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Where Product Mgmt Sits

Product management has to report to the CEO. This is really not something that is up for debate.

There is a lot of data suggesting this is not presently the case for many organizations, especially in tech – and that has to change.

In order to be successful, product managers require a lot of input and clout over most of the cross-functional teams within an organization. Without the support of the CEO, it may be nearly impossible for the PM to strike a balance between marketing, sales, dev, etc… If the PM reports to marketing, that leader (vp / director marketing) will have a tendency to ensure all marketing priorities are put first. If the PM reports to development, same drill – what the dev manager (CTO / vp, eng or whatever) feels is important is what will be worked on.

Don’t even get me started on the prospect of product reporting in to sales.

Product management has to be able to move laterally (and actually make decisions) in order to ensure the best interest of the users / customers / market are at heart. If this can’t be done, the product will veer in one direction or another; and that direction may not have what’s best for the market as a clear intention.

I have had conversations with several colleagues in the space (Jeff Lash, Saeed Kahn, Scott Sehlhorst, etc…) regarding product management not being a “standard” role within an organization. In fact, I’d love to pose the question to VCs (say, Fred Wilson, Rick Segal, and Brad Feld). When you invest in an organization, how important is having a product manager on the management team?

Do you explicitly look for a director / vp of product management just as you would a vp, sales or vp, engineering? Maybe even a vp, marketing? Is hiring one a key action item for any CEO you are trusting with your investment? If not, how come?

A long while back I spoke with a recruiting manager for a very large social networking organization in the Bay area. He informed me that they were “incubating” product management in development, and the CEO “may decide” at a later time product should have a seat at “the executive table.”

Wow. That’s a whole lot of words telling me potentially a couple of things: 1) development is driving all product, which tends to be a common setup. And it’s not usually the best thing in the world. But then again, I’m heavily biased. 2) the CEO thinks they are doing a fine job and don’t want anyone challenging their decisions, execution, etc….

In my opinion, you need product management in the organization, and a PM lead that reports to the CEO and has management-level “authority” (whatever that means to you). Otherwise, the product has a strong chance of becoming heavily weighted or biased towards the group that’s charged with running it – unless there is constant intervention by the CEO.

Personally, I think a start to this is to get product management to be an actual subject / role / element taught to business students in MBA programs. Finance is. Marketing is. Sales, strategy, “organizational behavior,” etc…. Why not product mgmt?

Maybe I’m just too heavily rooted in software – it could be the role isn’t all I’m cracking it up to be in other industries.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://onproductmanagement.wordpress.com Saeed Khan

    Adam,

    Good post. I've blogged about this exact topic and have asked VCs the Product Management question you pose. The answers can be found near the end of this post.

    http://onproductmanagement.wordpress.com/2007/0

    Saeed

  • http://onproductmanagement.wordpress.com Saeed Khan

    Adam,

    Good post. I've blogged about this exact topic and have asked VCs the Product Management question you pose. The answers can be found near the end of this post.

    http://onproductmanagement.wordpress.com/2007/0

    Saeed

  • http://onproductmanagement.wordpress.com Saeed Khan

    Adam,

    Good post. I’ve blogged about this exact topic and have asked VCs the Product Management question you pose. The answers can be found near the end of this post.

    http://onproductmanagement.wordpress.com/2007/0

    Saeed

  • http://onproductmanagement.wordpress.com Saeed Khan

    Adam,

    Good post. I've blogged about this exact topic and have asked VCs the Product Management question you pose. The answers can be found near the end of this post.

    http://onproductmanagement.wordpress.com/2007/0

    Saeed

  • http://writethatdown.com adambullied

    Oops! I didn't see that post, Saeed – it's a great series, for sure.
    Sorry to have doubled up…

  • http://writethatdown.com adambullied

    Oops! I didn't see that post, Saeed – it's a great series, for sure.
    Sorry to have doubled up…

  • http://writethatdown.com adambullied

    Oops! I didn’t see that post, Saeed – it’s a great series, for sure.
    Sorry to have doubled up…

  • http://writethatdown.com Adam Bullied

    Oops! I didn't see that post, Saeed – it's a great series, for sure.
    Sorry to have doubled up…

  • http://onproductmanagement.wordpress.com Saeed Khan

    Adam, no problem. It's an important topic and I'm happy to see others thinking about the same thing.

