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Rethinking the product manager role and the product management function

Published: at 03:30 PM

With Airbnb restructuring the role to have a more marketing focus, and some other companies stating that they no longer have product managers, I believe it’s important for us to take a step back and reexamine the field of product management.

Product management (PM) is a function that often overlaps with responsibilities in engineering, marketing, design, and even business. The primary responsibility of the PM function is to ensure that we develop and deliver the right product successfully.

Let’s break this down into two parts:

  1. “Ship the right product”: This is the core focus of most product managers in organizations. They understand user pain points, gather feedback on design, and more. However, some organizations may not require a dedicated product manager for this aspect, as their engineering and design teams may already be empowered to handle these tasks.
  2. ”Ship it successfully”: The PM function also encompasses ensuring the product’s success, acquiring users & paying customers, retaining users, where marketing and sales play a significant role.

So, do we need product management? Absolutely!

But do we need product managers? This depends on your organization, product, and market. Depending on your specific needs, a dedicated person handling the PM function might focus on one or both of the aforementioned aspects, and we may or may not call them product managers.

This aligns with what Airbnb does and what other companies are doing by restructuring or eliminating the product manager role. Instead, the responsibilities of the product management function are distributed among other stakeholders, such as an engineering manager and a product marketing manager.

The roles and responsibilities of a product manager are unique to the specific product and the organization’s stage, and they will evolve as the organization grows and changes.