Let me start off this by saying, due to the maturity of product functions globally and varying experience in the product space amongst leaders, there is absolutely NO consistency out in the market on what product management should look like 🤔 .

However, this is not rocket science.

Consistency is clearly required!

I created digitalproductjobs.com in the hope to address the misinformation and "BS" present.

My mission is to make it simpler for everyone involved.

Purpose of this paper

The purpose of this paper is to inform, help and design the perfect career pathway for anyone in product management and help product leaders understand how to design and scale roles in their product functions.

Aspiring Product Managers and Product Managers
You can use this to understand what a career in a product looks like.

Product Leaders, Head of Products & Chief Product Officers
You can use this to design and build out your product function and help build a career pathway for your product management team.


Updates to article

3rd Update 15/08/2022

Length - 6,355 words

  • Rewritten Part 5 - Product function, role design, and scaling.

2nd Update 12/05/2022

Length - 5,400+ words

  • Added content to Part 1 - insights and Part 2 - a pathway and pays, Part 3 - Transitions, and Part 4 - function design and scaling.
  • Formatting updates

1st Update 24/02/2022

Length - 4,500+ words

  • Added detail into Part 1 - high-level takeaway,
  • Updated Part 3 - transitions,
  • Added section on scaling to cover off-product management function design at scale

Summary

This 5400+ word paper is based on my experience across various industries and scales of various organizations by taking them on journeys of transformations from - product-led, digital to traditional agile transformations.

Along with this, I have invested 200+ hrs of research across 100s of global organizations and most importantly current trends in product management hiring and tested this extensively for 2 years before publishing this.

In addition to this, I keep it updated.

It has 5 parts and should be broken down into parts to consume and digest.

  1. Part 1 - 9 high-level insights into a takeaway
    For those that might be in a hurry to read the 4000+ words, I have summarized some high-level takeaways!
  2. Part 2 - Typical career pathway for product managers and pay
    Where you can start your product journey and where you can expect to go in product. Also the various options from the Individual Contributor pathway to the Leadership pathway. In addition to this, I have provided insights into what it pays in these roles specifically in Australia, and the key difference between US and India.
  3. Part 3 - The 6 most common transitions in product history from engineers, analysts, and marketers to project managers.
  4. Part 4 - The 2 most common types of product manager roles
  5. Part 5 - Product function, role design, and scaling
    This one is aimed at product leaders who are wondering how to design and scale their product manager roles from individual contributor - IC to leadership roles and the ideal % of tactical and strategy split across these roles to make them successful.

Part 1 - 9 high-level insights into takeaway

1 - Not everyone can crack into "product management".

Don't believe the hype....that anyone can break into product management from anywhere.

🤥There are the people on social media that use marketing tactics to build massive followings and even earn $$$$ trying to convince you that you can break into product or get this particular job.

They typically use the cheeky PM skills they picked up to sell you some courses or build an audience.

IMO, these cheap growth hack tactics allow them to scale their audiences but do not add value to the audience in their career.


2 - Why is Product Management not an entry-level role?

Product Management is complex.

Product roles other than the associate product manager are not entry-level.

They require a range of skills - from business analysis to strategic planning to operational management to be done on a daily basis.

For a product manager to be successful in this, they will take time to build these skills out. For instance, the role of a product manager may involve jumping into product vision and strategy one day and creating a business model another.

And one day it might require them to run discovery workshops while documenting requirements/specs. On another day it may involve, testing and providing feedback to engineers and designers!

All of these take various skills from product evangelism to discovery management, to interviewing stakeholders to documentation, formulating strategic insight, and conducting research.

In addition, it requires a level of understanding of how business, economics, behavioral psychology, and technology function.

Most product managers have years of experience doing other roles in product development and general business space before they "land" the PM role.

Product management is a role where you are constantly learning and evolving your tactics, knowledge, and skills. It is at the forefront of innovation.

3 - Experience matters and years do not! Don't chase the title.

The number of years of experience doesn't matter.

It is also important to call out, there is no minimum number of years of experience to be a product manager.

What is important is having the valid experience and skills required to get the job done. These skills may come with time and exposure, to a number of different roles, you may not have the title of a product manager but doing the job.

