The evolution of Product Management roles


The evolution of product management roles through the years


The concept of modern product management started in the 1930’s during a time when the production process used was similar to the waterfall product development model we now know. The development, testing, production and market distribution of physical goods was expensive and slow.

The Waterfall Project Management Model

The waterfall process was the first model to be adapted in product management. As a linear-sequential model, it’s quite simple and easy to understand. In the waterfall model, each phase must be fully completed before proceeding to the next. Everything had to be perfectly planned before it was executed to prevent costly revisions and errors. This process made sense during a time when testing, delivering updates and getting users to provide feedback about a software was both tedious and very expensive.

In the waterfall model, the product manager usually did the market research and talked to various stakeholders to determine the requirements. The findings were then documented in a long and detailed report that was eventually passed on to the development team. During the implementation phase, the product manager then began working on the marketing strategies, pricing, distribution channels and the like.

The Advent of Agile Product Management

After the internet was introduced in the 1990s, the increasing usage of the worldwide web provided a new way to deliver products. Updates could be delivered faster and users could give feedback immediately. This changed the game. Companies needed to find a way to to build a software that could quickly adjust to user needs. Hence, the agile product management model started gaining popularity.

In agile product management, change is the only constant and the approach used is more empirical than analytical. Using customer feedbacks on prototypes, development teams were able to immediately adjust and readjust the software to better provide the needs of users. While the goals remained the same, the methods to achieve these objectives evolved. The role of the product manager also changed accordingly and evolved through three configurations.

The Super Product Manager

As you will learn from a product management training course, with the adaptation of the agile model, the role of the product manager grew and encompassed many responsibilities such as communicating with customers and users regarding problems and features, managing the product roadmap, creating specifications, supporting the engineering and development team, working closely with the marketing team and providing support to the sales team. Because of the enormous amount of workload, it’s very difficult for the product manager to do each task well. Hence, another configuration was introduced.

The Product Manager and Product Owner

To relieve the product manager of some responsibilities, the role of the product owner was created. The product manager now focused on the business end — product definition and market strategies — while the product owner was in charge of the more tactical work in front of the engineering and development team. This had some drawbacks in terms of team alignment and priorities, which led us to the current roles we know today.

The Product Manager and Product Marketing Manager

To align objectives and goals, the roles and responsibilities of the product manager and product owner were merged again. However, some tasks still needed to be offloaded. So the product marketing manager role was created.

This configuration makes the product manager the central go-to person in terms of backlog priorities, product strategy, product requirements and market knowledge. The product marketing manager, on the other hand, is in charge of the product release, marketing strategy, sales tool and product launch plan. This has been found to be well-suited to the current demands of the market and its design-centered approach is also well-suited to finding problems and creating solutions to build better software.



Michelle Gonzalez is a guest contributor for The Buzz Insider and has been writing for SMEs across the United States, Canada, Australia and the UK for the last five years. She is a highly-experienced blogger and SEO copywriter, writing business blogs for various industries such as marketing, law, health and wellness, beauty, and education, particularly on product management training such as those offered by Product School.




Image retrieved from Pixabay.

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