The All-in-One ProductManager
Updated: Jan 25
Why product managers should be an all-in-one deal and should be involved in everything (sales, marketing, support, etc).
Should you split between inbound and outbound product managers? Or should a product manager be “full spectrum”?
Inbound vs Outbound (PM vs PO)
Sometimes companies split product management between outbound product managers that understand the market and discuss needs with customers and inbound product managers that understand the product and discuss requirements with engineering. In the last years, a similar split is also referred to as product managers vs product owners. It is different terminology, but in my opinion, serves the same purpose.
The rationale behind this split is that the outbound work requires more business-oriented thinking and the inbound work requires more technical thinking. You can see some of the pitches in favor in this article and that article about Product Manager vs Product Owner.
In my very humble opinion, these companies usually split the product management role into two distinct and separate roles because they actually do not understand the purpose of this role. The outbound product manager many times do a lot of business development work and the inbound product manager do a lot of engineering work. The essence of a product manager that orchestrates the whole product work and is accountable for it is missing.
Product Management in the Center
I believe that while it is very hard for a product manager to handle both customers and engineering, this is the only right way. Whoever promised you easy life when you jumped into product management?
Good product managers should be able to handle both customer discussions and engineering discussions. They should have an end to end accountability.
A product manager must own the prioritization and understand what it means to deliver the features they believe are needed. If you choose to split the responsibilities you get a broken process. One product manager understands the market and the other understands the product, but neither of them can have full accountability or make a fast decision on scoping or changing priorities. This split many times results in over commitments and lack of ability to do true MVPs.
I suggest also reading Marty Cagan’s Product Manager vs Product Owner Revisited.
Products usually fail for one of the following reasons:
Lack of vision and strategy
Lack of execution
Inability to connect between strategy and execution.
To connect strategy and execution you need someone that touches both. As a product manager, if you do not hold the ability to connect all the dots, you cannot necessarily make the right impact on the product and make sure it is successful.