Most common myths about product management:
- The role of product management can be defined by a Venn diagram
- Product managers are the “CEO’s of product”
- Product managers are the same as project managers
- Product managers are product marketing managers
- Product managers have to be very technical
- Product managers are product designers
- Product managers are not data scientists
If you want to be a Product Manager, you truly should understand what product management is. But if you want to be a great Product Manager, then you should also know the common myths about product management. In this article I debunk the top 8 myths about product management.
Myth 1: Product management is a Venn diagram:
In my eyes, product management is not a simple role and cannot be defined by a Venn diagram. I wish that it was, but it really isn't.
Myth 2: Product managers are the CEO of the product:
Product managers are not CEO's of product for the following reasons.
To brainstorm ideas and develop a solid roadmap, product managers need to look at data, talk to users, and influence stakeholders. All of this takes a lot of time.
The CEO, on the other hand, can achieve the same results by simply using authority.
CEO's, typically, have dedicated blocks of time to create product strategy.
But product managers also have to focus on execution, fire fighting, writing user stories, aligning stakeholders, etc. And when it comes to creating product strategy, they are usually struggling to find enough time.
CEO's and product managers are both very good at prioritization.
To be good at prioritization, you need to understand the business, the users, and their problems.Getting this information and translating that to meaningful insights takes a lot of time. And product managers have to spend that time before they have all the information required to priorities well.
CEO's, however, have access to the smartest people and product managers in and outside the company. They are better informed because of their network and the people who work in their organisations. CEOs can hence prioritise much quicker than PMs.
Access to knowledge, information, expertise:
For the same reason, when PMs need to get more information, knowledge, or expertise, they have to jump through many hoops.
While CEO's can make a few calls, send a few emails to get access to the best minds in the industry and increase their knowledge much faster.
Every time a PM needs more resources for their project, they build 100 slides business cases to convince 100 stakeholders.
CEO's don’t need to do any of that. They can hire more people, reallocate funds, change priorities to get the same project prioritized.
Both bosses and PMs are truly passionate about making their product and the company a success.
But the stakes are higher for the CEO since they usually have more invested into the company.
Myth 3: Product managers are the same as project managers:
While there is a large overlap in the two roles, they are quite different.
Here is a recent LinkedIn post I wrote on the topic.
Long story short:
- Product Managers:own WHY and WHAT for a product
- Project Managers: own WHEN for a project
Every successful product needs the following ingredients:
- Business goal
- A user persona
- A user need or a problem
- A solution
- A delivery plan of the solution
- Ensure everyone sticks to the delivery plan
- Some way of tracking if the solution was a success.
Product manager owns most of 1,2,3,4 and 7. Project manager owns 5 and 6.
This is not to say that one job is easier than the other. The only point is that these roles are very different and everyone should understand it like that.
Product management is not product marketing:
Product marketing managers (PMMs):
- Help decode what the market wants from the product.
- Create the positioning and the messaging for the product.
- Create and own go-to-market strategy.
- Help users become aware of and understand how to use the product.
While all of the above are very critical to the success of a product, they are not the responsibility of the product manager. See Myth 3 above.
As a result, PMs and PMMs work very closely. But there is a divide in their responsibilities.
Should that divide exist? Brian Chesky, CEO Airbnb, doesn’t think so, and recently merged the two roles.
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Myth 5: Product managers have to be very technical:
Product managers should be equipped to do all of the below:
- Own the "why" and "what".
- Have meaningful conversations with engineers.
- Understand enough technology to make best decisions for the product.
- Be able to make logical technical tradeoffs.
Engineers, on the other hand, need be very good with:
- Defining the how or the solutions.
- Writing code. A lot of it.
In other words, engineers are always closest to the technology and the experts. As long as you can appreciate their work, understand their decisions, you are good.
Myth 6: Product managers are product designers:
Designers are the closest to the users and the strongest advocates for them. They are responsible for understanding the users deeply, and then creating experiences that solve those problems in the best possible manner.
This information is extremely critical for creating world-class product. That is why PMs work very closely with designers.
However, there are other responsibilities that PMs have, and designers don’t. Some of them include:
- Creating product goals
- Creating product roadmap
- Communicating with stakeholders
- Creating product and business metrics
Myth 7: Product managers are not data scientists:
Most product managers:
- Are (really) good with data
- Are comfortable with driving insights based on data
- Understand complex ML models
But product managers do not own creating efficient, accurate, meaningful models. Data scientists do.
In conclusion, it is important for product managers to understand the common myths surrounding their role.
By debunking these myths, we can gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of the popular product management role. This understanding is critical to succeed as product managers and create value for the users and the business.
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