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6 min read

Should product marketers own the product map?

Product Marketing | Articles

Product marketing and product management - a match made in heaven… until you ask who should own what. 😉

This time, we’re discussing an age-old question - who should own the product roadmap?

Our CEO Richard King reached out to the product marketing community on LinkedIn to discover whether they feel like they should be more involved in the product roadmap, or, whether they should own it completely.

So, let’s dive into this discussion a bit further.

If you’re reading this and shouting at your screen “but, Charley, what is a product roadmap? And why is it even important?!”, take a brief intermission to read this article (which includes a very lovely presentation) by Lindsay Boyajian Hagan, VP of Marketing at Conductor that answers just that - and more.

Do product marketers own the product roadmap?

To spur this discussion, Richard King set up a poll that received just over 1,000 votes, asking “have you owned a product roadmap whilst working in a product marketing role?”

When the poll closed, we found that 37% of PMMs said they owned the roadmap, 13% said they didn’t own the roadmap and had no influence in it whatsoever, 35% said they didn’t own it but had a little influence, and then the rest (15%) said they also didn’t own it but had lots of influence.

It’s reassuring to know that most product marketers felt they either were in charge of the roadmap or at least had some influence in it.

Ultimately, a product roadmap is a plan of action that aligns everyone within the organization on the product’s journey from start to finish.

With this, how is a product marketer to know what they’re marketing, who should be getting involved when a product is supposed to be launched, and so on if they’re not - at a bare minimum - included in the process?

Considering this poll was rather split in how much influence a product marketer should have in the product roadmap, it’s still not clear how involved in the process you should be.

Should product marketers own the product roadmap?

So, with this all being said, here lies the most important question: should product marketers own the product roadmap, and if not, how involved should they be?

Let’s take a look at what the community had to say…

“When it's done well, PMM and PM are tied at the hip, working together. At the end of the day, someone has to be the decision maker on priorities after synthesizing all the various inputs. That should still sit with product management.
“But I do believe the two functions should work a lot more closely than they do in most companies.”
John Fontenot, Director of Product Management at Lendio

“Product marketing can't do its job if it has to own the roadmap.
“Owning the roadmap (ideally) requires interacting with customers and stakeholders 80% of your day to learn about their problems, defining the problems to be solved, connecting to the business reasons why, and then working with a fully empowered product dev team to design a solution.
“Product marketing is way too heavy in itself to be able to do all of that effectively.”
Jason Conrad, VP of Platform Commercialization at Palmetto

“Successful GTM strategies require a company to identify the right positioning and market opportunities.
“With the research involved as part of that process, PMMs will be able to identify where the product can win in the category (or what it takes to build a new category), and that insight must be fed into product roadmap decisions.
“Subsequently, a PM needs to be focused on prioritizing the right features and allocating resources effectively based on the information they have on hand - not to mention identifying opportunities within their existing product usage data.
“All that to say, alignment between the two functions is paramount; the more information/data they have access to, the better the roadmap decisions will be.”
Brian Yam, Head of Marketing at Paragon

“[PMMs] shouldn’t own it (unless you’re in a startup where the two roles are essentially merged, then it’s a necessity until you hit proper scale-up mode), but PMMs should have an ongoing dialogue, understanding, and influence over what’s happening in the product roadmap — based on the data collected and the market results achieved.
“This is especially true when it comes to the subscription management, user activations and getting users habitually using the product and clawing back churned out customers, where a mix of comms, incentives, and functionality need to work in sync.”
Hamish Wyatt, Managing Director at Product Partners

“Not own - influence. We need to bring the commercial and market perspective to bear to either advocate for better value creation and delivery, or to support PMs in maintaining the integrity of a commercially viable roadmap (i.e. preventing top-down disruption of a roadmap to accommodate one-off pet projects, for example).
“If it's not going to create value for the consumer, create/convert pipe or drive adoption, we should be asking questions as to why it's on the roadmap and adjust GTM accordingly.”
Ashir Badami, Strategic Marketing Advisor

“I don't think product marketing should own the roadmap, but they should be working as partners with the product team to prioritize items and bring product/feature suggestions to the table.
“For example, in my role at Liquid, I highlighted bottlenecks in both the B2B and B2C funnel that were losing us a considerable amount of money and partnered with the Head of Product to get it into the roadmap and specced out. I learned how they did things and it was very clear who owned what and we celebrated the wins together.”
Emily Rose Dallara, Marketing Advisor at Lifetise

“Product marketing can’t own the roadmap. Managing the roadmap is a full-time job with all the “sexy” strategy stuff being like 10% of it. The rest being juggling multiple priorities with limited resources, missing deadlines due to dependencies and blockers, and being under extremely hard pressure to deliver.”
Anatolii Iakimets, Senior Manager of Product Marketing at Bold Commerce

“Marketing should be at the forefront of helping to determine market trends, current and future customer requirements, and help position a new offering against current and future competition, and assure new product fit and additional requirements by route to market.
“In a company that respects marketing and its value, then the PMM would own the product roadmap.”
Brian Silverman, Director of Channel Sales and Partner Marketing at TekMonks

“It’s a roadmap for a reason. If the role of the PMM is well scripted, then each function will perform its tasks.
“On the plus side, marketing is influential by definition and true passion will come across by taking more involvement.
“But officially, if you have too many cooks in the kitchen, you can guess the outcome.”
Sorana McCarron, Marketing Manager of Portfolio Campaigns at IHG Hotels & Resorts

“If the PMM is truly the voice of the customer their influence on the road map should carry weight but it has to be collaborative as the PM will be able to evaluate what's realistic from an engineering point of view. Cross-departmental communication and collaboration are always key.”
Matthew Charles Morton, Marketing Manager at Carmoola

“PMM and PM need to be tied at the hip when it comes to deciding what features/functions to build in order to assess the value that customers need/want/will truly benefit from.
“PM should ultimately own it, but PMM should be part of the process from the beginning.”
Jason A. Lane, Director of Product Marketing at Snyk

“The two functions should work really closely together in order to develop the roadmap - after all what guides the roadmap are customer and market insights, which are core to product marketing.
“However PMs need to own the roadmap as they need to drive product development and ultimately are responsible for putting products ‘on-the-shelf’.”
Yi Lin Pei, Director of Product Marketing at Teachable

TL;DR

The general consensus is that product managers should be the ones to own the product roadmap, but product marketers definitely need input from the start.

We’re going to leave you with a quote from Kranthi Kiran, Founder of ThoughtFlow, who sums it up quite nicely:

“If the roadmap were a real map, product marketing would be the compass. It does not own but gives direction to the journey.”

What do you think - do you agree with this statement?

Be sure to join our Slack community and let us know or comment below to continue the discussion further!

Written by:

Charley Gale

Charley Gale

Charley is a Junior Copywriter at Product Marketing Alliance. She has a passion for creating new content for the community. She's always open to new ideas, so would love to hear from you!

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Should product marketers own the product map?