What are the right things?
Forrester Research published Product Managers Are Working On The Wrong Things by Tom Grant with Peter Burris and Christina Lee in July. I've finally had a chance to look at it (being one of the survey respondents).
In the technology industry, product management has a unique, strategic responsibility that is not shared with anyone else in the company: matching product and market requirements to decisions about products and services. Unfortunately, product managers do not focus enough on this core responsibility. For technology companies to get the most out of their product managers, they need to focus on the strategic inbound tasks instead of being distracted by too many tactical demands. Additionally, technology companies need to hire or cultivate product managers who have the skills and experiences necessary to produce high-quality product management deliverables — not something that anyone can do without training. Companies that make these product management reforms will be more competitive and better able to use product management deliverables to make better strategic decisions.
The overall tone of the article feels very negative about the current situation for product managers. Given that the survey only covered 49 respondents, I assume/hope the team at Forrester were also basing their opinions on additional experiences that they have with Product Management organizations.
In talking to some other product managers, the general sense was that the report does reflect more-or-less with what they've seen in their careers. Product managers spend too much time on the tactical activities, the day-to-day stuff. And they don't spend enough time on the strategic, long-term activities that will really make their products (and companies) shine.
This makes me wonder why? Are there simply not enough people to handle the tactical stuff? Is the strategic stuff harder than it sounds? Are we operating under the correct definition of product management? How are product managers being measured that the tactical behaviors swamp the strategic?
The table of contents gives you another idea of what the article covers:
Tech Companies Misuse Product Management (pp 2-10)
- Product Mangers Lack Common Experience
- Product Mangers Are Not Poised For Success
- Product Mangers Do Too Much
- How Good Can Product Decisions Be?
Product Management Is A Strategic Resource (pp 10-15)
- Make Inbound Tasks The Core Responsibility
- Shift Outbound Tasks Away From Product Management
- Hire The Right People, Then Give Them A Career
- Demand Quality Product Management Deliverables
- Put Product Management At The Same Level As Other Groups
- Codify Product Decision-Making
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