I’ve talked to a lot of software developers and engineering managers over the past six months, and most of them agree that having fewer PMs on their teams makes them more effective. Developers, EMs, and marketing managers all share in the duties of a project manager.
I was about to switch to PM, but now I’m having second thoughts. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
I think it’s ridiculous that a team would perform better without a project manager. It is absurd to have managers, marketers, and developers responsible for vision, strategy, and other tasks on top of their already sizable workload.
You’re welcome to take our work off our hands if you believe a PM is unnecessary. They should manage all of our responsibilities while still completing the other tasks for which they were hired, in my opinion.
Teams might do better without bad PMs and worse without good PMs. PM is a hard role.
Ineffective or nonexistent PMs lead to feature factories.
It’s shocking how frequently I’ve encountered subpar software that was created by engineers chasing after “great ideas” from the C-suite, marketing, and sales. The fact that it took so much effort to produce makes those same engineers find it difficult to let go of the garbage.
Yeah, In a startup where program manager does not exist, it has been a welcome change when engg managers wanted to pick that from PMs plate.
Honestly we are overworked enough.
@DaveKim I understand that in some startups or smaller organizations, the responsibilities of a product manager might be shared among different roles, such as engineering managers or even founders. This is a common scenario where resources are limited, and teams need to be versatile and adaptable.
In such cases, it can indeed lead to additional workload and challenges for everyone involved. It’s important to recognize that product management is a specialized skill set that requires dedicated time and expertise to be performed effectively.
If you find yourself in a situation where the product management responsibilities are overwhelming and affecting your ability to focus on your core responsibilities, it may be worth discussing this concern with your team or organization. Explaining the challenges and potential drawbacks of sharing the product management role among multiple people can help in fostering a better understanding of the need for dedicated product management resources.
Having a dedicated product manager can bring several benefits, including:
Focus and expertise: A product manager can dedicate their time and expertise solely to the product’s success. They can deeply understand the market, users, and competition, and make informed decisions accordingly.
Alignment and coordination: A product manager acts as a bridge between different teams, ensuring alignment, collaboration, and effective communication. They can streamline processes, prioritize features, and manage expectations across stakeholders.
Strategic thinking: Product managers bring a strategic mindset to the table, defining the product vision, setting goals, and creating a roadmap that aligns with business objectives. They can guide the team in making decisions that drive long-term success.
User-centric approach: Product managers focus on understanding user needs, conducting research, and gathering feedback to create products that solve real problems. They can advocate for the user’s perspective and ensure a user-centric approach throughout the product development cycle.
If your workload as an engineering manager becomes overwhelming due to additional product management responsibilities, it may be worth considering whether your team would benefit from having a dedicated product manager. This decision will depend on the specific needs and priorities of your organization, the complexity of the product, and the resources available.
Remember, it’s important to find a balance that allows your team to function effectively and deliver high-quality products while considering the limitations and constraints of your organization.
Excellent post @BobbyDuncan.
@BethanyGrey, It seems to me that none of them had a successful PM. Our director recently stated that a significant portion of our work is maximizing engineering’s ability to have effect. And to a point, I concur. And if your engineers do not see the added value of a PM guiding them through the (product) process and removing obstacles to their work, I can respect that. The same way I feel about program managers who only perform follow-ups or marketing managers who can’t identify an issue and can only give mediocre answers.
My last company was like this. “Successful” PMs at the organization created one-liner tickets that informed stakeholders of completion dates based on the engineering teams’ requests, which were frequently unrelated to the business value. It was more like a secretary for an engineering firm than anything else.
I’ve seen another approach where I write extensively about general requirements and issues and make suggestions for potential solutions. Eng picks up and fully project manages the deliverable while keeping me updated on the status. This boosts their ability to concentrate on the issue and makes me 10 times more effective.
I’ve discovered that engineering teams frequently have an extremely narrow viewpoint on most issues, and given the stack and talents they have available, they frequently choose the most convenient solution. It seems natural that this is the case when your duties include managing the stack and delivering solutions.
In order to enable the engineers to perform at their highest level, a good PM may and should facilitate a broader perspective on the product problems.
Yeah I’m saying along the same lines. But that’s why I write long form so there is enough context in the problem and the metrics that frame it
Also its not “ an engineering team” is my team as well so we communicate constantly on progress and I usually steer if needed.
@BethanyGrey, Product management is not a dying career. While it’s true that the role and responsibilities of a product manager can vary across organizations and teams, the need for skilled product managers remains high in many industries.
The perception you mentioned, where some software developers and engineering managers believe their teams function better with fewer product managers, may stem from a variety of factors. It’s possible that in those particular cases, the product management function may not have been effectively integrated or there might have been challenges with communication and collaboration between different roles.
However, the value of product management lies in its ability to bring together various stakeholders, bridge gaps between different teams, and ensure that the product vision aligns with business goals and user needs. A skilled product manager can provide strategic direction, prioritize features, and coordinate efforts to deliver successful products.
Here are a few reasons why product management continues to be relevant and in demand:
- Cross-functional collaboration: Product managers excel at collaborating with different teams, including engineering, design, marketing, sales, and customer support. They bring together diverse perspectives and ensure everyone is aligned towards a common goal.
- Market and user insights: Product managers play a crucial role in understanding market trends, user needs, and competitive landscapes. They conduct research, gather feedback, and make data-driven decisions to drive product strategy.