It is important to note that you must build these skills and that should be your priority not chasing the title of product manager.

The title and pay will come.


4 - Getting your foot in the door.

Knowing how to sell yourself properly online and in interviews is a skill in itself.
Most HR folks get briefs from misinformed managers thinking they need 10+ years of product management and are looking for unicorn hires that do not exist.

You have to learn to deal with this stigma as a product manager and get past these HR folk.

Don't be fooled by those roles that say 5 years of experience is required and just apply for a role if you think you have experiences that may be valuable to a company.

Remember: years don't matter.


5 - The education sector is lagging behind and the global skill shortage.

The courses and education sector aren't up to par with providing the level of support for product management careers yet.

Historically and currently not many schools and university courses provide the relevant coursework or experience to help change this dire need for skills.

This has led to a skills shortage in the workforce and a talent shortage globally.

While there is an upward trend of Universities changing their coursework to include product management, and a significant number of new product schools coming up we are still at the start of the profession while being less than 100 years old.

So. it will be a while before you have great competition like in any other field straight out of university.

At this current stage, the competition is from experienced folks in Product Development & Delivery roles such as associate product managers, project managers, business analysts, and UX designers at entry-level PM roles.


6 - Product management courses are expensive and provide lower value than actual experience.

These courses can be expensive from US$3500 to 7000+🤑.

There are many product management schools at the moment from product school to reforge that are selling courses and some individual contributors who have come up with some great coursework.

The product schools are generally expensive though.

If you can afford them, then go for it. I have heard it has helped some folk break into product, but that is not normally the case as Product is not for everyone.


7 - Hierarchy defines responsibility.

There is a clear responsibility split across strategy and tactical responsibilities based on the progression of the role from Individual Contributor to Leadership.

The more senior the role the more strategic roles become, however, there are senior roles such as head of product where you are required to be a master tactician and be able to get your hands dirty as your primary job is to coach and lead by example!


8 - The scale of an organization changes accountability and authority.

The scale of the organization definitely impacts the roles responsibilities, authority & accountability.

For example, a startup PM role may be a senior PM in a large organization while a head of product role in a startup may be a group product manager/ product director role in a large organization.

Many startups who deeply seek product managers cannot afford many other roles required to run their business, especially pre-revenue ones or the ones just breaking even, this is when many roles merge into one and blur the lines of what a product manager is and isn't.


9 - Money and titles VS the Pathway of Lead and IC.

You do not need to be a head of product and manager to earn the big bucks!
There is a pathway to being a principal IC over Lead. Heck, I made the same amount of money in the role of a Product Manager as Head of Product.

Don't let people push you into being a lead if you want to be a principal product manager.

That is a totally valid career path!

Furthermore, money will come with experience and experience takes different opportunities and time.

You can even switch between leadership and IC multiple times. Don't let people tell you otherwise.

Pro tip: If you want to excel faster in your career - become a traveler. Work across industries, scales of organizations, and take the necessary risks to evolve your career!


Part 2 - The typical pathway of a product manager

Progression pathway - IC & Lead pathways

The image above shows the typical career progression pathway for product managers and product marketing managers.

It shows where you can start your product journey and where you can expect to go in the product.

It also shows the various options from the Individual Contributor pathway to the Leadership pathway.

There are some common transitions into Product Management that I have highlighted and also a clear distinction of the difference in % in Tactical Vs Strategic responsibilities in the roles as a product manager moves from IC to Leadership roles.

For illustration purposes, I have normalized this across the scale of the organization from 30 people to 10,000 people.

However, each organization will have different % requirements based on its budgets, capabilities, and constraints.


How much do these roles pay?

Depending on where you are located in the world product management roles are highly paid however, there are significant $ % differences between regions.

For example a Product Manager in the US can earn US 110,000 which equates to AUD 160,000 or 8 million Indian Rupee (85 Lakhs) a year.

Whereas in Australia, the same role will pay a base rate of AUD 140000 which is 12% lower than the US.

While in India it can be a mere 30,000 - 40,000 AUD which is a whooping 80% lower as compared to Australia.

Region matters as it drives standard of living and costs.

