How has the product manager persona changed over the past 20 years?

The short answer is that most product managers today come into their role from technical backgrounds. 20 years ago most product managers came from customer-facing roles like sales, pre-sales, professional services and account management. That shift means that today’s product managers need to work harder at three things to make sure they’re delivering value to the organization.

  1. Flip the switch from HOW to WHAT & WHY
    This is probably the hardest thing to do for most technical people because it’s at the opposite end of their comfort zone. Great product managers are far more comfortable identifying customer business goals and obstacles/problems whereas technical people are more comfortable solving problems.
  2. Knowledge of the Market & Customers
    Anyone coming from a customer-facing role has instant credibility inside the organization because they’ve been involved with many customers across many markets and have great perspective on what customers are trying to accomplish, why those goals are important, the biggest obstacles they face and how they’re dealing with those obstacles. Today’s product managers should take every possible opportunity to interact with prospects and customers to improve their knowledge and credibility. It makes every part of the job easier.
  3. Be More Assertive
    If the product management function is more knowledgeable than every other discipline on the markets and customers, it can be more assertive in terms of driving priorities and investment decisions without so much arm-chair quarterbacking from everyone else!

What’s your read on the changing product manager persona?