    Saeed

  • http://onproductmanagement.wordpress.com Saeed Khan

    Adam, no problem. It's an important topic and I'm happy to see others thinking about the same thing.

    Saeed

  • http://onproductmanagement.wordpress.com Saeed Khan

    Adam, no problem. It’s an important topic and I’m happy to see others thinking about the same thing.

    Saeed

  • http://onproductmanagement.wordpress.com Saeed Khan

    Adam, no problem. It's an important topic and I'm happy to see others thinking about the same thing.

    Saeed

  • http://sridharoruganti.blogspot.com eagle.eye

    You've hit the nail when you say
    “Personally, I think a start to this is to get product management to be an actual subject / role / element taught to business students in MBA programs. Finance is. Marketing is. Sales, strategy, “organizational behavior,” etc…. Why not product mgmt?”
    Aye!

  • http://sridharoruganti.blogspot.com eagle.eye

    You've hit the nail when you say
    “Personally, I think a start to this is to get product management to be an actual subject / role / element taught to business students in MBA programs. Finance is. Marketing is. Sales, strategy, “organizational behavior,” etc…. Why not product mgmt?”
    Aye!

  • http://sridharoruganti.blogspot.com eagle.eye

    You’ve hit the nail when you say
    “Personally, I think a start to this is to get product management to be an actual subject / role / element taught to business students in MBA programs. Finance is. Marketing is. Sales, strategy, “organizational behavior,” etc…. Why not product mgmt?”
    Aye!

  • http://sridharoruganti.blogspot.com eagle.eye

    You've hit the nail when you say
    “Personally, I think a start to this is to get product management to be an actual subject / role / element taught to business students in MBA programs. Finance is. Marketing is. Sales, strategy, “organizational behavior,” etc…. Why not product mgmt?”
    Aye!

  • http://writethatdown.com adambullied

    Thanks for the comment, sridharo. Maybe eventually we'll see this
    happen, but unfortunately, I don't think it will be something that
    goes in to these types of programs for the foreseeable future.

  • http://writethatdown.com adambullied

    Thanks for the comment, sridharo. Maybe eventually we'll see this
    happen, but unfortunately, I don't think it will be something that
    goes in to these types of programs for the foreseeable future.

  • http://writethatdown.com adambullied

    Thanks for the comment, sridharo. Maybe eventually we’ll see this
    happen, but unfortunately, I don’t think it will be something that
    goes in to these types of programs for the foreseeable future.

  • http://writethatdown.com Adam Bullied

    Thanks for the comment, sridharo. Maybe eventually we'll see this
    happen, but unfortunately, I don't think it will be something that
    goes in to these types of programs for the foreseeable future.

  • http://tynerblain.com/blog/ Scott Sehlhorst

    Hey Adam, great! article.

    As we've talked about before, you're spot on. Product Management needs to work in concert with multiple disciplines – sales, engineering, marketing. If it is subordinate to any one of them, the system becomes biased against optimal decisions. Doesn't make them impossible, but why go out of your way to set up something with a baked-in bias?

  • http://tynerblain.com/blog/ Scott Sehlhorst

    Hey Adam, great! article.

    As we've talked about before, you're spot on. Product Management needs to work in concert with multiple disciplines – sales, engineering, marketing. If it is subordinate to any one of them, the system becomes biased against optimal decisions. Doesn't make them impossible, but why go out of your way to set up something with a baked-in bias?

  • http://tynerblain.com/blog/ Scott Sehlhorst

    Hey Adam, great! article.

    As we’ve talked about before, you’re spot on. Product Management needs to work in concert with multiple disciplines – sales, engineering, marketing. If it is subordinate to any one of them, the system becomes biased against optimal decisions. Doesn’t make them impossible, but why go out of your way to set up something with a baked-in bias?

  • http://tynerblain.com/blog/ Scott Sehlhorst

    Hey Adam, great! article.

