The (Abbreviated) History of Product Management

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Today we explore the history of the Product Manager from it's early ideation by Neil McElroy to it's growth at Hewlett-Packard thru it's maturation at Microsoft and into today. We talk with former Microsoft Project Manager, Ellen Chisa, Former Microsoft Engineer (and 55th hire), Mark Zbikowski and Matt LeMay, the Author of Product Management in Practice, about this evolution over the past 80 years.
For Neil McElroy the Brand Men were essentially his manifesto on what would become a product manager today. Their responsibilities ranged from tracking sales to managing the product, advertising and promotions. They were to “take full responsibility” for the brands implementation of advertising and sales and take a ‘huge weight’ off of the sales managers who were both ideating and implementing growth strategies.

Bill Hewlett and David Packard interpreted the Brand Man ethos as putting decision making as close as possible to the customer, and making the product manager the voice of the customer internally. In the book The Hewlett-Packard Way this is credited with sustaining Hewlett-Packard’s 50 year record of unbroken 20% year-on-year growth between 1943 and 1993.

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