Product Management is Spreading

As a profession, the Product Management originally started in other industry sectors than the High-Tech sector. Only recently the High Tech sector began to implementing this function on a broad scale, while this sector mainly is understanding Product Management as Technical Product Management, and thus has a different focus.

The On Product Management blog has started with some interesting thoughts about the growing momentum of the product management as a profession (see → Product Management is spreading…technologists take note!).

I know that some of my (graduate) readers are just in the phase to decide about their own professional development or to select their first positions, and think that the mentioned article is quite helpful to them. As always, I would like to add my own experiences.

In the Literature…

The author lists several reasons, why he thinks that Product Management has taken momentum. Among others, in his view, the reasons are the following:

  • There are several blogs out there, who write about Product Management
  • There are several (new) books that deal with Product Management
  • Several education events around the globe deal with Product Management

On the other hand, he mentions that there are some companies, who explicitely decide to not implement Product Management.

The author sees Product Management at an inflection point, and argues as following:

„I honestly think we’ve hit an inflection point. It has never been easier to create a high-tech product….

Technology used to be a differentiator in a competitive market place. Not any more.  Winning companies will be those who can embed product leadership principles throughout their organization. It’s not just about being “innovative”, but about ensuring there is a repeatable, scalable and adaptable discipline of product management inside the organization.“

Recent Developments

I also observe that in the meantime the profession Product Management is largely adapted by the companies, not only in the US, but also in Europe. What started to take off some years ago has clearly taken momentum (maybe more momentum in the US than here). I agree with him that you can observe this development, if you take a look to specialized blogs, books or education opportunities.

From PM to Product Owner or Solution Manager

However, I also see that recently a change is taking place in terms of the role that Product Management plays in companies. In earlier time it was easy; companies developed their products using the waterfall method, and the PM-responsibility was to rollin requirements to development, and to roll-out developed solutions to the market.

In these days many companies start using agile development methods, as they have learned about the disadvantages of the waterfall model. We now see that Product Management evolves into different directions.

  • On the one hand side the „Product Management“ takes over the role of the product owner in scrum teams (and thus works as immediate enabler for the development).
  • On the other side, we see more and more Product Managers working in the area of Solutions Management (and thus in areas far away from development/concentrating on the complete solution).

Changed Business Case for Product Management

I also think that the business case for product management in a company changed fundamentally. Not ten years ago, it was sufficient in our industry to create new software products simply by adding functions and features. In this phase a Product Manager had to be good in rolling-in customer problems to be solved, and he, or she had to be good in explaining the features to the market – on detail-level.

Today most large mature software systems include sufficient features. Now the development and sales focus lays on the entire product, the integration of this product into the social media context, and it focusses on the total customer experience.

That means that nowadays Product Management adds real value to the organization, if he or she can orchestrate something that is called innovativeness. Innovation in this sense is on the one hand side the creativity to invent products, and on the other hand side, it is the ability to actually deliver inventions that are incorporated into a product that delights customers. Thus, the role evolves into an area that was formerly covered by Innovation Management/ Managers in central research departments.

The change to the current Product Management is simple: They must be more the entrepreneurer, and less the administrator. And, they need a different standing.

Design Led Innovation

Not only since Apple started to address larger markets with their design-led products, a new trend started to develop. I often call this trend, the trend to deliver design led innovation. If you take a closer look to current products, and compare them to earlier products, you will probably also see that current product are often „nicely designed“.

Also the advertizing more and more concentrates on the design characteristics of a product, and less on pure technical features. I recently visited for instance one of the world largest trade fairs for interior design. Almost all companies their presented the beauty of their products. Not ten years ago, the design as product factor was much less important, and other characteristics were in focus.

For Product Management this change means the following. Before, we worked with development, and customers, and thus needed to be Techies, or customer centric. In future, we will in future also work with product designers, and thus people who take an artistic view (and less technial or commercial).

Here we need to take care that the designers not just take our part over. One way to do so, is to understand, how design and design-processes work.


Product Management clearly made its inroad to the companies. Thus it is a good choice for joung professionals who start in the HighTech Sector to begin with a Product Management role. Also, the role model is much clearer that it was some years ago. Thus, the expectations are better defined than ever. Current joung professionals will precisely know what they will face, and their choice is much easier.

However, Product Management changes, as the entire industries does. Product Management as a profession must therefor be prepared to constantly learn, and react to changes.

Especially in Europe we currently do not have the same level of expertise, and thus can still learn a lot from the US in terms of Technical Product Management.

Additional Information

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Das Original dieses Artikels ist auf Der Produktmanager erschienen (©Andreas Rudolph). In der Online Version finden Sie hier die versprochenen weiterführenden Links:

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