Every research project must start with a precisely-worded hypothesis. During an earlier stint in academia, I certainly saw attempts at hypothesis-free research. Not surprisingly, it went nowhere. (Never underestimate the power of academics to turn the interesting into the tedious.)
Therefore, it’s not enough to say, “We here at Forrester are looking into how to help product management.” You have to say why it’s worth helping them, and what the problems they face really are. Based on the impressionistic experience of being a product manager, here’s my thesis, step by step.
1. TI is immature
The technology industry may not be in its infancy, but at best, it’s in its adolescence. The shift from information technology (IT) to business technology (BT) is the industry’s growing pains. (For more details, click here.) Companies are under increasing pressure to build technology that’s immediately useful for specific users and tasks.
2. PM is at the center of BT
As the tectonic plates of business and technology push against each other, product management is one of a handful of TI professionals who live on this fault line. In fact, product managers, on a daily basis, have to maintain the bridge between business (for example, customer requirements and use cases) and technology (requirements documents for the development team, most obviously).
3. PM is immature
Product management suffers acutely from the overall immaturity of the technology industry. In a mature industry, job responsibilities are clear and standard across companies. In contrast, the job description for "product manager" varies enormously across companies.
4. Company success depends on improved PM
While many business processes in TI haven’t arrived where they should be, product management faces one of the longest journeys. Because product management has strategic value—ensuring the development team builds what customers want, and helping the rest of the company deliver it to them—lagging product management slows down the entire company.
Notice, again, that I’m talking about product management, not just product managers. Never fear, I’m still BFF to all product managers out there. Research in this area should help not only product managers, but also the people who work with them, too—all the way up to the CEO.