The best way to ascertain if a discipline is mainstream is to gauge the depth of controversy on related meetups. By this measure and based on 10th eBay Tech Talk,
it's safe to say that product management is well and truly established. To the point that it is if not outright boring, then at least pleasantly predictable.
Tech Talk - all good...
None of this is meant to diminish the event.[Mobilesuite (http://www2.mobilesuite.de/) is a fantastic venue, well attended. On the night it packed no fewer people than a similar event in London, for example ProductTank meetup, would. With eBay sponsoring the event, the drinks were plentiful and takeaway pizza pretty god. Nor were the speakers really a problem.
Both Lars from Mobile.de and Paul and Dominik of
[eBay Kleinanziege (http://kleinanzeigen.ebay.de/anzeigen/stadt/berlin/) delivered solid presentations explaining the product approach in their respective divisions of eBay.
The talks were well-delivered, without much surprises and with all the good bits you'd expect - Kanban, continuous integration, ubiquitous user testing, global / local maxima, 'fail fast', build-measure-learn cycles. All in all, all good.
Cross-functional teams at Kleinanziege
There was one aspect that stood out for me in eBay Kleinanziege presentation -
their 'epic pitch' project and cross-functional team approach. Everyone contributing to the pool of the ideas is hardly new in Kanban universe.
The idea of making those who propose ideas pitch them to the entire team and the product management in a pitch meeting is less frequent, but certainly not unheard of. What is less usual is to appoint those employees whose ideas do pass muster on Pitch meeting, regardless of their job description, as leaders of temporary, cross-functional team tasked with the mission to deliver this particular epic. The team members are taken off their usual tasks until the feature proposed is launched to satisfaction.
How to avoid "team assignment hell"?
The idea rather appeals, although I do wonder how does it work in practice. My
specific concern revolves around the group dynamics in such ad-hoc teams. Put
simply, how do you avoid all the problems that typically plague group of students working on a team assignment?
Just as importantly, is it fair to dump product management and team leadership responsibilities onto those that are not trained, not inclined or, frankly, not paid to do it?
Moderate, chaperone and guide
According to the speakers, the teams often end up being lead by a member of a
product management. Even if the cross-functional team lead is not from the product function, someone from product management is always there to moderate, chaperone and guide.
As per the second point, Kleinanziege's product, development and client services team all seem pretty integrated. It certainly does not sound like the mindset would be to shy away from leading or contributing to cross-functional teams.
Again, it's hard to say how well exactly that works. It it's certainly something worth hearing more about or consider experimenting with.