Recommended Read: Black Box of Product Management
Almost daily, I am asked in some capacity to explain, defend, justify and/or champion the role of product management. I have found that how effectively I am able to explain the role of PM depends on the depth of knowledge the person I am talking with has. The real value of product management is found in the nuances, and the nuances often require a deeper knowledge of the technical ecosystem that the company is operating in and around.
Understanding the nuances around what makes a product manager the right fit at the right time at a growing company is also one of the main reasons it is so hard to hire a great one. The earlier the company, the higher the stakes are in hiring the right person. This is precisely the reason that we have started a recruiting arm at Product N: great product managers at one company does not mean they will be great product managers at another. It's one thing to finally recognize when the right time is to bring in a product person, but it's even more important to know the exact skillset a person needs to succeed at an early stage company.
The Black Box of Product Management is an article by Brandon Chu that is one of the better, fairly comprehensive - although lengthy - overviews of the various facets of the product management role, time and place of product management in a tech company.
I agree with most of the article's points with the exception of *when* to bring product management on board. The article suggests that a founder can act as the product lead for the duration of the beginning in most cases. I respectively disagree. I have seen so many highly-detrimental mistakes made in the early days of a company, decisions made by all levels of founders that are sure they are the "product expert". Many times, the company ends up paying dearly in time and money by the time they get to the A or B round.
The main reason companies typically hold off on product management hires is because:
1. good PMs (those with many years of experience across multiple companies) can be prohibitively expensive and 2. founders often don't understand what product management is and why it's so valuable earlier than later - missing the fact that they can be every bit worth the expense when mobilized in the right place at the right time.
Those two points are precisely the reasons we started Product N: we wanted to be able to make experienced, in-depth product management services accessible for early-stage companies at a price point almost any minimally funded company can afford. We do this by working with the team on a part-time basis (although it will feel like we are working full time based on our impact), crafting a realistic plan and lastly, by helping to put a more permanent team in place that can actually execute on the plan. Once that is done, we offer advisory services over the long term to ensure the team stays on track.
Check out the full article here.