Three Dimensions of Product Management

Select The Right Product Management Approach and Team

Three primary factors determine the nature of product management in an organization.  Understanding and applying them will smooth the addition of new product managers and guide the expansion and success of the organization's Product Office.

Three Dimensions of Product Management

In general, the fit between an organization and its product management requirements is determined by three orthogonal criteria:

Organizational Experience, Domain Knowledge and Product Management Expertise
  1. Organizational Experience: Every organization has its own specific processes, terminology, and procedural quirks, and the time it takes for a product manager to learn them can range from a few days to literally years on the job.  Organizational experience requirements are more pronounced in firms where objectives, processes and influence structures are complex or loosely documented.

    Members of high organizational experience product teams are not interchangeable from one firm to another, nor can new product managers -- of any skill level -- be readily imported from outside the company; they must typically be developed in-house, though fewer training and background restrictions may be required for the product manager to be successful.

  2. Domain Knowledge: Whether it is software, CPG, financial offerings, manufactured goods, or any other class of product, a certain level of understanding is unique to that industry or vertical and necessary in order to understand possibilities and client requirements.  Product management functions that are blended with engineering ones requires high levels of domain knowledge to be successful.

    Members of high domain knowledge product teams are interchangeable within their own industry, but importing product managers from other areas of activity can be problematic.  At its most extreme, pervasive high-domain-knowledge product management may limit career opportunities of highly-specialized product professionals to a small range of closely-competitive firms.

  3. Product Management Expertise: Though there are relatively few ‘standards’, several different organizations provide formal policies and practices in product management.  The more companies accept and adopt any of these practices, the more portable team members become between industries as well as companies, and the easier it is for a product team to acquire a new, fully-functional product manager from outside of the organization.

    Members of high product management expertise teams move freely between companies as well as industries when appropriate, and have the shortest ramp time for fully-functioning product managers.  They apply best practices wherever possible and break down challenges into fundamental steps that can be addressed independent of technical and organizational specifics.


Developing an organization whose success stems from product management expertise, rather than organizational experience, represents the most clear, versatile and effective approach to product management.

But you can’t manage complex technology in a complex organization without understanding the... complexities!

No, you can’t.  Product managers must understand the capabilities and limitations of both the organization they work in and the systems they work with in order to apply the more broadly applicable skills and experiences they bring to the table.

The Chief Tuesday 01 January 2013 - 07:00 am | | Analysis