Good companies manage Engineering, great companies manage Product

Written by Thomas Schranz, CEO and Product at Blossom
Steve Jobs with Steve Wozniak

Over the last few months while doing customer development for Blossom I’ve talked to a lot (hundreds) of software companies.

There was one key pattern that I’ve noticed over and over again.

Some companies approach software development as an engineering management challenge. Others approach software development as a product management challenge.

Good companies manage Engineering.
Great companies manage Product.

In most companies (especially larger ones) product management is severely understaffed or doesn’t have enough political leverage.

If you have a super strong engineering team
but a weak or understaffed product team,
you will struggle.

Fred Wilson, Union Square Ventures

Putting your focus back onto managing product might sound trivial but it makes a profound difference.

Don’t starve Product Management

There is a simple reason why product management isn’t getting as much attention and political leverage as it deserves. Especially when it comes to larger companies and companies with growing pains.

Without sales, nothing would get sold.
Without engineering, nothing would get built.
Without support, customers would leave.
Without product managers? Life would be just fine. (For a while.)

Kenneth Norton, Google Ventures

Hiring great product people is easy just so easy to forget about as your company grows.

The key thing to understand here is that when you get overwhelmed in engineering management issues this often is just a symptom of a simple root cause.

Your organization has become reactive rather than proactive.

How to regain your grip on Product

Hire people who have a broad background (ux, marketing, engineering, …) and put them in charge of translating vision into strategy, strategy into tactics and tactics into execution.

You want people who are great communicators and who are able to slip into the shoes of many different roles quickly.

Re-shuffle your engineering teams and turn them into cross-functional product teams of about 3 to 7 people. This enables autonomy, increases quality and accelerates your time from idea to delivery.

Clearly set the vision and why you want to go in a certain direction.
Let your product teams figure out what and how to pull it off.

If you found this essay helpful you might want to take a look at our hand-picked product management training resources.