Why isn’t product management its own department in every company? What are the risks and challenges when product management reports to engineering or sales & marketing?
When product management is part of engineering, ideas and products are driven by technology. The product manager ends up getting involved in designing the solution rather than identifying the market needs. Engineers expect the product manager to be the solution architect, and as a result, the product manager’s job ends up being compromised. Engineers are the product experts; the product manager should be the market expert.
When product management is part of sales & marketing he/she ends up generating marketing plans, sales presentations or becoming the demo person. While all these tasks are important, they are not product management. Sales tools, sales presentations and demos should be handled by sales. Marketing documents and collateral should be handled by MarCom and/or product marketing.
All this confusion stems from the fact that the role of product management is not well defined. In companies that are market driven, product management is a department of its own. Product managers do the market research, identify the market needs, create the business plan and work closely with engineering to define a new product. They work with marketing to get the messaging and positioning correct and with sales to address their unique needs. Companies who place product management under other departments end up having a hybrid person that is neither a product manager nor anything else. Companies should strive to have a person doing a great job wearing one hat rather than a mediocre role wearing multiple hats. More is less.
So when evaluating your next position ask yourself, do I want to join a company that doesn’t understand the importance of the role of a product manager?