In the image above, I have provided insights into what it pays in these roles for the Australian product space.

Where did these numbers come from?
Salary data from Australia are based on various roles in Australia on rates in 2021.

I came across these as a hiring manager in the roles of product director and head of product. I have also interviewed for various roles and hired PMs during this period.

These salaries have now potentially increased by 20-30k for many roles due to the increased shortage and increased demand in 2022. They may stay at those levels or drop in 2023.


Oh mate...... this is not what I am getting paid!!?
What should I do?

Please feel free to use this guide in your next annual salary review to help highlight what you should be earning based on the role.

Alternatively, if you feel your skills and experience are not up to scratch and you are looking for a mentor, reach out to me via our product mentorship program and see how I can help you on a 1:1 level to upskill your skills.

This program has limited space, so please bare that in mind while applying.

Product Mentorship Program
Looking to accelerate your career and get your dream role in product but not sure where to start ?! We offer 1:1 coaching & mentorship for the affordable price of a $3 per month. Think of a product coach & mentor who comes at the cost of a coffee and

What to avoid?


There are definitely some crazy roles out there underpaying PMs at half of the market rate or 40% of what they should be paid at literally 90 - 100k AUD base, while this may be OK for someone breaking into the product, it's an insult for experienced product managers!

My advice is to avoid these companies as it can hurt your career trajectory and also your ability to learn.


Part 3 - The 6 most common transitions in history into product management

In the research paper on the 300-year history of product, I highlighted how product development evolved in 300 years and how product management became a profession in the 1940s, then 60 years later digital product management became a profession in the 2000s.

With this evolution, there have been 6 common pathways of product people transitioning into the product space.

300 year history of product from 1700s to 2021
Product over the last 4 eras, has been influenced by politics, ideology, economics, society, culture, science, technology, and medicine. Read More.

1 - the software engineers - aka geeks

The when and why?

As digital product management became a thing in the early 2000s, the most common transitions at the time were folk who understood technology but could speak business - namely developers/software engineers.

They found it easier to switch because they understood the technical lingo required to be successful and work in technology product management.

Why was success limited and a short-lived demand for these transitions?

While these early technical product managers were great there was still a massive gap in skills for business, marketing, and functional business requirements.

This led to increased demand for commercial domain knowledge which resulted in other transitions as businesses scaled and product management grew in demand.

What type of specialization works for them?

These individuals make good technical product managers.


2 - the business analysts - aka solution geeks

The when and why?

Between 2003-2019 most organizations still practiced 'product development' in "project lifecycles".

The result was scope creep, blown-out timelines and budgets, and delayed projects.

This is when SCRUM a project management/delivery methodology came about with a marketing tactic and preached its silver bullet about "doubling the work in half the time".

It also backpedaled on the "Agile Manifestos" buzz chain at the time.

Scrum introduced things like "product owners" and "scrum masters" on a project level to divide responsibilities and ceremonies such as sprint planning, daily scrum, sprint review, and sprint retrospective.

These roles generally were taken up by business analysts and project managers, which are traditional project management roles.

Furthermore, this resulted in a shift of focus for product development in project lifecycles on "scope control" to limit the work and improve flow as part of optimizing the continuous delivery aspects of WIP - work in progress.

This meant, more businesses focusing on backlog planning and administration assuming that this is a prioritization framework and a way to build value.

This obviously required gathering and analysis of business, technical & functional requirements, and stakeholder expectation management before prioritization decisions were being made for build - in other words running discovery workshops and creating 1000s of JIRA tickets for developers before a sprint!

Folks that were traditionally doing roles such as business analyst & solution architect type roles fit the bill as they were able to fill in the GAPs easily for the key areas from technical, and functional to business requirements gathering and documentation.

What type of specialization works for them?

These folk makes great all round product managers from technical working on platforms to experience product managers working on customer-facing products as long as they are able to build their skills out in product management.

Why is success limited for these transitions?

In general, people in these roles lack the marketing knowledge for growth products and products with loops and this is where marketers came in the 2nd decade of the 21st century. This can be remedied by studying marketing and behavioral economics.

What to watch out for when you transition here?

Stop drilling rabbit holes, as a business analyst when transitioning into product management, the biggest challenge will be to learn how to stop drilling the rabbit hole.

