kHUB All Member Forum

 View Only
Discussion Thread View
Expand all | Collapse all

Product Management vs Product Development

  • 1.  Product Management vs Product Development

    Posted 09-15-2020 16:18
    I have often heard and even used the phrase that a product manager should think of themselves as the CEO of their portfolio. The question is whether Product Management and Product Development should both sit under the same role and accountability and what are the pros and cons of separating them? This question struck me again as I reviewed the new section in the PDMA BOK called Product Innovation Management, which articulates very comprehensively the role of the Product Manager in full life-cycle management. When you look at all the demands within Product Innovation Management, such as life-cycle management, road-mapping, feasibility, demand and sales forecasting, financial analysis and P&L responsibility, project management, metrics and KPIs etc., then in any decent-sized portfolio does one person have the bandwidth to manage all this plus focus on new product innovation? And will a Product Manager get sucked into minor incremental improvements rather than driving innovative new products and enhancements? But by separating them do you lose the product CEO concept and overall responsibility and accountability that intuitively seems to work so well?

    What are your experiences in how to structure Product Management and Product Development to create an innovative portfolio and also manage it effectively throughout its life-cycle?

    Brian Martin

  • 2.  RE: Product Management vs Product Development

    Posted 09-18-2020 00:55
    Hi Brian,

    Interesting question.

    Although not speaking from direct experience (rather, academic research interest), I firmly believe that product development and product management should be seen as two parts of the same role. If not, at least the same portfolio of organisational responsibility. I see product development (initially) and product management (eventually) essentially two connected responsibilities. Whether these responsibilities belong to one individual within an organisation is largely determined by, among other factors,  organisational structure.

    I come from a marketing background, so I tend to look for market drivers to determine questions such as the one you posed. It is unlikely that one, two, or even three people will have dual product development and product management responsibilities. The responsibility will (should?) be spread across a team of developers and managers. Whether this is the occurs in an organisation depends on the size of the organisation, and as I contend, the size of the market(s) served and the number of segments targeted.


    Nicholas Grigoriou
    Monash University

  • 3.  RE: Product Management vs Product Development

    Posted 10-03-2020 12:10
    Hi Nicholas,

    In my experience in a large organisation product "ownership" should ultimately reside with one individual, albeit sitting within a relevant organisational structure. That individual ultimately owns the commercial success of that product or line of products, including understanding the market and the target customers needs and wants that the product is designed to address. As such they should own the vision and strategy for the product and the overall roadmap and prioritisation of the roadmap.

    What I've seen is that in large organisations, it is not feasible for one person across multiple, complex products to also lead all aspects of product development and introduction. So a hybrid model is typically seen where "product development managers" emerge who take on the execution of the development of a portfolio of products through the various stages. These development managers have skills in things like Design Thinking, Stage Gate, Business Case development, project management, etc. and take on the heavy lifting of executing the development within the organisation. However, even in these cases, you often see the Product Manager take on development of enhancements or new product development as well, as long as it is within the capacity they have available.

    Brian Martin

  • 4.  RE: Product Management vs Product Development

    Posted 09-19-2020 13:08
    Great question, Brian, and Nicholas, your reply sparked me too...This is a conversation I have often in proJECT managements forums all the time, and the dialogue we have had, among folks who consider themselves product managers, product developers, product owners, and brand managers, and the consensus across all of it is, as is inevitable, "it depends".  The scope of each role, development or management, might be driven in part from what level at which we're talking.  Product as in the entire offering of the organization?  A cohesive strategy requires some level of centralized responsibility and authority to be logical.  Product as in one or more persistent categories of existing offerings? Here I may need to be a mix of idea lab inspiration and ongoing operationalization of product development into management. Product as in this specific lifecycle from innovative to obsolete? This is that full product P&L accountability at its most organizationally diffused. 
    If I am intentionally going for a new to the world point of view on a new offering, I may take product development as far from existing ops as I can to innoculate against change aversion.  If I am building a perpetual innovation machine, I need to remove as many barriers between idea and value delivered as I can, streamlining ownership and decision authority to enable nimble efforts.  
    So...that's one point of view...more?  :)

    Jennifer Diamond
    Maypop Grove, LLC
    Seattle WA

  • 5.  RE: Product Management vs Product Development

    Posted 10-03-2020 12:16
    You make a great point there, Jennifer. In my previous reply to Nicholas, I pointed out the need for "hired hands" to sometimes help the ultimate product owner with some of the heavy lifting in terms of product development management. However, as you say, not dissimilar the situation with the Innovator's Dilemma, there is a danger that the current product ownership can no longer see beyond the current paradigm and will have a reluctance to disrupt it. So for entirely new product lines, or for innovating within existing product lines and disruptively cannibalizing existing products before competitors do, often you will indeed have to bring in a fresh perspective.

