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The Three Roles of Product

Titles are a mess. What one company calls a product manager, another calls a product owner. And another calls a product marketing manager. What's needed are three roles.

In one coaching session, the product leaders were assigning responsibilities based on the skills of the individual employees on their team. “Bob is good at win-loss analysis so win-loss should be owned by product management.” (Actually, win-loss analysis tells you less about the product and more about the buying process, so win-loss should be in product marketing.)

That said, defining product roles is a challenge for most organizations. And the Quartz Open Framework can help.

The Quartz Open Framework defines six phases of defining and delivering products. From discovering problems to solve through describing those problems to both the technical and customer-facing teams, to delivering the product to market with effective launch strategies.

Each color-code pair of stages requires a different skillset. Discover and Commit phases require a business orientation. Describe and Create phases require a technical skillset. Deliver and Connect need a marketing skillset.

The Three Roles

Because it’s so hard to find one person with these skills, organizations often have one or more people dedicated to each of these phases, ideally in the same department or at least with aligned goals.

Product Strategy

Product strategy managers are first and foremost business leaders. They propose new products based on a deep understanding of the market, research and analyze the business and competitive aspects of new offerings, and empower other teams to build a suite of products and services that solve real customer problems.

Their primary tools are product vision, opportunity scoring, market definitions, and the portfolio roadmap.

Strategy is how we plan the right product initiatives for the future. Common titles for Product Strategy are VP of Product, Senior product manager or Portfolio Manager.

Product Planning

Product planning managers develop a deep understanding of the product and its technical capabilities; they achieve this by working with the product, by discussing it with customers and colleagues, and by keeping current on the industry. For a product planning manager, the product almost becomes their personal hobby.

Product planning managers work closely with designers and developers to solve a specific problem. Their primarily tools are personas, stories, and backlogs.

Planning is about building what we’ve planned for the next set of functionality. Those with titles like technical product manager or product owner are focused on this stage.

Product Growth

Product growth managers, often called Product Marketing Managers, are focused on markets, either vertical or geographic. They use their market expertise to empower product management, marketing, and sales with the requirements and language of their market, and they serve as the chief liaison from the market to the company. The product growth manager focuses on sales enablement and go-to-market planning so that when the product is delivered, there are people who want to buy it.

Product growth managers work closely with marketing, sales, and operations teams to identify and address friction in the buying process. Their primary tools include personas, positioning, and win-loss analysis.

Product Growth is focused on how we can sell more of what we’ve built—the products and services we have now. Product marketing manager or product growth manager are titles used for the product growth phase.

Regardless of an organization’s size, three distinct product roles are necessary for success. Specialized roles in product have evolved because it’s so difficult to find one person with all three skillsets. The Quartz Open Framework helps identify the responsibilities and artifacts necessary for success at each stage.

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