Ask An Earthling: Do Product Managers Need To Be Domain Experts?

Whether the domain is health care, agriculture, tourism or large-animal handling, product managers are expected to take a deep dive into the business area that they are serving. We talked with Earthling Product Manager Linda Brudz to get her thoughts on the value of domain expertise in product management.

Technology, User Experience, and Domain

Product management is really about three different aspects of a product: 1) the technology – how the digital product is going to be built; 2) the user experience, essentially the user design because that is the product in the end; and, 3) business domain. In a way, the question about domain expertise gets at one area of product management which is: “Do I understand this business well enough to produce a successful product?” It’s an excellent question and actually all three of those areas (technology, UI/UX and domain) come up for product managers.  

Jack of Several Trades

In reality, most product managers are generally more in one camp than the other but you have to have some level of confidence in all three areas, but this also means you’re not necessarily an expert in any of them either. There are probably people who know the business better than you or have great insight into the technology or can do a better UI design than you, but in terms of the domain, there are lots of examples of people that started companies with no business domain knowledge whatsoever.  

Research Is Key

Does it help to know your business domain? Of course, especially in a sector like healthcare where there are so many regulations. And you certainly want to know what your competitors are doing, otherwise, you’re unable to determine a product differentiator. But a lot of that can be researched. You probably won’t know the ins and outs of your business if you’re new to the business domain, particularly in terms of detail processes but it’s not always necessary to have an intensely detailed level of knowledge, but it will definitely require a lot of research.