    Brian Martin

  • 6.  RE: Product Management vs Product Development

    Posted 09-19-2020 17:00
    If i understand your question correctly, it seems you are asking if the role of Development and PM should be one and the same. With 30 years as a PM, i can unequivically say absolutely not. While our roles and responsibilities are tightly coupled, the objectives and deliverables for each are very different. Much of the product management process happens upstream of product development, with the development of business plans, strategy, market/customer feedback, P&L structure and channel program initiatives to ensure revenue goals. PM writes the product requirements and works directly with product development to set the vision, guidelines, and priorities for the team – in essence, the two teams collaboratively build the product roadmap. PM process impacts and interfaces across various organizations throughout the company whereas Development possesses more hard skills. PM requires a different set of soft skills to navigate and properly represent the divergent requirements, urgency and priority that Sales, Marketing, Finance, Executive team and customers will express. We work very tightly together. For example, Dev and PM jointly develop and own KPI's, with PM's focused on achieving corporate business objectives, identifying market need,  prioritization and achieving revenue goals. Whereas Development is production oriented - focused on the build, performance, time to market, efficiency, etc. These are very different skill sets. And as mentioned, both positions are very full-time efforts requiring extensive flexibility, agility and multi-tasking skills to deliver within the required timeframe. Lastly, PM possesses a deep domain knowledge, which may seem to blur the lines with engineering. But the "management" in the PM role refers to demonstration of leadership without authority to build the support on a higher, strategic level, manage everyone's expectations, and create a shared reality for the product.

    As such, and working alongside some of the brightest development/engineering minds in the industry, I have yet to find one person who possesses all of these skills to execute PM and Development as a singular function.

    pat riemitis
    harvard MA

  • 7.  RE: Product Management vs Product Development

    Posted 09-22-2020 11:37
    Pat's response is entirely consistent with my experience working as a Program Leader in the Program Management group and managing the early product development phase in collaboration with our R&D organization.

    Cory Christensen

  • 8.  RE: Product Management vs Product Development

    Posted 10-03-2020 12:24
    Thanks Cory, mine too. It does throw up some issues though doesn't it? I mean will PD be able to faithfully represent the vision and requirements set out by the PM? Also development I find involves some degree of compromise and that can throw up challenges. In addition PMs can get too distant from the detail of the new development and then struggle to influence it or effectively manage it when it sees light of day. But to a degree, there is no model that's going to be perfect so you need to manage and mitigate the downsides as best as possible.

    Brian Martin

  • 9.  RE: Product Management vs Product Development

    Posted 10-01-2020 10:56
    Pat , 

    In my organization it is currently the opposite situation. Product Development is responsibility for all activities up to the final product requirements (including VOC, validation, integration of market/customer research, Product vision, personas, MVP creation and the planning of the Go to mkt strategies. In addition, product development has been the default Project leaders because Product management simply has too many objectives around management of the existing product lines, P&L, Launch, Marketing Plans, Life cycle management, and sales support and enablement.

    This same question comes up year after year, and I personally thing the answer is that it doesn't matter as long as their are clear Roles and Responsibilities defined. Often this requires a Product Strategy or PIC to not stray for the higher Vision statement.  The situation gets much more complicated (IMHO) depending if your company is doing the manufacturing of hardware and the development (or not) of software.  This is where overlapping terminology like the word "development" can mean the development of Product requirements, software/wireframes, or the actual manufacturing/engineering development that would benefit from better semantics.

    Richard Treonze
    Product Development Process Manager
    Panasonic Eco Solutions North America
    Newark NJ

  • 10.  RE: Product Management vs Product Development

    Posted 10-03-2020 12:20
    Great answer Pat, and have to agree that's my experience generally also. In any moderately-sized organisation with any sort of reasonably-sized portfolio, it is seeking a flying unicorn to find someone with the capacity, skills and mindset to carry both off simultaneously for their area of responsibility.

    Brian Martin

  • 11.  RE: Product Management vs Product Development

    Posted 09-21-2020 14:26
    Edited by Daniel Lewis 09-21-2020 14:26

    Brain, this is a great question and "one for the ages" as it is a question that has been continuously raised during the 4 decades that I have worked in product management.  One of the reasons there has never been a clear answer regarding where PM reports, is as Jennifer points out, "it depends".   Some of the primary determinants are corporate culture, size, structure, and level of maturity. 

    First for contextual framing, consider the foundation innovation elements of "what" and "how".   The "what" is primarily focused on defining the value proposition with consideration of market sizing, competitive positioning, pricing, channel design, market trends, fit to corporate strategy, and fit to business model.  These are classic product management concerns.  The "how" is focused on developing a solution to the defined need, including consideration of manufacturing costs, support costs, overall development costs, material science and other technical trends and techniques. These are classic development concerns.  You need both sides for successful innovation, and as Nicholas points out, the scope of skills required are quite broad.

    Most people get these activities are different functions, and the question is where should these functions sit in an organization? 

    This gets back to the "depends".  If the company culture and state of maturity is such that the marketing organization is solely focused on "here and now" activities of sales support and lead generation, then product management is better served by sitting on the development side of the house.  However, this means the development organization then owns everything from idea generation and selection, through product launch, including creating of launch material, collateral, pricing, establishment of key channel partnerships, and the activities needed to transfer the knowledge to sales, partners, and support organizations.  This is not something many development organizations want to particularly own. 

