From the outside, it might seem that joining a fledgling start-up should only be about economics and the big payoff: the popular business press always has stories of farsighted technologists, instant millionaires, and thirty-somethings coping with Sudden Wealth Syndrome. And there are certainly enough folks in the Valley who have made it that most of us know one. This strikes me as too narrow a view, though – and leaves out the important emotional aspects of start-ups. Deep into my fourth adventure, I’m less occupied by eventual exit strategies than by the day-to-day challenge of managing chaotic growth.
Product managers and other product champions spend a lot of their time driving internal processes and decisions — the daily incremental struggle for progress on pricing, packaging, release schedules, upgrade policies and other bits of the production puzzle. This relentless motivation is indispensable, the tech equivalent of keeping the trains running on time. PMs should also be spending time with customers, refreshing their sense of needs and marketplaces.
A perennial problem for Product Management (PM) is finding the right organizational home. In companies large enough to have a PM department, it has a tendency to oscillate between Marketing and Engineering. Two root causes for this are role confusion and organizational distance. Let’s walk through each in turn, while trying to map a PM’s place in the grand scheme.
The ‘poop’ on product management: being a product champion is a lot like being a parent. We love our products, make multi-year commitments to their development, hide their shortcomings, and look out for their best long-term interests while other organizations live in the moment.
Every tech start-up struggles to create a roadmap: that short set of PowerPoint slides which defines the next six quarters of updates, minor releases and important advances. Since product managers strive for clarity, having a product roadmap is a critical communications tool. However…