers to help run experiments on them to see if they’re likely to move the needle and bring some benefit to the organisation.
Just trying to wedge this discipline in to an organisation by stealth, or hoping it will just take off is crazy – but seemingly popular. Developing an awareness that product as a function is needed, preparing for it to land and then evolving it is crucial as it will have an effect on other people in the company and also change long existing culture.
A product mind-set and product functions can hugely change the fortunes of an organisation. Getting it off to a good start is crucial.
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