BA roles traditionally require spending time on deep requirements analysis in the solution space and asking What When How instead of Why and challenging the status quo to validate the problem space.

This is something every BA needs to learn to be an effective product manager.

The PO v/s PM saga

For over a decade now, there have been debates on PO vs PM roles. In the below article, I shared why organizations keep hiring product owners and not product managers and why you should avoid those companies if you love the product as it creates a whole bunch of feature factories that add no value to customers.

🧐 Why do they keep hiring product owners and not product managers and why you should avoid companies that do.
ℹ️Article v2 : Updated 24/02/2022 to add PO vs PM and Project vs Product OrganizationsRecently a conversation with an aspiring product manager led me to explain the concept of product owner and why it should not be hired at an organizational level. When I explained the concept of

3 - the marketers - aka martech nerds

The when and why?

With the adoption of digital marketing techniques and digital transformations becoming a thing, many digital marketing geniuses were born who understood some level of tech but could market and speak business lingo better.

They were also experts in marketing tactics which were required for product launches, pricing, and go-to-market strategies.

Growth models
As the number of digital products grew globally, there was a need for people who understood the growth models such as AARRR & RARRR.

They made great product managers in growth, however, this meant there were still some gaps when it came to backlog management that the analysts bought on or even technical expertise that the engineers bought.

What type of specialization works for them?

These folk make great product marketing managers or growth product managers

Growth as a specialization.

With a greater need for growth experience and products with loop models coming around with the growth of SAAS products, these folks eventually they had their own specializations such as product marketing managers and growth product managers.

Why is success limited for these transitions?

In general, people in these roles lack the technical knowledge and experience for product delivery.

Best product teams have both.

Some of the best teams have both product managers and product marketing managers that work hand in hand.


4 - the designers & researchers - aka UX nerds

The when and why?

Somewhere between 2010 and 2020, a few organizations embarked on customer transformations focusing on human-centered design.

This is when heaps of graphic & web designers at the time became invested in UI design as the magnifying glass shifted to "User Experience and Customer Experience.

This also gave birth to "UX researchers" who were solely focused on user experience research.

Both of these roles were able to easily move across to product management because of their knowledge of how to build great product designs and experiences while also being partially technical with their graphic / web design skills.

Merge of UI and UX
With budgets being tight in organizations, the designers and researchers eventually merged and became UI/UX designers. However, effective design teams have both roles as separate specializations.

What type of specialization works for them?

They make great experience product managers & product designers.

Product Design specialization.
Eventually, a specialization was born, - product design roles have become common roles in mature product organizations.

Why is success limited for these transitions?

In general, people in these roles lack the technical depth and experience for product delivery and marketing skills.

Best product teams have both.

The best product teams I have worked with have UX researchers and Product Designers who work hand in hand with the product managers and product marketing managers.


5 - the project and program managers - aka timeline masters

The when and why?

With all these organizations globally taking on digital, there were heaps of fires to put out in delivery.

The Agile vs Waterfall saga began. Along with the impact of scrum-like business analysts mentioned above, the scrum master roles spread like wildfire.

There was the folk that were running and coordinating everything while going crazy in this world of "Agile vs Waterfall" project management to manage stakeholder expectations.

Something they believe waterfall may have done well with schedules and charts. (ie: level of predictability)

With many organizations being budget constrained and taking on digital transformations it led to the evolution of the "digital lead role".

This in turn was a role that involved product management and project management blend to become a feature, operations, and delivery management!

WHY Microsoft WHY?!
Companies like Microsoft also expected their product managers to do technical program management and call their product manager roles technical program managers 🧐.

There is a solid case here for hardware/software product mixes.

Software + Hardware
Project management still has its place in product development. For example, a software & hardware product may require deep integrations and schedules which aren't easily done with continuous loop lifecycles as in software products. Their time to market can be significantly longer.

Why is success limited for these transitions?

The command and control mindset.

If these folk can get their head out of the sand with GANTT charts and a command and control mentality they make great product managers otherwise they are perfectly fit for product teams as delivery managers.

What type of specialization works for them?