    As we've talked about before, you're spot on. Product Management needs to work in concert with multiple disciplines – sales, engineering, marketing. If it is subordinate to any one of them, the system becomes biased against optimal decisions. Doesn't make them impossible, but why go out of your way to set up something with a baked-in bias?

  • http://writethatdown.com adambullied

    Exactly, Scott. There is no sense in having any one of the functional teams
    enforce their own personal bias on the product overall. They are all going
    to want something different based on their own unique interests, and it's
    product management's job to transcend those opinions / take the in to
    account and deliver something that's best for the market.

  • http://writethatdown.com adambullied

    Exactly, Scott. There is no sense in having any one of the functional teams
    enforce their own personal bias on the product overall. They are all going
    to want something different based on their own unique interests, and it's
    product management's job to transcend those opinions / take the in to
    account and deliver something that's best for the market.

  • http://writethatdown.com adambullied

    Exactly, Scott. There is no sense in having any one of the functional teams
    enforce their own personal bias on the product overall. They are all going
    to want something different based on their own unique interests, and it’s
    product management’s job to transcend those opinions / take the in to
    account and deliver something that’s best for the market.

  • http://writethatdown.com Adam Bullied

    Exactly, Scott. There is no sense in having any one of the functional teams
    enforce their own personal bias on the product overall. They are all going
    to want something different based on their own unique interests, and it's
    product management's job to transcend those opinions / take the in to
    account and deliver something that's best for the market.

  • http://sridharoruganti.googlepages.com/sridharoruganti Sridhar Oruganti

    Adam,
    Check this link
    http://www.isb.edu/media/UsrSiteNewsMgmt.aspx?t

    Its not exactly Prod Mgmt,but sounds like a distant relative.Thats why I am targetting this school for my mba ;-)

  • http://sridharoruganti.googlepages.com/sridharoruganti Sridhar Oruganti

    Adam,
    Check this link
    http://www.isb.edu/media/UsrSiteNewsMgmt.aspx?t

    Its not exactly Prod Mgmt,but sounds like a distant relative.Thats why I am targetting this school for my mba ;-)

  • http://sridharoruganti.googlepages.com/sridharoruganti Sridhar Oruganti

    Adam,
    Check this link
    http://www.isb.edu/media/UsrSiteNewsMgmt.aspx?t

    Its not exactly Prod Mgmt,but sounds like a distant relative.Thats why I am targetting this school for my mba ;-)

  • http://sridharoruganti.googlepages.com/sridharoruganti Sridhar Oruganti

    Adam,
    Check this link
    http://www.isb.edu/media/UsrSiteNewsMgmt.aspx?t

    Its not exactly Prod Mgmt,but sounds like a distant relative.Thats why I am targetting this school for my mba ;-)

  • http://writethatdown.com adambullied

    Sridhar – I think that's great! I actually have a friend that's headed to Boston for her MBA in the fall…

  • http://writethatdown.com adambullied

    Sridhar – I think that's great! I actually have a friend that's headed to Boston for her MBA in the fall…

  • http://writethatdown.com adambullied

    Sridhar – I think that’s great! I actually have a friend that’s headed to Boston for her MBA in the fall…

  • http://writethatdown.com Adam Bullied

    Sridhar – I think that's great! I actually have a friend that's headed to Boston for her MBA in the fall…

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  • pjhtaylor

    In the telecom industry we have product management roles (e.g. Director, Head of, etc.) reporting to CEO equivalents. I believe you'll find similar positions advertised (or referred to) over at ProductManager.com. I too, believe the role should be addressed in MBA coursework and/or electives.

  • pjhtaylor

    In the telecom industry we have product management roles (e.g. Director, Head of, etc.) reporting to CEO equivalents. I believe you'll find similar positions advertised (or referred to) over at ProductManager.com. I too, believe the role should be addressed in MBA coursework and/or electives.

  • pjhtaylor

    In the telecom industry we have product management roles (e.g. Director, Head of, etc.) reporting to CEO equivalents. I believe you’ll find similar positions advertised (or referred to) over at ProductManager.com. I too, believe the role should be addressed in MBA coursework and/or electives.

