Few people would likely dispute that a product owner or product manager “own” the product in most organizations.
What do I mean by own? I mean having responsibility for optimizing the value of the product throughout all of it’s phases (from conception to ultimate retirement).
Of course, few things are ever black and white. In most instances my statement holds up to the 80/20 rule. Exceptions to this rule normally exist in early stage companies where the CEO or perhaps an engineer are calling the shots out of necessity. As the company scales, product managers are put in charge of managing the product and optimizing the value that’s created.
Assuming we’re in general agreement on the evolution of the product management function and that product managers own the product it’s interesting to drill a little deeper. In a recent survey we asked the question “what core product team members stay with the product after a product development project has been completed?” Possible options included; project managers, program managers, engineers, user design professionals, product marketers, business analysts, brand managers, and so on.
If you had to choose from this list, which of these roles would you pick to stay on beyond a discreet product development project and throughout the various phases of the product life cycle? Any of the above?
Approximately 50% of survey respondents indicated that the product manager and product owner were the only parties to stay with the product post project completion. Engineers came in third place at 12% and all other core team member roles were in single digits!
While this makes intuitive sense, it also points to an alarming risk. A lot of critical product knowledge is being concentrated in one role. Given the exceptional risk, organizations need to give more thought to how to effectively mitigate an unexpected loss.
When was the last time your organization had a product manager leave and in doing so provide a well documented transfer of knowledge? It happens less than it should…
Greg Geracie is a recognized thought leader in the field of product management and the President of Actuation Consulting, a global provider of product management consulting, training, and advisory services to some of the world’s most well-known organizations. Greg is also the author of the global best seller Take Charge Product Management. He is also an adjunct professor at DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on high-tech and digital product management.