Types of Product Managers


Product management responsibilities are vast. They begin from the moment an idea is generated, to traversing through the lens of a business case, to getting approvals, to making sure the development team is building the product to the right specifications, to creating a well thought-out Go-to-Market strategy, to working on enhancements upon launch, and finally, the monumental task of growing the market share.

These activities can be summarized into the following functions:

  1. Growth (innovation, ideation, business case)

  2. Development and operations (scoping, planning, development and execution)

  3. Lifecycle management (launch, marketing, GTM, post launch & lifecycle)

It is not uncommon to expect mastery of all these functions from a product manager. But is it fair to expect it all from one person?

In our experience, a product manager is usually good at two of these three categories, but not all three.

Here’s a perspective.

Type 1: Growth Product Manager:

This type is exceptional at thinking of new ideas and features, business development, and perhaps marketing. They are visionaries and can think out of the box. They are the ones who will help you build new products, will have something to discuss with customers and obtain market feedback. They are well-versed with market perceptions and customer communications. This makes them very desirable and essential to an organization.

While extremely competent at what they do, the excitement and possibilities tend to make them overlook the details and ignore the discipline required to develop or operationalize a product.

In summary, growth Product Managers are excellent at 1, good at 3, average at 2.

Type 2: Operations Product Manager:

This type is exceptional at taking an idea and creating a well thought out development and operations blueprint. Their planning makes the product, upon launch, function the way it was intended to operate. They leave no stone unturned and ensure thinking through the infinite use cases which a customer can face while using the product. A good development and operations-focused product manager delves deep into details, steps, project execution, launch and post launch enhancement. These qualities assist the PM in successfully developing a product.

So what do they lack? The quality that makes them detail-oriented and thorough also makes them not so good at innovation. They tend to over analyze and often find themselves lost in the details allowing them to be critical of new ideas or possibilities. As a result, they often turn down new concepts as they are too aware of what will not work vs. what could.

In summary, Operations Product Manager are excellent at 2, good at 3, average at 1.

Type 3: Lifecycle Product Manager:

These PMs are truly gifted in understanding what the customers want, where the market is, what the competition is up to, what the current trends are and what message will sell their products. Just like the Growth PMs, they are well-versed with market perceptions and customer needs. They understand how to grow the market and are the voice of the customer. Without these PMs there would be no sales collateral, no market strategy, no launch tactics, and certainly no market intelligence.

In our experience, while gifted in marketing and innovation, they may not be the best at development and operations.

In Summary, Lifecylce Product Managers are excellent at 3, good at 1, average at 2.

Conclusion:

To be successful, an organization needs all three qualities in their product management division i.e. growth, development and lifecycle management. However, to expect one person to have all these attributes can be impractical. It can put undue stress on one person due to unfair expectations leading to a demoralized and unproductive team. While we realize that having a team of PMs working on one product may be unrealistic, an organization may assign two PMs per product, or build a matrix organization for each function. If the organization has the constraint to hire only one PM due to budget constraints, it is important to assess which of the above management styles would be most suitable and hire a PM accordingly.

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Author: Nitin Krishna, Founder & CEO of Guidunz Consultants

Edited by Aparna Gupta, Analyst – Guidunz Consulting

[About Guidunz: We are a full service product management consulting firm who focuses on developing a needs based sustainable growth plan for their clients. We are dynamic results-oriented executives skilled in growing revenue and obtaining productivities across Healthcare, Financial and Telecom Industries. Our strength is providing strategic leadership while developing and managing growth solutions in highly competitive and dynamic B2B and B2C markets. In our 17 years, we have built and managed over 50 cloud based technology products, generating recurring and top line revenue while bringing cost efficiency via process improvement.]

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Guidunz TM, LLC - Product Management Consultants