Who belongs in the product organization?

 In Product Management, Product Organization

If a company does not have a defined product organization or the product organization is not working as well as it could, MIDIOR is often called in to help.  I find that a fundamental issue that comes up again and again in these situations is that there is a lack of accountability for the business of the product.  Get to the bottom of that problem and you’ll have some direction on how to build a strong product organization with the right people.

Assigning clear accountability for your products does not require a large organization but it does require product managers who cover the role as their primary responsibility.  More often than not, when I see a company configure a new product organization, they put someone senior in charge (a good thing) and then pull folks from different functions into the group, adding product management to their already busy day jobs. This will not work!  To build a strong organization you need to have a dedicated team with skill sets that map to the products they will manage. Look inside the organization for individuals with the right characteristics (EEIOU), regardless of their current job titles and support these folks with resources and training. This core team can be supplemented with outside talent, if need be.

Where this organization reports into is somewhat irrelevant in my mind.  I have seen successful product organizations report to R&D or development, marketing, even directly to the CEO. The important thing is that when you set up something new or make a change, the initiative needs to be shepherded by someone at a senior level.  You don’t necessarily have to designate a CPO (Chief Product Officer) but you do need top-level support to succeed.  You may also think about an internal marketing/communications effort for the new organization so that colleagues in every department will understand what this will mean to their position and role.

To sum it up, before you think about who belongs in the product organization, make sure that company-wide, ownership for the products is clearly visible and understood. A lack of accountability is the biggest threat to your success in establishing a product organization which fires on all cylinders.

For more from me about building a successful product organization, see the video below:

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