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Some Thoughts on Roles and Responsibilities

By Jim Holland

Last week Saeed wrote a great post on The Importance of Differentiated Product Management Roles. As I read the post, Saeed’s comment, “Understand the needs of these different internal (and external) groups and create differentiated roles WITHIN the Product Management organization and STAFF THEM appropriately” struck a painful chord. At the end of his post, Saeed added, “It’s also clear that the cross functional nature of Product Management poses a challenge for many organizations. What is the best way to build value in responsibilities and roles?”

To be honest, I’ve struggled with roles, responsibilities and differentiation. I often think we fixate on titles and ownership versus roles and action. In The Strategic Role of Product Management, Steve Johnson states; “Titles are meaningless; actions are meaningful.”

Back to the question… What’s the best way for Product Management and Product Marketing to approach roles and responsibilities to build and add value?

For me, it all starts with who’s Responsible and Accountable. Whether you’re a product management contributor in a small technology company, or work in a large enterprise with many product marketing and product management counterparts or lead a group or either, you have to understand what you are responsible and accountable for and who relies on your skills, talents and who supports and contributes to the goal of product success.

To determine the level of responsibility and accountability you or your team has, I’ve used a modified version of the RACI (or RASIC) model or DACI. RACI is an acronym for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed (also Supportive). The RACI Matrix enables you to identify who is responsible, accountable, consulted, or informed, for every task or action performed.The simplicity of the matrix can add clarity to product management and product marketing success.

Recently, I worked with a large team to define their roles and actions with development and marketing. In this example, we knew product management was responsible and accountable for product vision, voice of the customer activities, market requirements, positioning and strategic fit. (These will vary by organization.)

In the figure below, you’ll see we defined the major tasks the team was responsible and accountable for in yellow. These are major tasks or actions and should be defined for key roles such as product manager, product marketing, etc.

Next, you define the Roles where product management collaborates, supports, consults with or informs on a consistent basis. Depending on your organization, you may expand these categories as required.

With Tasks and Roles defined, you should define, beginning with Product Management, if you are Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed or Supporting the task.

Remember, one person is accountable. As they say in the Agile world, “there’s one throat to choke or one neck to wring” and that is the person who is responsible and accountable. Yes, product management and product marketing, that’s you depending on the role and organization.

Next, socialize this with other stakeholders and areas you interact with most. Discuss the “action” portion of the matrix and where you and or your team are responsible and accountable.

Once you’ve refined this (and their will be refinements), discuss this with the executive team. You’ll find the results bring clarity and surface the value of your role.

Please provide any comments or feedback as I recognize this is an exercise to build value. If you have experiences or artifacts to share, please do. If you like the post, please Tweet this:

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