Product Managers Can Make Great Business Architects
By Betsy Burton
Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog on recruiting business architects. I discussed program managers, relationship managers and business strategist. I also discussed the opportunities and challenges that some business process managers and project managers face.
Based on this blog, a client asked me about the potential role for a product manager to be a business architect. Honestly, I almost laughed that I had not included that role in my first blog. The reason is that it is not only obviously a great training ground for business architects, but the fact that I had been a product manager for seven years.
Internally and Externally Facing Product Managers
Most technology and service providers have long supported the role of a product manager. Product managers may also be referred to as Product Marketing Managers, depending on the degree to which their responsibility is internally facing versus client/market facing.
In addition, many end-user organizations support the role of an internal product manager. In this case, the product manager is responsible for the overall planning, coordination, communication and internal marketing for a significant solution.
While I identify these as different types of product management roles, the reality is they are very similar. Since, every organization is a technology organization, the difference between in internal and external facing product manager is subtle, and increasingly becoming ever so.
Technology/Service Provider Product Manager
The role of a product manager within technology/service providers is 40+ years old. The primary responsibilities of the product manager (PM) is to look at the market needs of the business’s target customer base and create market requirements based on those needs. Sounds easy, but it is a lot more complex.
A PM needs to balance the need to support future customers and the needs to continue to support existing customers. Also, the PM needs to integrate demands for new innovative features, needs for enhancements and requirements for fixing bugs. A PM must also determine any regulatory, and government requirements for any countries they are supporting. And integrate any standards bodies or industry common features. All of this while balancing the demands of sales, with the delivery and vision of internal engineering teams.
Last, most PMs are responsible for base marketing materials, including feature positioning, roll-out, sales and customer communication, coordinating with marketing, press, social media teams, and executives.
End-user Product Manager
An end-user product manager (PM) is responsible for determining the need for a solution across the organization and ensuring that that solution is delivered and continually supports the business need. The role of an end-user product manager is relatively new, 20+ years. The role came about as organizations increasingly supported larger cross organizational applications and solutions.
The end-user PM needs to balance the needs of various departments, divisions and/or subsidiaries with the over all future-state vision of the business. This means negotiating with business and technology teams to determine the right set of features and capabilities needed from a large solution. One of the most challenging aspects of this role is to manage/control the amount of customization that is actually needed. Too often different divisions/teams demand customization that is both costly and can result is vendor lock-in. Negotiating the demands of the internal business and IT teams with the future-state business vision requires finesse and grace.
End-user PMs must also work with technology and service providers to ensure they are supporting the features needed by their organization. They must also carefully track delivery schedules, integration requirements, and announcements from their TSPs. This means coordinating with IT development and customization teams. And they must track the market position, revenues, and leadership well-being of their providers for any risks or issues relating to their financial well-being and market consolidation.
End-user PMs are marketing people. End-user PMs are often responsible for promoting the adoption of a solution, including training, education, communication.
End-user PMs are also often responsible for multiple solutions. This means they are juggling a multitude of internal demands, market changes, and features all within the context of an ever-evolving business vision.
What makes a product manager such an appropriate one for a future business architect is that it requires technology knowledge, market knowledge and a lot of communication and coordination skills, all with little authority.
The biggest requirement PMs need to learn when becoming a business architect is to ensure they understand the business strategy and use it as the anchor for their constant balancing. This means prioritizing the needs/demands of their end-user peers, business leaders, technology leaders and their TSPs based on a clear-eyed focus on the business vision and strategy.
This was the 6th blog in the Business Transformation blog series by Aragon Research’s VP of Research, Betsy Burton.
Missed the previous installments? Catch up here: