Product Manager is the CEO of the product. Really?


I think this post is a little controversial and believe it will bring a lot of valuable feedback from the readers. I wholeheartedly welcome that.

I’ve been contemplating about posting an article on the subject of product managers being perceived as the “CEO of the Product”, and personally it’s overdue from me for quite some time.

I believe product management is one of the toughest jobs in the business world. You have to be flexible, creative, smart, business savvy, thick skinned, pragmatic, and the list goes on. You have all the responsibility, yet own none of the resources.

The Myth

People often say that a Product Manager is like the CEO of the product, and hence you are responsible for leading “everything” from the conceptual stages until the product is launched, and even beyond that. And I do preach it, as there is no other choice!

The Reality

Product Managers are expected to deliver results mostly by “influencing” internal teams upon whom you don’t have any direct authority. You have to survive by influencing teams, pursuing them, leading by example, representing customers, being the face and voice of the market, building relationships, et al, and investing loads of energy in basically “running behind” the development and operational folks who, in my experience, demonstrate very little ownership. And as someone aptly put it “a product manager is always held guilty, unless he proves otherwise“.

The Truth

But what gets missed in such “reality” discussions is the fact that there is really another person (CEO/VP/GM) who has direct authority over several different teams, and in a larger context the Product P&L itself. This person has a lot of direct control and authority over the teams that you try to influence.

What can be done to make Product Managers the CEO of products

  1. Empower Product Managers to own Product P&L
  2. Empower Product Managers with direct and indirect authority over most (if not all, currently there is none!) teams that they work with
  3. Let Product Managers be involved in the hiring process of all personnel who are directly involved in product development
  4. Empower Product Managers to review employee performance
  5. Let development, UI, and operational teams get product manager’s approval for time-offs and vacations
  6. Empower Product Managers to decide who will work on what project (resource allocation)
  7. Let Product Managers decide perks for teams for going over that extra mile in an important deliverable
  8. And last but not the least, Product Managers must get a share from the profits:-)

Do you agree with my views? What has been your experience so far? Would love to hear from you!

Key attributes of a successful Product Manager


One of the most common questions in interviews for Product Managers is the question on key attributes of a successful product manager. It may also be asked in a different way as “what makes a product manager successful?”

Whilst success for product managers is contextual based on the Key Result Areas defined by the organization, some of the attributes common to all types of product managers are the following:

    1. Market Knowledge
    2. Communication and Influencing skills
    3. Product Knowledge

Now, let us look at each one of them:

1. Market Knowledge: There has been a wide acceptance of the authority of product managers — that they do not have any authority over others in the organization. Whilst this may be true from a people-management perspective, product managers could gain authority on product development and projects just by being an expert of the market. Being an expert in market matters such as target market characteristics, market trends, purchasing power of customers, competition, technological landscape, et al. Try it yourself — it works.

2. Communication and Influencing skills: This skill is probably equally important to product managers as that of the first one. Being a market expert with poor or no communication (both verbal and written) and persuasive skills is a disastrous situation for a product manager to be in – it doesn’t put the market knowledge into fruition.

3. Product Knowledge: Finally, knowing one’s own product is very essential. This will give confidence to the product manager while evaluating his product’s gaps and limitations with respect to market needs. This is also essential go gain respect within the organization. It is an awkward situation when a product manager puts together a requirement for a new capability, and later discovers it is already available in the product.

Your thoughts are most welcome.