  • pjhtaylor

    In the telecom industry we have product management roles (e.g. Director, Head of, etc.) reporting to CEO equivalents. I believe you'll find similar positions advertised (or referred to) over at ProductManager.com. I too, believe the role should be addressed in MBA coursework and/or electives.

  • http://writethatdown.com adambullied

    It's so fantastic to hear from a PM in another industry besides Web /
    tech! Thanks so much for commenting on this.

    One of my thoughts for a while now (hence my “manifesto” post) is that
    product mgmt, regardless of industry, has to have a similar set of
    fundamentals and a singular philosophy. So it's great to hear.

    I wasn't even aware that productmanager.com existed, so thanks so much
    for pointing it out. There are some of us working behind the scenes on
    these blogs a bit to make some standard information more available /
    reference-able (as opposed to the blog format, which is much more post-
    to-post). A couple of us are also working on some different mediums
    for the deliver of the information, which again, will hopefully make
    this stuff a bit more within reach for those that are hunting for the
    knowledge.

    Thanks for the comment!

  • http://writethatdown.com adambullied

    It's so fantastic to hear from a PM in another industry besides Web /
    tech! Thanks so much for commenting on this.

    One of my thoughts for a while now (hence my “manifesto” post) is that
    product mgmt, regardless of industry, has to have a similar set of
    fundamentals and a singular philosophy. So it's great to hear.

    I wasn't even aware that productmanager.com existed, so thanks so much
    for pointing it out. There are some of us working behind the scenes on
    these blogs a bit to make some standard information more available /
    reference-able (as opposed to the blog format, which is much more post-
    to-post). A couple of us are also working on some different mediums
    for the deliver of the information, which again, will hopefully make
    this stuff a bit more within reach for those that are hunting for the
    knowledge.

    Thanks for the comment!

  • http://writethatdown.com adambullied

    It’s so fantastic to hear from a PM in another industry besides Web /
    tech! Thanks so much for commenting on this.

    One of my thoughts for a while now (hence my “manifesto” post) is that
    product mgmt, regardless of industry, has to have a similar set of
    fundamentals and a singular philosophy. So it’s great to hear.

    I wasn’t even aware that productmanager.com existed, so thanks so much
    for pointing it out. There are some of us working behind the scenes on
    these blogs a bit to make some standard information more available /
    reference-able (as opposed to the blog format, which is much more post-
    to-post). A couple of us are also working on some different mediums
    for the deliver of the information, which again, will hopefully make
    this stuff a bit more within reach for those that are hunting for the
    knowledge.

    Thanks for the comment!

  • http://writethatdown.com Adam Bullied

    It's so fantastic to hear from a PM in another industry besides Web /
    tech! Thanks so much for commenting on this.

    One of my thoughts for a while now (hence my “manifesto” post) is that
    product mgmt, regardless of industry, has to have a similar set of
    fundamentals and a singular philosophy. So it's great to hear.

    I wasn't even aware that productmanager.com existed, so thanks so much
    for pointing it out. There are some of us working behind the scenes on
    these blogs a bit to make some standard information more available /
    reference-able (as opposed to the blog format, which is much more post-
    to-post). A couple of us are also working on some different mediums
    for the deliver of the information, which again, will hopefully make
    this stuff a bit more within reach for those that are hunting for the
    knowledge.

    Thanks for the comment!

  • http://writethatdown.com Adam Bullied

    It's so fantastic to hear from a PM in another industry besides Web /
    tech! Thanks so much for commenting on this.

    One of my thoughts for a while now (hence my “manifesto” post) is that
    product mgmt, regardless of industry, has to have a similar set of
    fundamentals and a singular philosophy. So it's great to hear.

    I wasn't even aware that productmanager.com existed, so thanks so much
    for pointing it out. There are some of us working behind the scenes on
    these blogs a bit to make some standard information more available /
    reference-able (as opposed to the blog format, which is much more post-
    to-post). A couple of us are also working on some different mediums
    for the deliver of the information, which again, will hopefully make
    this stuff a bit more within reach for those that are hunting for the
    knowledge.

    Thanks for the comment!

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