Product Management Roles: Whose Job is it? [+Webinar]

Large text that says "Product Teams: Roles and Responsibilities," with faded employees in the background.

Watch the webinar on-demand to get an in-depth discussion on clarifying roles and responsibilities: Demystifying the Roles and Responsibilities of Product Professionals.

Product-Focused Teams

You’ve decided that your company needs to become more product-focused. You now have a team of Product Managers to help you achieve that goal. Yes!

However, now you have the challenge of properly defining the roles of these Product Managers so that expectations are set correctly and there isn’t a cacophony of role confusion – how do you go about doing that? Who does what and how do we go about making decisions in this new, product-focused environment?

Understand Your Stakeholders

The two groups your Product Managers are likely to work with most closely are your engineering/development and sales and marketing teams… Cue the role confusion.

Engineering/Development teams

In working with your engineering teams, your company is likely to be moving toward (or already using) Agile development methodologies. This means that there is often a Product Owner role as the driver of the user stories and development backlog. Sometimes, this role is filled by the Product Manager, but, if it is not, there is often confusion between the roles.

In his article, Product Owner vs. Product Manager Exploration, Roger Snyder lays out that the “Product Managers must focus on the problem space and avoid specifically defining the product,” while “Product Owners prioritize and manage user stories and need to work closely with the development team to ensure they understand what each item in the product backlog is and why it is important.”

Sales and Marketing teams

In working with the sales and marketing teams, many organizations have a Product Marketing Manager that works more closely with these teams, while others have the Product Manager taking on this responsibility. When separate individuals comprise these roles, both need an intimate understanding of the market the product is a part of. You can think of the differentiation as “inbound” vs. “outbound.”

  • The Product Manager owning “inbound” communicationinput from the market that drives the requirements for the product being developed.
  • The Product Marketing Manager owns “outbound” communicationmessages to the market that drive motivation to acquire the product. The roles collaborate around product strategy plus the positioning and messaging of the product that defines its reason for being and set it apart from competitive or substitute offerings.

You can learn more about how these roles should work together in this helpful article: Product Manager vs Product Marketing Manager. Use the linked articles here to help you clearly define the relationships and responsibilities between Product Managers and their partners in development and marketing, tailoring these definitions to match your company’s current situation, resources, and needs.

Defining Responsibilities and Decision-Making

Determining specifically what a Product Manager does and does not do expands beyond these typical role confusions to other stakeholders as well. The more you can create clear responsibilities for key tasks, the more you can align the organization and drive more collaborative effort and decision-making. There are several key tools for driving this process, but two of the more helpful ones are RACI and DACI.

RACI – define who is responsible

In RACI, the organization defines a matrix of the key activities that drive a product through its lifecycle and determine the responsibilities of key roles in the organization relative to those activities. At each intersection of activity and role, it is possible to assign somebody: Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, or Informed for that activity. If you face comments like, “Things are always slipping through the cracks,” or “I have the responsibility, but not the authority, to get the job done,” then you probably need to perform a RACI analysis.

RACI – The Lord of the Rings edition

Below is a “sample” RACI chart for The Lord of the Rings with Frodo as our “Product Manager.” For getting the ring to Mount Doom, Frodo is responsible for getting that accomplished with assistance from Sam and Aragon as Contributors, but Gandalf is ultimately Accountable for ensuring the ring gets to its proper place.

Digital Project Manager, January 15, 2021, Suzanna Haworth.

DACI – define who makes the decisions

DACI takes some of the same concepts as RACI but applies it to decision-making rather than level of responsibilities for specific activities related to the product. The goal is to be clear as to who drives a decision to closure and who finally approves it. One benefit of this exercise is that you can clearly see how decision-making is transferred and clarification of who gets to decide – and who doesn’t have that decision-making authority. With DACI, you are looking at key decisions in the process and defining: Driver (drives the decision), Approver (makes the decision), Contributors (those whose work or knowledge aid in the project), and Informed (those whose work might be affected by the decisions). Developed at Intuit, the DACI framework originated as a variant of the RACI responsibility assignment matrix.

Get the Role Clarity Your Team Needs

Watch the webinar on-demand so you can gain even more insight into the Product Manager’s responsibilities amongst many stakeholders, and how and when to apply RACI and DACI methodologies for maximum impact in managing your products through their lifecycles.

WATCH NOW

About the Author

Ken Kranseler - Principal Consultant and Trainer
Ken Kranseler is a Principal Consultant and Trainer at 280 Group.
Ken Kranseler is a Principal Consultant and Trainer with 280 Group and Instructor for the Product Management certificate program at the University of Washington. He was a Principal Product Manager at Amazon, where he drove product strategy for the Kindle ecosystem – hardware, software and services – to enhance student learning in higher education markets. Prior to Amazon, Ken drove product strategy at a number of Seattle area startups. Before his work with startups, Ken spent 10+ years at Microsoft launching new consumer and business software initiatives and worked as a brand manager introducing new products and concepts for Kentucky Fried Chicken.

280 Group is the world’s leading Product Management training and consulting firm. We empower Product Professionals with the knowledge and tools to create products that matter.

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