They are perfectly fit for product teams as delivery managers or hardware-software product teams as program managers.


6 - the associate product managers - aka rooks

The when and why?

In the mid to late 2000s, some of the big tech companies saw gaps in product management talent.

They decided to homebrew their talent and created their own programs such as the Associate Product Management program at Google.

These programs have spun off to make some of the best product managers to date.

At first, these programs saw folks from the above-mentioned transition through these programs however now these are focused on interns and graduates.


Part 4 - The 2 most common types of product manager roles

  1. Platform Product Manager
    These product managers focus on internal products from authentication, and security to support platforms such as data and analytics, and payments to billing with the key knowledge areas being on domain technical expertise.

    Their customers are normally internal and other product teams. In some organizations, these roles will be called Infrastructure or Tools PM, Tech PM, Data PM, and Security & Identity PM.
  2. Experience Product Manager
    These product managers focus on external facing products such as SaaS or subscription products with a key area of knowledge being on customer & user experience, behavioral economics and growth models & go to market strategies.

    Their customers are external and they have internal stakeholders such as platform product teams. In some organizations, these roles will be called Innovation PM, Growth PM, Retention PM & on-boarding PM.

Part 5 - Product function, role design, and scaling.

When it comes to product management function design, there are a few key elements that a product leader must consider.

In this section, we look at these details on how to design product management functions. Please note that all of this is generalized and would require a level of personalization to an organization's current needs and market situation - such as skills and talent availability of candidates.

Career pathway for the product team

While designing the career pathway, it is important to remember that line management is not the only pathway.

There are 2 pathways - the tactician individual contributor and the master strategist lead.

While there is a push for many product managers to eventually become "line managers" and have direct reports, line management is not for everyone.

It is important to remember this as a product leader as your job is to help shape the world of product management within and outside your organization.

Roles that sit under the IC pathway

There are 2 main roles.

  • lead product managers
  • principal product managers

What type of organizations normally have these?

These roles are generally found in organizations with 5-10+ product managers where there are many products in the portfolio and a level of expert knowledge with 'experience seniority' is required.

Where do they sit?

Typically a principal product manager works across a product portfolio in a particular segment and is an "expert" on that product and the industry segment.

The global confusion on a few Product manager titles

Some organizations have used the term "lead" product manager interchangeably with "group" product manager, but this is not the case.

While these 2 roles sit at the same seniority level, the responsibilities of a lead product manager are more towards the product and product strategy than people management.

Meanwhile, some organizations use Group Product Managers, or Managers- Product Management, and Product Director at different levels.

While this may work for them, it doesn't address the issue of having any more than 7 levels of scale.

What are these roles responsible for?

These 2 roles help drive 4 main things

  • Expert knowledge
    the ICs at this level have industry-level expertise and are able to bring a level of expert knowledge and experience to the role. They are the subject matter experts in the product category.
  • Providing direction on product vision & strategy
    as the ICs at this level are very experienced, they are able to deliver vision and strategy that delivers outcomes
  • Align stakeholders to product vision and strategy
    The ICs at this level are career diplomats with a very good understanding of how to influence and align stakeholders to drive outcomes.
  • Driving business goals
    ICs at this level work with business leaders to define business goals and communicate the objectives to the greater product development team to set product goals that align with business goals.

Role design A:A:R - the authority to accountability to responsibility relationship

All too often, roles are created that are not set up for success, leading to high turnover, poor retention rates, burnt-out team members, or the typical management scapegoat excuse "the disgruntled employee".

Important Book Quote

As per Marty Cagan, in an empowered product team, responsibilities break down as:

1. Product Manager is responsible to ensure the product has value and is viable for the business.

2. The Product Designer is responsible for ensuring usability.

3. The Engineering / Technical Lead is responsible for feasibility.

When looking at designing roles 3 most important things should be addressed, namely, the relationship between authority, responsibility, and accountability.

The Authority to Responsibility relationship

If the delegation of authority is unclear and a person has to deliver something (ie: they have the responsibility to drive the outcome), they may not understand the nature of their duties or the results expected from them and this will result in failure or even worse, chaos in the organization which leads to disputes and conflicts.

