The Growing Specialization of Product Management: Navigating the Complexities


Hatched by Glasp

Jul 02, 2023

4 min read


The Growing Specialization of Product Management: Navigating the Complexities

In today's fast-paced digital landscape, product management plays a crucial role in the success of companies. Product managers (PMs) are responsible for driving innovation, creating value for customers, and ultimately, achieving business objectives. However, as the field of product management continues to evolve, so do the challenges that PMs face.

One of the major hurdles that PMs encounter is the assumption that tools can easily transfer from one situation to another. This leads to a lack of adaptability and an inability to tailor strategies to specific problems. PMs often hit a career progression ceiling because they rely on the same tool for all situations, without recognizing when to seek other resources or take a different approach. To overcome this challenge, PMs need to embrace the idea that different problems require different tools, processes, skill sets, and success metrics.

Moreover, the specialization of product management has become a growing trend. PMs who fail to recognize and adapt to this trend may find themselves struggling to provide valuable impact to their organizations. When faced with a new product area that they haven't encountered before, PMs may struggle to make definitive decisions and doubt their own skills. This is why it's crucial for PMs to continuously learn and stay updated on the latest trends and best practices in their respective areas of specialization.

Hiring the right PM is also a challenge that organizations face. Many companies make the mistake of assuming that an amazing PM from one organization will automatically excel in their own. However, without vetting for specific areas of expertise and assessing whether the PM's skills will align with the organization's needs, companies may end up with talent turmoil. To avoid this, organizations should carefully evaluate candidates and ensure that their skills and experiences align with the specific requirements of the role.

Another common challenge that arises in product management is the competition among colleagues. PMs often have different strengths and areas of interest, which can lead to conflicting approaches when working with teams or managing product responsibilities. It's essential for PMs to recognize and appreciate the diverse perspectives within their teams while finding ways to collaborate effectively and leverage each other's strengths.

To navigate these complexities and excel in their roles, PMs need to develop a deep understanding of the different types of product work. Feature work, scaling work, product-market fit expansion, and innovation work are the four main types of product management. Each type requires a unique set of skills, knowledge, and approaches.

Feature work is the most common type of product work, focusing on extending a product's functionality and market into incremental and adjacent areas. Scaling work comes into play when a product's growth accelerates, requiring the removal of bottlenecks and the maintenance of the team's ability to ship new features. Product-market fit expansion involves increasing the ceiling on product-market fit in a non-incremental way, expanding into adjacent markets or products. Lastly, innovation work focuses on identifying and experimenting with new opportunities to reach and expand product-market fit.

Within these types of product work, there are further specializations. Core PMs are dedicated to solving customer pain points or needs, while growth PMs are focused on the customer journey and business metrics. Platform PMs concentrate on scaling internal platforms and services, and innovation PMs explore new opportunities and verticals.

To thrive in their roles, PMs should recognize the vectors that can cause further specialization within their areas of expertise. For core PMs, this may be the type of product or industry category. Growth PMs can further specialize based on the funnel stage, while platform PMs can specialize in specific types of platform knowledge. Innovation PMs may specialize based on the stage of the organization.

In conclusion, the growing specialization of product management presents both challenges and opportunities for PMs and organizations. By recognizing the different types of product work and understanding their own areas of specialization, PMs can enhance their effectiveness and drive meaningful impact. To excel in the field, PMs should continuously learn, adapt, collaborate, and leverage the unique strengths within their teams.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Continuously invest in learning and staying updated on the latest trends and best practices in your area of specialization. This will help you stay ahead of the curve and make more informed decisions.
  • 2. Embrace collaboration and appreciate the diverse perspectives within your team. Leverage each other's strengths to overcome challenges and drive innovation.
  • 3. Regularly assess your own skills and areas of interest. Identify opportunities for further specialization and focus on honing your expertise in specific types of product work.

By following these actionable advice and navigating the complexities of the growing specialization of product management, PMs can position themselves for long-term success and make a significant impact in their organizations.

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