Where should Product Management report in the organization?

By Kishore Elimineti

Product Managers collaborate and work with Engineering, Sales, Marketing and Support teams. They drive strategy and bring products to market.

Product managers report into different departments, often depending on the size, focus and culture of the organization. It is very difficult to say a specific department is the right home for Product Managers in an Organization.  Product relevancy (to the core business) and cash flow (the product generates in relationship to the company’s product portfolio) also have an impact.

We have seen a shift where product managers report into over the years. Product managers traditionally report into Marketing or Engineering in large organizations. Shifting Product Management from the Marketing to Engineering or Engineering to Marketing is fairly common. In the case of startups, they often report to the CEO. CEO’s in Medium-Large organizations are dependent on the head of product management since they are fully overloaded.

OrgChart Photo.PM Reporting Structures:

1)   When Product Managers report into Engineering they may get too entrenched in an engineering mindset—too internally focused. This results in launching a great technical product which does not satisfy the customer needs, but it is based on the development completion. Marketing therefore doesn’t understand the product benefits and will fail to position the product completely to the customer.

2)   When Product Managers report into Marketing they adopt Customer and Sales vision and lose clarity on the product requirements.  PMs then risk not focusing on delivering the product features and meeting release miles stones-too externally focused.

Alternative PM Reporting Structures:

1)   Product Support and Product Management teams reporting into the Product Organization. That way all the issues reported by the customer on products will be clearly communicated to the Product Mangers by Product Support team.

2)   Product Management team reporting to the CEO. That way the CEO’s vision gets communicated quickly and accurately to PM’s.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Products managers reporting into Engineering or Marketing or some other department is completely dependent on an Organization. There is no proven structure laid out which tells where should PM’s report.
  2. Product Managers are successful only when he/she rightly balances interactions among Marketing, Sales and Engineering.

Kishore Elimineti is a Sr. IT Architect, Business Applications in Application Delivery Network industry. He can be reached at Kishore.elimineti@gmail.com.