Reporting structure for high-performance product teams

Resources, Organizational


Successful product teams drive innovation by receiving input from a variety of stakeholders, including sales, marketing and customers — and in many organizations, the product management team reports to the CTO. While this arrangement is efficient for early-stage companies that undergo frequent strategy pivots, it may cause significant issues as the company grows, including:

  • Lack of management visibility into the progress of product initiatives
  • Misalignment between technology investments and market strategy
  • Chaotic or inconsistent prioritization process
  • Product features that are over-designed for edge cases
  • Proliferation of skunkworks and engineering initiatives with poorly defined return on investment.

Crosslake practitioners have noted that companies that achieve industry-leading Corsis scores related to the software development process consistently feature a product management team that is positioned as an internal customer of the software engineering group, reporting into a non-technology business executive, such as the COO or CEO. This structure fosters a healthy tension between product and technology, improves accountability for the technology spend, and results in efficient prioritization and improved communication with business stakeholders.

In addition, once this change has been made, we’ve observed that industry leaders will also embed product managers as active participants in the entire development process, rather than passively managing requirements.

Corsis benchmarking data illustrates that this simple structural change can create high-performing product teams and create significant improvements in accountability, innovation, visibility and alignment between the product strategy and the technology team. Adding a strong, independent product ownership role will also enhance communication between the business and the technology organization, improving corporate culture along the way by alleviating the frustrations commonly experienced by business stakeholders.