    What I have seen to be quite common in mid-size technology firms, is that product management is a separate functional area that reports into either the CIO/CTO, or the CMO, and in some cases the president. In either case, even when reporting to the CIO/CTO, they aren't part of the development organization, they just share the same executive leadership.  The specific reporting structure is based on the prior comments about the domain scope of the senior executive involved.

    The often touted phrase "the Product Manager is CEO of their product line", is more about the fact that in either structure, it is the responsibly of the product manager to pull together all of the various cross-functional elements needed to make the product successful, as referenced in Pat's comments.  Just like a CEO must pull together all functional areas.  It is less about ownership of P&L.  In my experience, by the time a PM's career advances to the point of P&L ownership, they are no longer a PM, but have a title like Director or VP with product managers on their staff. 

    When appropriately defined and supported by the organization, the reporting structure doesn't matter.   Where I have seen organizations get into trouble is when the technical lead of CTO/CIO owns the product management function but doesn't accept ownership of product launch and market success, or when the CMO owns product management, and buries them in lead generation and sales support. 


    Daniel E. Lewis PhD, PE, PMP, NPDP
    President - Product Acuity Consulting
    The Woodlands, Texas

  • 12.  RE: Product Management vs Product Development

    Posted 10-03-2020 12:32
    HI Daniel,

    Insightful answer, thanks! I like that distinction between the what and how, they are crucial distinctions. I think your analysis of where product management sits is very interesting, and I think many organisations struggle with this, primarily because the role is so cross-functional. If it sits in an operational or technical area, it may end up not be commercially focussed enough. If it sits in a commercial area, then it can lose connection with operational and technical/development capability and be too reactive to short-term considerations, such as this month or quarter's results. As you say, if it sits within an enlightened executive structure, those issues are less likely to occur irrespective of placement.

    Brian Martin

  • 13.  RE: Product Management vs Product Development

    Posted 09-23-2020 11:50
    Hi Brian,

    You raised a thought-provoking question. The resulting discussion has been interesting to read regarding whether Product Management and Product Development should be separate roles. Though I cannot speak from experience, I did complete a Product and Brand Management course last semester as a part of my MBA program at Oakland University. Given the extensive demands that fall within product innovation management, per your post, it seems as though new product innovation would suffer if it were the primary responsibility of the product manager, in addition to product development in general. Furthermore, what I have learned in class aligns with a collaborative stance, especially when taking context into account. If considerations such as organizational structure, market size, and segments targeted permit it, as Nicholas articulated, one could argue that PM and development should be a team effort. Pat's post was very enlightening, and also made a strong case for the division of responsibility. From her comments, I gathered that the product CEO concept would not necessarily be lost as a result of multiple positions. Instead, each individual or team can provide the required level of energy into achieving the appropriate objectives within their domain while the product manager retains accountability through their leadership.

    Gabriela Pinotti
    Graduate Research Assistant
    Oakland University

  • 14.  RE: Product Management vs Product Development

    Posted 10-03-2020 12:36
    Your reading is the same as mine, the consensus being that a division of responsibilities is the most common in practice, due to those practicalities being raised. The interesting discussion then emerging is where these functions sit within the wider organisation, and how to foster and develop that collaboration in order to maximize the success of the portfolio of offerings. Interesting discussion!

    Brian Martin

  • 15.  RE: Product Management vs Product Development

    Posted 09-23-2020 13:48
    I will posit that there are parallels between 'hunting' vs. 'farming' by sales/business development roles and product development (at least somewhat akin to hunting) vs. product management (at least somewhat akin to farming). Product developers are comfortable operating where rules and processes may have to be conceived/devised/pioneered (business models. technical models, economic models) as opposed to product managers who generally operate with the 'constraints' of life cycle management. In fairness to product managers, life cycle management will encompass vital growth stages - but generally with a defined product that has gone through comprehensive product development due diligence to validate 'theory' spanning potential marketplace interest to technical and economic viability. Generally the transition from product development to product management happens in the go-to-market phase where the focus of product oversight moves from envisioning and validating theory to governance stewardship. Depending on a company's approach, as well as interest of product development personnel, a product developer may follow the work from product development to product management, or, stay specialized in product development - turning over the developed product to a specialized product manager then proceeding to 'the next' product development opportunity. Of note is that a prudent entity will continue to monitor marketplace feedback and make necessary adjustments - some subtle refinements while other feedback can cause major changes to a product's business, technical &/or economic models thus line of demarcation between product development and product management can sometimes be gray.

    John BaRoss

  • 16.  RE: Product Management vs Product Development

    Posted 10-03-2020 12:43
    Love the analogy, John, between PD & PM with Hunters and Farmers in Sales parlance.

    This might be slightly provocative, but are Product Developers more edgy, and exciting, not afraid to be knocked down, breaking new ground, creating something new in the world, disrupting old paradigms that have served their time?

    Brian Martin