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Why do I need to know
For any business that produces
goods, product management is vital
to profitability. Consumers expect
companies to quickly create new
products or release improved
versions of existing products that
take their feedback into account.
If they deem a release to be taking
too long, or no better than a
previous model, they’re likely to
turn to a competitor (think the
constant deluge of new and
improved Apple iPhone and
Samsung Galaxy handsets).
So companies without strong
product management can fail fast.
Common pitfalls include being too
sales-driven (where sales teams
promise upgrades and new features
to consumers without consulting
developers), or designers/engineers
assuming they know what consumers
want and running with that, rather
than focusing on market insight.
What do I need to know?
Product management involves
knowing what customers want
and delivering it by designing,
manufacturing and releasing a
product in an appropriate time
frame. It also means deciding which
products or product features to
reject. Product management is a
strategic role in that it involves
working with lots of different parts
of a business – for example R&D,
marketing, production, sales, etc.
“The domain of a product
manager can be a single product or
a product line, and can include
initiatives across multiple products
that help the company to grow and
expand internationally,” explains
Jan-Michael Ross, assistant
professor in the department of
management (strategy and OB) at
Once such talent has been
recruited, incentives and reward
must be carefully considered.
Mironov advises avoiding activitybased
promotion and review metrics.
“I see so many organisations
where product managers are
rewarded for activity rather
outcomes. When we measure,
pay and promote product
managers based on activity we
encourage them to ‘go through
the motions’, and show up for work
but not drive key product outcomes,”
Training for product managers
also requires careful thought.
Mironov believes that “very short
training and certification
programmes are not at all effective in
training new product managers or
improving existing skills”. Instead he
recommends coaching and
mentoring as most effective for
new product managers.
The HR function can adopt a
product management mindset for its
own activities, according to HR
director at High Speed Two Neil
Hayward. “Rather than pushing HR
products to internal staff assuming
they want it, working the other way
round implies focusing only on
things that employees need and
designing your solutions to meet that
need,” he explains.
“I think I was the first HR leader
in the UK to take as my title ‘group
head of people strategy and product
management’ when leading a global
transformation programme at
Standard Chartered Bank. I followed
the way the bank would work
when it was launching a new
product. I’ve carried on doing
the same ever since.”HR
hrmagazine.co.uk November 2019 HR 51
The HRD’s pocket guide series offers an explanation of areas outside
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Imperial College Business School.
“In start-ups it’s often one of the
founders that fulfils the task. In a
large firm you can have a team or
department. Or in very centralised
structures it can be the CEO who
makes product-related decisions,
such as Steve Jobs at Apple.”
Where can HR add value?
Recruiting the right people for
product manager roles is key.
“HR can be of most help by
recognising that product
management is a strategic role.
Therefore recruiting needs to
focus first on previous product
management experience rather than
market/subject expertise,” says Rich
Mironov, CEO and VP of product
management at Mironov
Consulting and author of The Art
of Product Management.
Ross agrees that recruitment can
be a challenge. “Product managers
need general skills but they also need
to be able to talk to the experts on
specific topics. Product management
needs experimentation skills, seeking
out uncertainty, and knowing
how to achieve product-market fit
throughout the entire product
lifecycle,” he adds.
The Art of Product
by Rich Mironov
by Brian Lawley
by Roman Pichler