Product management is a nascent and little understood role within many media companies, and I was commissioned by the BBC to research the state of product management in media drawing on specific BBC projects and consulting companies such as Channel 4 Television, the New York Times, the Financial Times, The Guardian News & Media, YouTube, Huddle and Mobile IQ, looking at the role of the product manager in the creation of successful digital products and services. This report highlights a number of key trends and conclusions which will be of interest to practitioners and observers alike:
The role of product management is being taken increasingly seriously by media companies. More and more companies are raising the profile of product leaders to the top table, rather than defining product management as a subset of technology or marketing.1
Elsewhere, product management remains in a state of creative tension with other groups. Understanding of the role is patchy at best and battles for control persist variously with editorial, user experience and design or technology. This can be at the expense of successful products and the self‐ esteem of product managers.
The introduction of agile development methodologies is helping to clarify the role of product managers in many organisations. Agile has made more visible the need for a product owner, who can represent audiences and stakeholders. It also provides a commonly understood framework for the wider product development lifecycle including proposition development and testing.
At a detailed level, the role and responsibilities of a product manager vary widely. There is little consistency in job descriptions or use of common terminology or process. In this respect, digital product management in the UK lags behind practice in the US and Silicon Valley in particular.
Partly as a result of the above, there is a strong desire in many parts of the industry ‐ particularly in traditional media companies ‐ for better training and skill development – as well as forums to drive common standards.