Decoding Product Management

Who’s Going To Run This?

What is product management, really? Simply put, product management is a lifecycle organizational role that deals with research, conceptualization, development, marketing and support of a product.

Product management is an overarching function that consists of two vital and complementary fields – product development and product marketing. Yet, these may or may not fall within the wheelhouse of the same individual.  For the sake of simplicity, I won’t include service and maintenance of the product in this article.

At a specific link in a product’s value chain, there is a transitional phase where the product changes hands between the product development team and the product marketing team. Aside from the benefit of shared research and feedback, these fields have very different focal points.

Product development is obsessed with solving a customer or user problem. Product marketing is determined to communicate that value and gain buy-in from potential customers. This also includes retention and referral strategies.

While this isn’t rocket science, there still exists a lot of confusion over the subject. The situation does not improve as organizations, hiring managers and recruiters often transpose the titles – Product Manager, Product Marketing Manager and Product Development Manager. Much of that confusion stems from ‘who does what?’. So, let’s have a look at what each role entails.


The Product Development Manager (PDM) mainly focuses on defining the product’s vision and features. He/She is fundamentally focused on understanding users, helping them to solve problems and removing frustrations.

The PDM acts as a subject matter expert, the voice-of-the-customer and the essential ‘glue’ that moves the product along from research to final development. The PDM manages a network of stakeholders that are critical to a products success.


The Product Marketing Manager (PMM) on the other hand, is responsible for go-to-market strategies. The role manages all marketing related activities that facilitate customer adoption through the product’s lifecycle.

Essentially, even before the product is ready for distribution, the PMM oversees communication to the intended audience. The marketing efforts range from building product awareness to motivating the target audience to act.


In truth, product management is an all-encompassing function that drives both product development and product marketing. Hence the product manager oversees both subsets of activities. The role is responsible for the overall performance of the product or class of products and may include sales and financial responsibility.

Why separate the roles?

There are many reasons for organizations to split the product management function. A few of them are listed below.

  • Company size
  • Country-specific trends
  • Type of product
  • Intricacy of product
  • Size of product portfolio
  • Market complexity
  • Geographic coverage,
  • The speed of life-cycles
  • Distribution channels

It also draws from the amount of time and attention devoted to the various activities in the value chain. It is not uncommon to find more than one product development manager working with a single product marketing manager or vice versa.


If the need for separation is inevitable, there must be a seamless relationship and information flow between the two functions. Such synchrony ensures that the right product is marketed to the right people at the right time and in the right manner. This ultimately delivers a successful product-market fit.

For more articles on the subject visit the “product management” category on the blog.

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