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The Importance of Zillow's Salesforce Product Manager Layer

August 16, 2023
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In our experience, the most commonly overlooked role on an internal Salesforce team is the Business Analyst / Product Manager function.

It's an absolutely critical component to a high-performing team, especially when the group is centralized within the Engineering or Technology org, which is a necessity at the scale of a company like Zillow.

Ultimately, the Product Manager is the difference between a Salesforce team being order takers and Product Strategists.

So it's absolutely brilliant to see the importance placed on Product Managers in this team with a total count of 10.

The Role of a Salesforce Product Manager

More than most job titles in Salesforce, the Product Manager or Product Owner title is one that can mean a lot of different things.

In some organizations, the title of Salesforce Product Owner is synonymous with a Salesforce Administrator. Those individuals are primarily focused on the tactical build work that comes with scaling a particular Salesforce instance - while process optimization, gap analysis, and solutions design might play a part in the overall role, this type of individual focused more on build and less on product strategy is not the type of Product Manager we're talking about here.

When we say Product Manager, we mean the individual serving as the strateig layer between:

The job of these Product Managers is to build a long-term product roadmap, accomplished by:

  1. Understanding and representing needs of the business
  2. Monitoring changes to the business, areas Salesforce needs to evolve
  3. Defining a vision for how Salesforce is used in a given workstream
  4. Aligning stakeholders around that product vision
  5. Prioritizing new feature releases
  6. Overseeing the design, build, and deployment process

Product Management Layer at Zillow

The team of 10 Salesforce Product Managers at Zillow are far more than a tactical Salesforce Administrator.

These individuals drive the underlying decisions that make their way into the Salesforce product roadmap - it's the marriage of a Business Analyst and a Solution Architect skill set with the authority to make decisions like a Business Systems Leader.

The real value in this function comes from how you structure the team. Zillow's Salesforce PM layer spans a range of different product areas:

  1. Ad Systems
  2. B2B Frontline Technology
  3. B2C Frontline Technology
  4. Closing Services
  5. Zillow Offers
  6. Data Engineering

A Salesforce Product Manager should be a mini-CTO embedded into every mission-critical workstream that Salesforce touches.

Typically, these workstreams already have dedicated Salesforce Administrators and Developers in them - individuals that are focused on extending the functionality delivered to these end users. And the Product Manager guides all those efforts, ensuring the user needs are met today with a vision on how to architect and scale the platform in the future.