Important management theory insight

According to Henri Fayol, the father of management theory, there should be balance between Authority (Power) and Responsibility (Duties).

The Accountability to Authority relationship

With the delegation of authority to make decisions, a person should be held accountable so that they can learn and grow from their decisions & actions. Without this accountability, authority can be misused.

Watch out for the empowered mini - CEO!

Cross-functional teams need authority to be spread across the team to make them empowered.

However, problems arise when a specific delegation of authority is provided to certain roles, resulting in the inflexibility of decision-making authority.

I have found this is an inherent problem in many structures and only by monitoring it as a line manager or management team is possible to address this.

For example, the product manager is accountable for the viability of the product such as making sure it is marketable and can earn business revenue while the product designer is accountable for the usability of the product such as making sure that the product has the right level of accessibility requirements catered for in the design.

While it is true that if authority delegations are specific to a role, a person may regard their job as a staked claim with a high fence around it based on authority allocation.

🤦‍♂️We have seen this far too often in the product managers who think they are "mini-CEOs" trying to hog all the decisions and pushing their weight around.

In this example, the product manager should only have the authority to make decisions on viability and the product designer should have the ability to make decisions on usability.

However, they as a team should be accountable for outcomes.

When the outcome-driven accountability approach is taken, there is a clear set of alignment within the team to drive outputs to meet their goals.

The product leaders' Accountability & Authority

A product leader's accountability is the viability of the product managers and the feasibility of the portfolio strategy. They should have the mandate and authority to drive alignment, strategy, and change as this role is a coach & transformation one.

They do this by bringing together multi-disciplinary teams of product experts, digital product managers, and product designers to efficiently build products, turning products and digital features into customer experiences that delight.

Think of the battlecry
..."HOLD THE LINE" ...
Where the leader is yelling - Alignment Alignment Alignment!

They should also oversee the product development lifecycle from concept to launch across all current and future products in a portfolio. (Yup it's a tough gig!)

For example, a head of product's success is measured by the success of the product managers in their team who are measured by the success of their products.


Scaling the Tactical and Strategic responsibilities by role

In this section, we look at the ideal % split between tactical and strategic responsibilities as the role scales along a product management function.

IMPORTANT MESSAGE:

When scaling, in order to reduce the impact caused by decentralization to organization efficiency, we consider that there should be only 7 levels in a product management function.

Any more than this and there will be significant issues with communication, execution, and alignment. (IHMO - Even 7 is high!!)

Consider the 5 levels of leadership model by Jim Collins which he introduced in his 2001 book “Good to Great” — one of the most influential business management books of all time.

As product managers learn to become better strategists, their role evolves, and accountability increases.

Typically working on strategy requires a broader understanding of commercials, partnerships, successful and failed product implementations, marketing and growth tactics, and behavioral economics which come with time. However, they should be designed into roles to allow room for growth.

A problem to look out for - is the lack of strategy experience.

In many organizations, I have found that junior product managers to senior product managers normally have the most amount of tactical expertise while doing the grunt work and are least involved in strategy work by intentional organization design.

This is a problem as it doesn't help drive the seniority of experience of product people on business and product strategy.

While I try to remedy this issue in many organizations during my coaching engagements on organizational redesign and transformation, much-needed coaching of senior management teams is required globally, where strategy activities should be shared with all levels of the roles as this helps drive alignment, engagement and bring the organization to life.

% split between tactical and strategic by Role

The below split between strategy and tactical responsibility, changes on the scale of the organization and may be subjective to the industry vertical.

The Junior Product Manager (L2)

This role is tactically focused and the main objective is to have more hands (capacity) for carrying out the grunt work as they are still learning the ways of working, tools, and tactics to make products successful.

Responsibility Split

  • 90% on tactical
  • 10 % on strategy
The Product Manager (L3)

This is the most common role in most organizations where the main objective is to support the drafting of the product vision and strategy but mainly focus on the execution of the strategy.

Responsibility Split

  • 70% on tactical
  • 30% on strategy
The Senior Product Manager (L4)

With a few wins & losses under their belt in product development, the senior PM should start to work on more strategic work. They should also pick up staffing and management processes and potentially manage 2-3 PMs.

