Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Should Architects aspire to be Product Managers?

One of the interesting trends I am observing is that Architectures aspiring to be Product Managers. Have recently come across multiple PM who were architects and have also been approached my a few who are interested in becoming one.

Following are my thoughts on when Architects should consider PM as their career path.
  1. A true Business Architect with the ability to map the technology strategy to align with the Business Strategy
  2. Good understanding and hopefully first hand experience interacting with the real customer (not the business units)
  3. Good understanding of revenue and business model
  4. Passionate and believe about the role of the products in the customers life (whatever they are using the product for)
  5. Ability to influence cross-functional team and get everyone passionate and focused on the product
  6. Willing to change course mid-stream based on customer/market feedback
  7. Ability to ride up and down the market roller coaster
  8. Ability to keep singularly focused on an single product/portfolio

Do not take on the role:
  1. by assuming that PM get to define the product and every one else will follow without any questions (the PM is responsible for bringing every one on board)
  2. consider whether one would be a great Architect vs. a good Product Manager (focus on what one is better at doing - a great advise given to me by my manager)
  3. do not want to deal with constant communication with customers / leadership teams
  4. assume that the grass is greener there - doing what one does best shall reap the right rewards

Just my point of view and this could also apply for taking on a role of a Business Liaison in an IT organizations.

- Yogish


Surekha Durvasula said...

Yogish - I am in complete agreement with you. You forced me to look back at my own experiences with Product managers - and when I did I can think of a couple more key differentiators that could be added on to this already great list!!


As a matter of contrasting the Sales Account Manager and Product Manager, I find the following curious differentiator!! Sales Account Managers are good at touting their product to be the end all be all elixir that addresses my every need. On the other hand, a Product Manager has to be pragmatic about presenting their product's capabilities
and in highlighting the customer pain point that it was designed to address.

Surekha -

gammydodger said...

Speaking as a product manager - and not at all as an architect (because I have never been one) ...

The most important trait of the product manager is their ability to say 'No' , to wield that negative response with force, intelligence and sensitivity and to do so leaving the audience satisfied with that response.

When faced with a single important customer demanding a new feature, a good product manager able to convince the customer that that feature might not be as critical to their business as they might believe, that providing that feature will be detrimental to the overall product roadmap that they also need, that the feature can be substituted somehow.

When faced with an Engineering organization that needs to cut scope, a good product manager is able to convince the Engineers that these features are not as big a deal as they might think, that the features are vital to the company for revenue or customer retention or that the features are an integral part of the product roadmap.

When I have worked with Product Managers who have come from Engineering or from an Architect's background - I have found them to be strong on the engineering front by definition. The good ones have an understanding of business and an empathy with the customer's business, the customer's pain and are able to 'sell' to customers a new idea or a change of course.

The most important skill an ex-architect brings in my opinion is an understanding of how a system works and the impacts on performance of business decisions. Being able to bring that consideration to a Product discussion is at the heart of our business.

So Architects, don't be discouraged, but as Yogish says, consider the role carefully, understand what it takes to be a good product manager and remember that you bring a lot to the table.

Another excellent post on Auren Hoffman's blog: Why Hiring a Product Manager is so hard

Anonymous said...

Good thoughts Yogish! I am neither a PM nor an architect but could still resonate with your thoughts. - Jayant

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