- Product vision and strategy: Product managers are responsible for defining and communicating the product vision. They set strategic goals, prioritize features, and ensure that the product roadmap aligns with business objectives.
- Stakeholder management: Product managers work closely with stakeholders, including executives, customers, and internal teams. They gather requirements, manage expectations, and provide regular updates on product progress.
- User experience and product quality: Product managers focus on delivering a great user experience. They work closely with design and engineering teams to ensure the product meets user expectations and maintains a high level of quality.
While it’s important to consider different perspectives, it’s equally important to recognize that not all teams and organizations are the same. The role of a product manager can vary based on the company size, industry, and specific team dynamics. It’s essential to assess the specific needs and dynamics of the organizations you’re considering and evaluate whether the role aligns with your skills, interests, and career goals.
Ultimately, the demand for skilled product managers remains strong in many industries, and the role continues to evolve as technology and market landscapes change. If you have a passion for building and shaping products, enjoy working with diverse teams, and have a knack for strategic thinking and communication, product management can still be a rewarding career path.
Do all the folks you’re speaking to work for the same company? If that is the case, the comments might make sense. Some companies don’t provide PMs adequate space, authority, or control to make a difference.
Steven Sinosfky, who for a very long time oversaw Windows at Microsoft, had a fantastic thread about it:
Steven Sinofsky on Twitter: “Every org has PM. Sometimes you call them engineers. Sometimes you call them designers. Sometimes you call them marketing. Even CEO. Question isn’t what you call them, but how many you have relative to eng. There’s no “zero overhead” PRODUCT creation only zero overhead coding.” / Twitter
The “zero interest rate phenomenon” is something I’d like to add to this because it affects a lot of contemporary product management tasks. Some of us hold fictitious employment. Although many of the jobs are bogus, some of us do have legitimate jobs.
But the fundamental requirement for the position still exists and is likely to continue forever. It’s up to us to alter our methods so that we’re providing more genuine value than fake work.
False where I work. According to a market study I read, non-technical digital PO/PM roles are currently in great demand. It is from Q1 2023.
Almost every business here has started using scrum, and it appears that experienced POs and PMs don’t just appear overnight.
Although the job market in the US has become marginally more difficult, it is still far from being an abattoir.
Also from personal experience, most teams I’ve led were extremely happy that there’s a person acting as a shit umbrella… I’ve managed roughly 20 teams, worked as a PM for about 8 years, and provided strategy consulting for 4 years prior to that. If you deliver more, you get praise. For instance, develop a concentrate, have respectable OKRs, have a reasonable product strategy, comprehend how engineers and software developers function, etc.
Thanks a lot! I completely agree on demand part. But are there enough PM jobs that satisfy that demand? I see techies (like me), MBAs, consultants and even marketing folks seeking PM roles (and are actually landing them). How should an aspirational person differentiate herself?
Yeah good point. So, if you are looking for an entry-level position I often look for a couple of things when I consider non-PO new hires that are looking for their first PM/PO job
Are you customer and outcomes driven, does this show from your prior experience in whatever field you were before. This basically means I’m looking for drive/proof/passion that whatever you did prior, you were driven to create a product that your customer digs + made sense for the company performance as well.
Being stubborn and not accepting answers like “this cannot be done”. I’m looking for proof of creative solutions + grit while respecting the relationship with stakeholders and the team. As a PO/PM stakeholders and your team often tell you shit cannot be done or isn’t possible. They will probably tell you this 3 times, you keep pivoting and trying different angles and then suddenly, it appears it can be done…
Are you able to use plain logic and keep stuff simple + elicit this to stakeholders and you team… There is lots of BS in most companies, lots of people with opinions that have no serious backing, datapoints or prior experience. I’m looking for people who demonstrated to see thru this and spend their time and therefore, their teams time, on stuff that makes sense.
There’s more, but I find the above items especially important if you are a non-PO applying for a PO job.
For the rest → this can be learned through coaching.
Also, and this is personal. I rather choose a non-PO demonstrating the above traits and skills vs hire a PO with 4 years of experience that is fine with sitting in a feature factory role and lean into the BS. Obviously, in a bad market or challenging family situation, this is absolutely fine (so I always check if this is the case).
Also, it helps if you are already in the company/team in a different role. Last week, I promoted an online marketeer to PO that explicitly mentioned he is eager for this role.
Hope this helps or is the answer you are looking for?
@EvaRichardson, That does indeed provide a very good answer for the question.
I have about 5 years of experience in both mobility and gaming. I’m unsure if I qualify for entry-level or senior-level positions. I’ve also had business experience.
I’ve been attempting to get PM jobs, but the majority require PM experience. What I’m after is that first break!
So, this might sound derivative then. If directly applying is not working. Find a cool company you want to work for and has PM jobs open, ideally they are growing and building out their product department. Move over in a role matching your current experience, after a while (ideally you established by then that you are good in your work), approach the product director and indicate your interest for the role or to consider you for upcoming positions.
Good luck getting the first break! Keep networking, keep talking to people that might be looking and hiring for PMs.
This is true, in my opinion, for PMs working for non-tech organizations where the business determines strategy, vision, and product-market fit, and where IT is viewed as a cost center (such as banking). The product, which is the company’s main source of revenue, will require the balance of tech and strategy skills that PMs in the sector are expected to possess.