Responsibility Split

  • 30% on tactical
  • 40% on strategy
  • 30% on people management
The Lead Product Manager (L5 - IC pathway)

As the lead product manager focuses mainly on tactical and strategic aspects of the product, they should have a 50-50% split across strategic & tactical.

The Group PM | Director of Product Management | Manager, Product Management (L5 - Lead Pathway)

The group PM or director of product management is a senior role and the true start of a leadership role.

This is a common role in larger-scale organizations, most often product-led organizations with semi-mature product functions. The role is more strategic-focused than people management-focused. In an ideal case, the role is supported by a senior product manager who has more people management responsibility.

Ideally, 2-5 people report to this role and there may be multiple Directors or Group PMs based on portfolio mix or category segment in the business and these roles help their head or VP of product on tactical deep dives (firefighting!) and line management while scaling the function.

Eg: 2-5 SPMs reporting into a GPM for Smart Speakers and 2-5 SPMs reporting into GPM for Smart Lights, where speakers and lights are the main categories.

Responsibility Split

  • 60% strategic
  • 20% tactical (This role should still have an element of "hands-on work")
  • 20% on people management
The Vice President | Head of Product (L6)

This is a key role in the product function when scaling and coaching a large set of teams becomes paramount.

They drive direction & alignment along a large number of stakeholders across the business functions - from sales, operations, and marketing to design & engineering.

They are master tacticians, strategists, and coaches. Typically has 2 - 5 group product managers reporting to them.

In smaller startups, this role may have product managers report to them till it scales.

Responsibility Split

  • key focus on strategy at 70%
  • the head of product should also be involved in partnerships - internal & external at least 10%
  • 20% on people management.
The Executive Vice President | Chief Product Officer (L7)

The master politicians and strategists whose focus is on scaling staffing, governance, and creating direction.

They are usually involved in drafting and influencing the business vision while doing a large number of presentations to the board of directors, shareholders & the market. They may have 3-5 Head of Products/ Product Directors reporting to them.

Responsibility Split

  • 70% of their focus on strategy
  • 15% on partnerships
  • 15% on people management

When do you scale & what is the multiplier effect?

While consulting, I often get asked these 2 questions:

  • how many product management roles do I need to hire for my products?
  • when do I hire a head of product?

This really depends on where the business is going, what type of verticals your business has, and the number of products in a product portfolio.

As a portfolio goes, the challenge becomes alignment on strategy and vision, in addition to execution and operational efficiency. This is where the multiplier effect comes in.

The multiplier effect in people is when a manager is able to replicate their own core competency, creating an entire team of individuals who perform at high levels.

The Group PM (L5) and The Head of Product (L6)


The roles of group PM or product director (l5) and head of product (l6) roles come in when considering multiplier effect and direction.

These roles are the key role in the product function when aligning, scaling, and coaching large sets of teams becomes paramount.

They drive direction & alignment along a large number of stakeholders across the business functions - from sales, operations, and marketing to design & engineering while enabling product teams that report to them.

For instance, if you have two verticals in your business one for B2B and another for B2C, you might end up with a GPM for B2B and GPM for B2C and then multiple PMs under them for specific products.

The GPMs are skilled at firefighting and coaching but also help out with the strategy while the head of product looks after large-scale coaching and ensures alignment while also driving portfolio-level strategy.


The Product owner epidemic that you should avoid.


Quite often, I have seen organizations end up hiring product owners/business analysts to help out the product manager as the product manager's role becomes too hard to do.

This is where the organization must review an ideal number of products: product manager to scale and not just offshoot some part of the product manager's role to a traditional project management role.

Ideally, the product team has more product managers with 1 - 2 products per product manager.

This highly depends on the experience and skill level of the product manager. It is important to remember outcomes instead of outputs when designing the structure of your team.

In the below article, I have detailed why it isn't healthy to hire product owners at an organizational level.

🧐 Why do they keep hiring product owners and not product managers and why you should avoid companies that do.
ℹ️Article v2 : Updated 24/02/2022 to add PO vs PM and Project vs Product OrganizationsRecently a conversation with an aspiring product manager led me to explain the concept of product owner and why it should not be hired at an organizational level. When I explained the concept of

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