Looking sideways in the product and service manager community

People at a recent product manager career path workshop
A recent product manager career path workshop

I recently rejoined GDS after 3 years away – at the University of Bath and the Scottish government.

Back then I was an associate product manager. I’m now the full-time Head of the Product and Service Manager Community.

I’m excited to be back at GDS to serve a community of product and service managers in the UK, both in GDS and around government. It’s vital that these experts are connected with one another, their skills are shared and they stay excited about their work.

After 3 years away from GDS, things are certainly different. In this post, I’d like to share the changes I’ve noticed, explain the importance of communities of practice and invite you to get involved.

What’s new

Three years ago there were just a handful of product managers in government, and most of them worked at GDS. I was one of them. We were mostly referred to as product managers but a few of us were associate product managers. Some of our products were in beta, but most were alphas or in early discovery.

Today, product and service managers are found in government departments across the UK and at all levels. Some are in their first post-university roles. Others have experience stretching decades outside of government.

There are many live products and they have gone through several iterations since first moving into a ‘business as usual’ phase. The pace of improvement is so fast that some of yesterday’s promising new products are now being retired.

These days, product and service management is an accepted and sought-after specialism. The role is given as much weighting as designers, developers and user researchers.

Communities of practice

Other job families – technical architects, performance analysts and delivery managers – established communities of practitioners long before product and service managers.

Communities of practice help to hire people, move them to the right projects at the right time, and assist with professional development and performance management. They also meet up to share insights and practice so that product and service managers keep getting better at their jobs by learning from one another.

This is particularly important when we consider that product and service managers lead teams and are ultimately responsible for the success of their products and teams.

The product and service manager community is relatively new, so it’s taking shape, but luckily we have friends in the other communities who can help us. We can also learn from one another by spending more time talking and working together beyond our product, programme and organisational boundaries.

Let’s get together

There are lots of opportunities to get together as a cross-government community. The simplest ways to do so are our product and service manager mailing lists and Slack channels. Leave a comment if you want to be involved.

There are also regular meet-ups, such as the monthly Product People event on Monday 23 January. It’s open to people across government, so get in touch if you want to come attend or speak at another upcoming event.

While this is a good start, we can do more.

To see the way forward, we sometimes have to look sideways. I’ve been spending time with product and service managers in other communities, departments and agencies. I’ve been able to experience their approaches firsthand and talk about how we can work as a happy and productive cross-government community. But I’d love to see more.

On that note, can I buy you coffee?

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  1. Mark Favager

    Where is the event on the Monday 23 January 2017?

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    • Ross Ferguson

      Hi Mark. The event on Jan 23rd is in Aviation House. You left an email address, do you want me to send you an invite?

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  2. Jeremy Davis

    Hi Ross. Definitely interested. Mine's a flat white.

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  3. Anna-Marie Devaney

    Hi Ross. I am interested in getting involved and attending the event on the 23rd if you have details?

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    • Ross Ferguson

      Hi Anna-Marie. Great - I have your email address, so I will send you an invite to the mailing list and the event on the 23rd.

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      • Harry Weber-Brown

        Is the 23rd open to Product Managers working on Government projects, but through an external development house?

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  4. Laura DeBuys

    Mailing list, you say? Sadly, I cannot attend the event as I am an ocean away.

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  5. David Newell

    Hi Ross, sounds like a great idea!

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  6. Craig Milne

    Please could you add me to the product and service manager mailing list? Thank you.

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  7. Bruno Soares

    Could you add me in the mail list?


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  8. Emma Wassall

    Hi Ross, if anyone else is interested in attending please email DDaT Profession team:

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  9. Barbara Price

    Hi Ross, I am interested in getting involved and attending the event on the 23rd. Can you let me have the details please?

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  10. John

    Hi Ross - please could you add me to the mailing list.

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  11. Ben P

    Hi Ross, please put me down / send me details for the event on the 23rd also. Thanks!

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