Are We Losing the Turf War?

We want to start off our blog with a big question.

This post was inspired by the recent broughaha in Rick Chapman’s blog  (Google it, I don’t want to give him yet another link to his blog).  In it, he questioned the need for product managers in an SaaS organization.  Here’s the question that I think needs to be examined:

What if he’s right?

What if we can’t make enough of a case for the value added by product managers – not just in an SaaS organization, but in any organization?

Here’s what’s contributing to my thinking.  We recently attended our local BAWorld conference and got to know what business analysts were concerned about.  I’ve worked with BA’s in the past, and it’s delightful to have someone to take on the detailed requirements part of Product Management, isn’t it?

Oh, except… the requirements piece is a big part of product management that can now be done by some other role in the organization.  Darn!  And BAs now have a certification program to set the bar of what BAs should know, and thus, how they contribute.

Turf battles

And while we’re at it, let’s look at project managers.  Your average project manager is indispensable for keeping a project on track.  But… did you know that the discipline as a whole is moving toward portfolio management and business cases?  So there’s another big piece of the turf under dispute.  And project managers also have a certification program.

If you work in an Agile organization, then the Product Owner is doing a big chunk of your job.  They have certification available, too.

In many organizations I’ve worked in, the Marketing Communication folks want plenty to say about launch activities, positioning, messaging, branding…  and that’s another big chunk of the definition of “product management”.

What’s left?  Why is there value in having one person coordinate all these functions and tasks?  Is it to set strategy?  I’ll bet your boss does that, not you.

Saeed recently hosted a discussion about the definition of product management.  We, as a “profession” and I use the term loosely, can’t even come up with a standard definition for what we do.

If we can’t articulate the value proposition and define the service offer – if WE can’t do this, no one else will do it for us.  If we can’t defend our turf, we don’t deserve it.  Why is this Pragmatic Marketing’s first rule:  “If product management doesn’t do its job, the other departments will fill the void.”

Don’t get me wrong – I love this job and have done it all my life!

But we need to get our act together, folks.  And fast.  Join a professional PM association – PDMA or AIPMM, and get on the certification track NOW.

Would I still say this if it weren’t part of my current business?  Yes – I’m tired of my friends and colleagues being fired and laid off in early rounds because executives don’t know what we do.

How would you address this challenge?  How should we go about making sure the Product Management role is understood and respected for the value it brings?

Posted in General / Opinion, Product Management Tips  |  Leave a comment

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