Is Product Management Obsolete?

“Is Product Management Obsolete?” with Rich Mironov, Agile product management expert, start-up exec, author, B2B software guy at Mironov Consulting

By Helene Eichler

August 2014 Event

Rich Mironov delivered a provocative, insightful and entertaining discussion on the “true” meaning of the product management role at SVPMA’s August 6th, 2014 event. Rich boldly stated, “The challenge of Product Managers is that others can define what we do.  We don’t need Product Managers doing Lean or Agile. These methodologies don’t replace the lashing and slashing we do as Product Managers.”  Even though we have tools such as:

  • Lean Start-Up
  • Lean UX
  • Agile Product Ownership
  • Crowd-Sourcing Roadmaps

PMs struggle to show the value of product management, so Rich advised:

  • Drive the whole product strategy and revenue
  • Make hard trade-offs among complex choices
  • Communicate and align around the current plan
  • We need to collaborate because (in the real business world) it’s not a democracy
  • Get the smartest people and ideas in the room
  • Take responsibility for the outcomes

Rich then rattled the myth that the Product Manager is the CEO of their product.  PMs don’t have anyone reporting to them.  PMs take inputs and feedback data to and from executives, development, marketing and customers.  This means PMs need to be trilingual – speak the language of: currency to executives, technology to developers and engineers, and benefits to marketing and customers.  He emphasized that the truth is out there with customers and prospects, so he encouraged PMs to constantly get out there and talk with customers.

Rich emphasized the difference between start-ups and companies.  At what point does the need for Product Management become critical?  When a company grows to upwards of 15-30 people, things fall apart without a PM, since typically:

  • Development sits apart from sales and marketing
  • Confusion surfaces about plans, dates and priorities
  • Everyone has a good idea

So revenue product management is needed to guide and grow the organization.

Rich continued by highlighting that over-pivoting start-ups need established goals or they will never deliver the product to market.

Then Rich described “What’s Great and The Typical Gaps (why we still need PMs)” in the following methodologies: Lean Start-Up, Lean UX, and Agile Product Ownership.

Lean Start-Up’s data-driven process is great for getting informed opinions and focuses on what the customer will buy, but he cautioned, “Data doesn’t make a decision for you but gives you the basis for that decision and someone will always say you used the wrong data.”  Lean Start-Up needs to be about getting face-to-face with the customer.

Lean UX is great since it brings UX, Developers and Product Managers together to collaborate, but often the PMs are either not invited or don’t show-up.

Agile Product Ownership provides a deep collaboration with the development team and is granular enough to get down to the right software bits.  Nevertheless, Agile can fully consume the Product Owner leaving no bandwidth to focus on bigger product and portfolio opportunities and broader market input.

Although he’s not a fan of “Crowdsourced Roadmaps” Rich agrees they can be useful where the product is community driven (such as Open Source).

He wrapped up this energetic discussion with 5 Take-Aways:

  1. Enterprises are not start-ups (Product Manager or Product Owner roles will have different focuses and responsibilities depending on the organizational infrastructure)
  2. Learn and use the best tool for each problem (products, people and organizational structures will vary)
  3. Don’t be dogmatic (PM is a collaborative role)
  4. You need a product strategy (you need to establish a plan of what and when you will deliver)
  5. Organizations still need to be led, understood, coaxed, managed, buffered, motivated and calmed-down

Helene Eichler is an accomplished Channel Marketing and CRM professional running HRE Technical Marketing.  She develops, executes and manages global marketing projects /programs in the IT, Network Security, and Managed Services industries.  As SVPMA’s Director of Communications, she is responsible for developing and implementing Communications and Marketing Strategies.  Helene can be reached at or on LinkedIn at

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