Chris Wu

Product Manager, Concept

Product management is definitely one of more fashionable jobs right now (see also: data scientist, manager of customer success). The role has been around for quite some time, long enough that there are entire educational philosophies organized around it. The new wave of software-only PMs are bringing a more technical slant and a renewed excitement. As a PM myself, I'm certainly not opposed to seeing more product managers bringing additional focus and leadership to teams building good product experiences.

However, a by-product of this popularity I'm noticing that more and more companies are trying to slot legitimate existing jobs into some kind of product management role.

Witness the birth of (and these are all real and can be found without leaving Downtown Toronto):

  • Product Manager, Monetization
  • Product Manager, Growth
  • Product Manager, Design
  • Product Manager, User Experience
  • Product Manager, BI
  • Product Manager, Data

Contrast this with the more vanilla "Product Manager" or even something like "Product Manager, Mobile" and it just feels wrong.

These domains (monetization, growth, etc) are really just product management activities traditionally been shared with others (e.g. a business analyst, a marketer, designer and so on). Without really knowing what motivations (capital "M") Management might have for creating such role, I don't really see how these roles contribute to the good of the company strategy.

PMs need to manage... products. The point of being a PM is to understand the customer and shepherd the creation of something (hopefully great, but at least good) that solves that problem. Yes, this will involve things like business, design and data but they're only part of the picture. These PM-y titles above aren't solving a problem for the user, they're solving one for the organization.

The additional roles cause friction with the product managers with actual product responsibilities. He or she now collaborates with a designer but also has an additional stakeholder of equal rank with either conflicting interests (displaying poor corporate consistency) or no conflicting interests (so... what are they for?).

If the existence of such roles is due to the desire to put increase focus on such goals, then communicate that to the product team. If increased growth is a corporate priority, then everyone should be working towards that goal. If you need to elevate one of these goals to the extent that you want to name someone "Product Manager, Growth" then perhaps the Product team just isn't doing a very good job.