We know that a PM role is important from both a startup and an enterprise perspective. In our last blog, we covered why a PM role at a startup is essential, and what it generally entails. For the purpose of this blog, we’re going to look at the differences between PM roles in both global enterprises and startup companies.

When it comes to smaller startup companies and large enterprises, the differences in a PM role are seen in several areas. Of course, there are still some similarities for both; however, in most cases, the organization’s size has a lot to do with how the PMs tend to differ. Let’s take a better look:

Responsibilities & Decision Making 

Generally, working for a smaller startup organization, regardless of your position, means a smaller staff, contractors, or a DIY scenario. With that comes added responsibilities and often employees who wear multiple hats due to fewer team members and resources. So, you’ll need to be ready to get creative, make quick decisions, and prioritize tasks accordingly. For a startup PM, having an extensive responsibility and task list isn’t uncommon. It often consists of several different duties like consumer and market research, product design, coordinating development tasks, and identifying problems and solutions. For startups in the preseed or seed phase, your focus is likely on a single product and its flagship launch. From there, many early-stage startups begin to build a product portfolio and increase PM responsibility for overseeing the development of multiple products. 

In an enterprise setting, however, the process of making decisions and managing responsibilities tends to look a little different as it’s more specialized to focus on specific tasks and usually takes much longer to have a decision passed and finalized. ProductPlan provides us with a great example of how a PM role can be at a large enterprise organization like Amazon™. “Amazon™ has many PMs working on Alexa–that product might need a PM to oversee its speech-recognition software, another to oversee its search functionality, and still, others to manage the physical Alexa product, its built-in speaker technology, and other facets of the product.”


As we mentioned, the decision-making process is usually quite different between a startup PM and an enterprise PM, specifically when it comes to prioritizing roadmaps. In fact, according to a ProductPlan survey, one of the biggest challenges that startup PMs face is setting roadmap priorities with no marketing team members to conduct market research. Small startups are working toward growing their brand and products’ market share, while larger established enterprises are usually already well-established within the product market. As we previously mentioned, startup PMs are accustomed to wearing multiple hats in the development process, including conducting market research. So, in most cases, a startup PM needs to compile as much data as possible before the product launch and well after; focusing their roadmapping efforts on research and innovation, quickly improving their products at the lowest cost, and releasing new versions that meet consumer and market needs. Ultimately keeping roadmaps shorter and more focused on a quicker release. 

For enterprise PMs, maintaining the success of a product and making the right improvements is often a much more in-depth process; involving more internal parties during development. So, in the case of road mapping at an enterprise-level, you’re likely to deal with competing agendas, more approvals, and overall, a longer process. “Larger companies tend to involve many more people, often across multiple departments, in the development of their products. This coordination takes time and requires synchronization across many teams. So these big enterprises generally plan farther out for their products, and create roadmaps with longer timeframes — sometimes several years into the future.” 

Internal Communication

Product Management Insider contributor, Karen Ho, states that one of the most significant differences between a startup and enterprise PM role is the internal communication process and how quickly product processes can be executed. “You can execute fast with a company of 50. You just need to speak to a handful of people to communicate the release. It’s much easier to keep everyone in the loop in what each other is doing. Such communication can be informal too.” 

She continues to explain that this is quite the opposite of PM in a larger enterprise-sized organization, and the internal communication process is often much more in-depth. The product process in an enterprise setting generally requires various forms of communication. You’re working with different departments, team members, and stakeholders. In fact, for larger companies, it’s not uncommon for the product team to create a stakeholder map that outlines what parties should be involved and consulted during the process. Ultimately, helping a PM better navigate through the internal bureaucracy.   

The size of an organization has a lot to do with how a PM role works. It can also play a role in what type of product you’re developing. Next time, we’ll highlight the differences between PM for a B2B and B2C product.

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