Debate

Which is a More Important Stakeholder for Product Management?

When you’re a PM, picking favorites is probably not a best practice. Working across departments and building consensus is a delicate business, and you don’t want to alienate any stakeholder by making them feel that their input, needs, or work are lesser than another’s.

But still, we couldn’t help ourselves.

So we asked in our poll this week: which is a more important stakeholder for product management? Marketing or engineering?

Maybe it’s that we didn’t give you the choice, or maybe the engineering lobby worked hard, but 80% of you think that engineering is a more important stakeholder. This figure was surprising because our debaters were actually a lot more equivocal. They’ll often say “it depends,” but this time it was really more nuanced than that. In fact, while they were generally in agreement with each other, they each seem to approach the question differently.

What do you think? Are you outraged by the lack of love for marketing? Tell us in the comments.

They're all important

Marketing and engineering are equally important. Product management fuels both engineering and marketing with market data: engineering with data that informs the products that should be built, and marketing with data to drive momentum in the market.  Also, I think starting to categorize teams by “more important” stakeholders could be detrimental to the team – all roles are important and have their place.  

Kirsten Butzow
Product Coach, Pragmatic Marketing
It's cyclical

You start by observing the market to find needs and opportunities and then work with engineering to make the best solutions, they are the makers. Sales and marketing are your extended eyes and ears. But you can talk to engineering first and get great ideas first as well. It is a cycle!

Hubert Palan
CEO, ProductBoard
Engineering (for me)

There’s no need to differentiate the two stakeholders by importance. However, I personally have more face-time and a closer relationship with engineering than marketing, but this may be due to our team size. (We also don’t yet have a product marketer which might play into that). For me, the engineering team is one I interface with daily and I sync with marketing leadership regularly for more strategic conversations.

Holly Kennedy
Head of Product, 15Five
Sales > Dev

I concur that prioritizing stakeholders can be a risky maneuver, a huge part of the PM role is the ability to dynamically prioritize given ever-changing factors. That said, one of my PM mentors early on in my career told me that if sales and dev are both asking for your time simultaneously, always respond to sales first and get back to dev as soon as you can.

Patrick Tickle
CPO, Planview
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