Product Management Handbook


A white label product management handbook for government digital services

View the Project on GitHub scottcolfer/product-management-handbook

Origins of the role of Product Manager

Why are we called ‘product managers’? Product management has existed since at least the 1930s and grew from ‘brand management’. Companies like Proctor and Gamble had many brands of the same product and had typically focussed on their market leader and ignored the others. They decided to start running each brand like a mini-business in its own right, led by a brand manager, and profits increased as a result. Product managers looked after genuine products, like soap, when the profession started, hence the title ‘Product Manager’.

Reading: The History and Evolution of Product Management Martin Eriksson

The Scrum Framework published in 2002 took the Agile Manifesto for Software Development, and tried to define what Product Management looked like when purely applied to a software development team. The resulting role is called ‘Product Owner’. This role is useful for junior Product Managers working in Scrum teams but does not cover the full scope of product management. Unfortunately, many people confuse the Product Owner role and the Product Manager role, which can sometimes pigeon-hole product management within software development teams. In reality, product management is a business strategy role that optimises the overall value of a ‘thing’: this is as likely to involve marketing and communication as it is to involve a software development.

Reading: The product manager is dead. Long live the value manager Scott Colfer