[warning: rant coming] The latest issue of productmarketing.com has an article on “where does product management belong in the organization?” Very shortsightedly the author recommends that product management should have its own exec reporting directly to the CEO. He calls it the VP of market problems…and describes the VP of marketing as the person who owns collateral, sales tools, lead generation, and awareness programs.
Come on – give me a break! This is such industrial revolution-like reasoning…If that is how your organization looks like you do not fix that by hiring a VP of product management, but you do it by firing your marketing department. Besides the fact that it is idiotic to still believe that they are “in charge” of lead gen – the marketing exec has to be the person in the organization that owns how the company behaves in the marketplace. And that includes defining the offer that you bring to market. Product management is not just a “marketing function” – it is marketing. It is at the center of everything you do in the marketplace.
The biggest problems with companies is that marketing is as fractured as it is. It is because the marketing departments are siloed that we witness all those weird company behaviors these days – where the left half of the company behaves totally different from the right half. We do not need more division of labor…we need less!
Sure enough – the product strategy has to be on the CEO agenda. No question about that! But it has to be on the agenda as part of the overall market strategy – not as another independently measured “thing”. And companies need to realize that there are different types of new products – some which belong on the executive team’s agenda day in and day out, and some that don’t. And to believe that product management should be driven by fixing “market problems” is not just ignorant – it is a dangerous assumption for any company to hold. I can just hear the next sentence – “if your product looks more like an aspirin than a cure for cancer, you will fail!”
All that being said – the development of a product, much like all the other marketing functions, is not a one person/department affair. It is clearly a cross-functional activity that crosses all departments in a company. And just like with any cross-functional projects – different people have to take the lead for different components at different stages of the project.
Of course – just by reading the intro to the article’s side bar: “I have found that the key to success in technology companies is an understanding of Star Trek” – and how companies should evolve from Start Trek the Original Series to Star Trek The Next Generation – I should have known about the quality of the article and skipped it instead of getting all wound up about it…really – he missed all the wonderful lessons from Star Trek Enterprise and Star Trek Deep Space Nine!
[end of rant]