Product Roles: The Role of a Director of Product Management

We continue our series on Product Roles and how each role varies, while focusing on the work each Product role can play in an organization. Please keep in mind, product team’s responsibilities can be highly varied. Some organizations have parsed these job functions to other roles, sometimes across departments. The success of that parsing will vary from company to company. In this series, we will focus on what we feel the roles entail in a “typical” product organization.

In this third post of the series, we dive into the Director of Product Management role.

From our first post in the series:

Directors of Product Management look after the business of product management. They usually help oversee the cohesion of multiple product/service verticals and they should be the guiding light on the process and tools used to report the product team’s direction. They are the stabilizing and negotiating hand that ensure teams are operating with synergy. They know when to step in to support a Product Manager and they, most importantly, know when to step back from the Product Manager to let her flourish.

These people have two essential responsibilities. First, they must build a strong team of product managers. Second, they may be responsible for the company’s overall product strategy (if there is no VP) and more commonly, they oversee various products in the company’s portfolio.

The director of product management is really an enabler, mentor and one who often brings process. Their job is to guide, and remove roadblocks while establishing expectations and goals. Directors need to trust in their PM’s ability to execute and the director needs to be the uniting force that ensures their success. This role is one with influence, but often less “power” than the PM has on the product.

Establishing process, building mentor tracts, and championing learning are often some of the primary responsibilities a director will have. The key is to recognize the shift from a doer to enabler.

A typical job description for a Director of Product Manager often includes (with some added company specific, cultural fit type requirements):

  • Providing product portfolio management, mentoring and training Product Managers in best practices, and managing products as needed to support the company’s strategic goals.
  • Owning the end-to-end Product and Solution portfolio and associated financial performance with a P&L orientation.
  • Providing leadership for the product development process across Sales, Marketing, IT, and Operations.

This role is one that works across the organization and negotiates up and down to keep a Product Portfolio on track. It is demanding and time consuming, but with a strong Product Management team, it is highly rewarding when thing go right. Conversely, this person can sink a company if they are not successful.

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