May 25

Product Roles — Structuring Your Team Around Individual and Shared Responsibilities

If it was only so easy as to be able to divide up a Product Management team into neatly divided roles, where one person does A and another does B. In actuality, there are many criss-crossing responsibilities that members of the team will have to share.

The role of the product manager. For instance, Marty Cagan describes in his lengthy ebook from 2005 (worth a read) several roles, such as identifying and assessing opportunities,¬†strategizing and developing a roadmap, internal evangelism and being the customer advocate. A well-functioning team will work together on these with individuals assuming specific tasks that are relevant to their skill set (technical, design, business etc.). In a blog post around the same time (a quicker read), he’s described higher level roles, including product specification, design, and marketing.

How to structure a modern, customer-driven product team. According to David Cancel, the way you distribute responsibilities in a product team will depend on whether you are product-focused or customer-focused. He argues strongly that you must be the latter in order to ship products that people want. To do this he suggests that Product Managers divide their time between several technical teams and stay mostly focused on customer advocacy. Usually, the Product Managers will be supported by one or more designers.

How to structure your consumer product team. You could also center your Product Managers roles around key metrics. Giving the example of an e-commerce company, Barron Ernst describes how each Product Manager can be responsible for a part of a full transaction funnel, i.e., from customer acquisition to purchase. In this scenario, an individual or group will work on landing pages and others will work further down the funnel on the storefront and checkout experiences. Each of these areas will have 1-3 key metrics and overall success of the Product Management team will be evaluated on how all these metrics perform.

Paul McAvinchey

About the author

For over 20 years, Paul has been building and collaborating on digital products with fast-growing startups and global brands, including AOL and WMS Gaming. Currently, he's a co-founder of Product Collective, a worldwide community of product people. Members collaborate on in the exclusive Member Hub, meet at INDUSTRY: The Product Conference, listen to, learn at Product Interviews and get a weekly newsletters that includes best practices in product management. In recent years he led business development at DXY, a leading product design firm in the Midwest, and product innovation at MedCity Media, a publishing startup acquired by Breaking Media in 2015.


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