17 December, 2012

Difference between American and British Product Management

Having worked as a Product Manager both in California (see Webmetrics case study) and here in the UK - and this point in time, I'm in search of a new Product Management position in Cambridge - it is become more and more apparent to me that there is a difference between the expectations of Product Manager in UK and the US.

I'm sharing my thoughts with other British PMs, there has been some nodding heads of agreement, although no-one quite knows what those differences are.

So here's my attempt to define the differences. And this commentary is full of huge sweeping and biased generalisations....


US Product Management
From my experience in the US, a role of Product Manager is very commercial. He / she closely tracks the Sales Teams and particularly Sales Engineering / Pre-sales. The conversation with the market is bidirectional: consuming market requirements and positioning the product and the executing the full product marketing gamut.

In product based companies, the marketing function focuses more on corporate marketing and partners with product marketing to do the product leadership / positioning.

UK Product Management
In UK, a product manager is more of a technocrat and a project manager. He / she conducts market research in order to determine product requirements - a rather one-sided market survey approach. He closely shepherds / nurtures / protects the product through development and testing phase. He is the guru of the project plan and task interdependencies.

However product marketing and general communication with the market is generally a secondary function. The Product Marketing function is likely to be pinned to a junior marketing assistant, but the task really being intermittently executed by a more senior marketing representative. This is really the turf of marketing function and the product manager treads lightly over this area for fear of treading on any marketing toes.

Using Pragmatic Marketing's Triad 
To borrow the concept of the Triad of Product Management (credit due to Pragmatic Marketing and its famous  Pragmatic Marketing  framework):
Function UK Product Management US Product Management
Technical PM Strong Moderate
Marketing PM Weak Strong
Strategic PM (*) Unknown, but strong domain knowledge Unknown or Moderate
(*) As noted in my critique of the  Triad of Product Management,  quite where strategic product management fits into fabric of an organisation's decision making is very variable.


Example - Booth Duty
One example is conferences. In the US, booth duty for a product manager (and certainly for the product marketer) is considered mandatory / bread and butter. In the UK, conference attendance is a glorious honour for executives which a (technical) product manager might only be invited to attend if an exec had to drop out.

What do you think??

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