Product management is a tough vertical within an organization as it crosses many of the organization teams to really do their jobs. They work on the product but to do this they need to really work with the sales and marketing team to drive the growth of the business. On the same note,they need to work closely and step in step with the product development team to ensure the product roadmap is built out and managed during execution. Alternatively,you can look at the product manager having a general role of strategy and as a result, really belongs in the realm of your chief operating officer as they are working across the organization to complete a strategic vision and coordinating resources to make this happen.
So where does this product management role best fit? The reality is that inmost smaller product teams, there is no role for product manager alone but instead it is only one of many hats that someone on the team is wearing. As a result, it will typically fall where ever the primary role of that single person resides. For example, if the founder of the product is an engineer and is driving the product roadmap, then, by default product management falls inside of the product development world. With that said, if the original product manager is closer to the business side, they may fall within the sales and marketing world.
As a company progresses and decides to create a stand alone role for a product manager, they key to success for this position is understanding that to be successful, the product manager needs to remain out of politics, favoritism and have access to resources across the company. Team feedback from support, sales, marketing and development will drive product features. Customer access is a must in order to hear the voice of the customer and drive new features and validate what the product roadmap is going to include. Therefore the role needs to fall somewhere that provides an organization wide access and not be placed at odds with one group or another for priorities.
So where in an organization accomplishes this for product management? The reality is that the product manager to be successful, needs a seat at the executive table as a VP of product management which places them as equals with the other department heads and have the ability to coordinate and report out as needed. By keeping the position at the same level as the other departments you help ensure they are balancing the needs of the organization and the customer throughout the prioritization process.