Jul 9, 2023

The Future of Product Managers

The Future of Product Managers
The news of product managers being removed from teams at companies like Dovetail and Airbnb has generated intrigue and speculation about the future of this role. Some argue that successful products can be developed without product managers. However, whether to include or exclude product managers depends on various factors, including company culture, talent, organisational structure, and product size.

As the industry continues to evolve, it will be fascinating to see the adaptation and transformation of the product manager role. Whether they are removed, transformed, or integrated into other roles, the fundamental responsibilities and skills associated with product management will continue to be indispensable in the pursuit of building successful products.

In certain instances, successful products have emerged without the presence of dedicated product managers. Take 37signals, for example, a company that has flourished for years without this role. However, the responsibilities and skill set of a product designer at 37signals differ significantly from those at Dovetail. In the context of 37signals, a product designer might not be involved in identifying the problem space or even in outlining the top-level solution. Additionally, all product designers there can code. A bit different, right?

Dovetail's decision to remove the product manager role can be seen as a strategic move. The responsibilities previously held by product managers will now be shared among team members. Considering that Dovetail's product designers are typically experienced and have qualities like collaboration, strategy, commercials, and data-informed decision-making, this transition makes sense. Also, Dovetail's target customer base consists of product designers and researchers, naturally aligning their interests with the customer's needs.

In organisations where a versatile leadership team is deeply involved in the product and its strategy and fosters collaboration, the need for a product manager may decrease. In startups or small companies, the founder or CEO takes on the responsibilities traditionally assigned to a product manager. Product managers play a vital role in organisations struggling with strategy, prioritisation, and alignment across different business functions. The emergence of product management was driven by the need to break down silos and encourage cross-functional collaboration.

While recent developments indicate that some companies are exploring alternatives to traditional product management roles, the need for product managers remains context-specific. While certain companies can operate without dedicated product managers, many still rely on their expertise to drive product strategy, align teams, and ensure customer-centric development.

We shall see!
About Max Antonov
Head of Product @ Backpocket and a Product Coach. I write about product management and random topics that are on my mind. You can find me on Twitter, Substack, LinkedIn or Goodreads