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What is product management? Part 3: Where do product managers fit in an organization?

Lara White  |  March 22, 2019

At the start of every year, UserTesting gathers its entire sales organization to get aligned and inspired for the upcoming year. We hear from internal leaders, customers, and thought leaders in the industry. This year we were fortunate to have a product management veteran speak with the team about product manager roles and career paths. Sachin Rekhi, founder and CEO of Notejoy, a collaborative notes app for teams shared some key characteristics common to product management roles and how their work is commonly structured within organizations. Sachin’s talk is a great primer for those new to product management or who has ever asked themselves,

What is product management?

We’ve broken up the highlights from Sachin’s talk into a three-part series which covers:

  • Part one: Product manager responsibilities, including strategy and execution
  • Part two: Product manager roles within product teams
  • Part three: Where product managers fit within an organization

Get started with part two below, or, you can watch his full presentation here.

Where do product managers fit in the R&D organization?

A typical R&D organization includes all the people involved in building, creating and shipping products and is made up of a core team plus shared resources and executive stakeholders.

Core product team

The product management organization structure of the core product team includes a product manager, software engineers, designers, and QA testers. While the engineers are responsible for figuring out the architecture of the application and writing the code, the product manager is constantly working with them on making trade-offs on which features to build. This impacts not only the schedule but also what the final user experience will be. There’s a similar relationship between product managers and designers. Designers are ultimately responsible for driving the end-to-end user experience within the application, however, product managers are deeply involved in this by informing the requirements. When it comes to QA, the product manager works with the testers on determining whether what they’re seeing is intended behavior or a bug. A key point here is that none of these individuals actually report to the product manager. The “manager” in their title refers to them managing the product, not the people. This is important because the product manager needs to be able to influence without authority. In fact, this is a critical skillset for the role and requires discipline around communication, building rapport, and leadership skills.

Shared resources and peer product managers

Product marketers, UX researchers, sales, support and legal are also involved in the product development process but are typically shared resources that the product manager has to lobby to allocate time to their product. If working on a feature of a larger product, a product manager may also need to work closely with their peer product managers who are driving other features to ensure a seamless experience for the end user.

Executive stakeholders

Finally, a key constituent for product managers is executive stakeholders. These stakeholders participate in product reviews to ensure products are ready to go to market, greenlight new initiatives and allocation of additional resources to projects, and conduct the annual planning process that determines what’s going to be built in the first place.

Want to learn more?

You can learn more about Sachin here. Learn more about Product Insight, UserTesting’s app designed for the unique needs of product teams, and register for our upcoming webinar, How to make great products in real time using fast customer feedback. To learn how UserTesting can help you understand your customers through on-demand human insight, contact us here.

About the author:

Lara leads the Integrated Marketing team at UserTesting, overseeing social media, content, webinars, and SEO.