Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The role of the Product Manager

As with many marketing innovations the product manager concept emerged from Procter and Gamble, where by way of an experiment someone was charged to manage a brand of soap. It proved successful. 

Applied to the industrial world, the role expanded to manage a portfolio of products and develop new ones. The strength of creating the product management role was the seamless progression through different departments and stages, with someone there to ensure that important issues were addressed and didn't get overlooked between different areas of responsibility. 

One of the weaknesses, often pointed out, was the lack of direct authority. That was still the province of departmental heads. The product manager was therefore required to work by persuasion rather than by dictate. This cross-departmental role needed people of particular skills, who could champion the product internally as well as externally. The term Product Champion was also applied at a later stage. 

With a trend towards smaller operations and slimmer organizations the product management role may no longer be embodied in individual employees, but the task of managing the diverse requirements from concept through production and distribution to sales still demands a similar focus for success. Most companies will have a portfolio of products to which additions and deletions will be made. To drive this forward needs a focus to identify what products to develop, which to exploit for most return and which to delete, and this focus must be market driven. 

Products or services are what the customer ultimately buys. Just as a real estate agent will tell you the most important issue in selling a property is location, location, location, so in marketing terms this could be product, product, product. Without a product or service to offer that actually delivers what customers demand, no amount of promotion, branding and spin can hide a poor product. That is why the role of product management and an effective and well performing product portfolio is so essential to the success or failure of the enterprise.

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