Product managers oversee the entire product lifecycle from the planning stage to the marketing of finished products. The product manager’s job includes defining the product vision, developing the core positioning for the product, and providing important leadership to the various specialist teams involved in delivering the product. To consistently deliver value to customers, a lot of foresight is needed in this role.
Product managers are often referred to as ‘product CEOs’, whereas a more accurate description is the term ‘product leader’. To be an effective product leader, you have to manage the combination of business, technology, and user experience (UX) to achieve your product goals. A good product manager must have expertise in at least one of these fields, but understanding all three is essential for success.
Who should become a product manager?
Product engineers who switch to product manager roles bring a deep understanding of the product development process. The experience gathered in past roles improves communication with the teams and helps in setting clear product objectives. Their technical experience makes it easier for the engineering team to trust their leadership. Deep knowledge of software development can be beneficial in a product manager role.
A non-technical background, however, is not a barrier. A good number of product managers moved into a product management role from marketing, sales, and engineering backgrounds. To succeed, you have to take your time to learn how things work. The main aim of product managers is to create value. The experience acquired from previous non-technical roles can be an asset to value creation, as it gives a unique perspective.
Product managers must have great organizational skills. Some teams may not report directly to you, despite this, you have to keep track of all projects at all times. The ability to coordinate people and activities well is an invaluable skill for a product manager to have.
Cross-functional collaboration is very valuable in product management. The product manager ensures every team understands the product goals and their role in achieving these goals. This makes it much easier for the teams to be on the same page and work towards a common goal.
Responsibilities of a product manager include:
Understanding the audience
This is an integral part of the product manager’s responsibilities. Understanding the target audience’s needs, helps to ensure the product is useful, and has a ready market. This insight can be gained from conducting market surveys. A deep understanding of both the market and competitors is important to improve the current offered product and to plan for new products.
A product manager is responsible for product vision and strategy. A good product manager understands market requirements, and defines what the product goals are. To succeed, you must understand the business case of a product, including features and requirements, and must be able to explain it to the teams. A deep understanding of the product vision will give the teams confidence in your leadership.
Strategy should influence every decision you make. You should not make decisions on impulse. Excellent product managers rely on the existing product goals and ensure that the teams do not lose focus.
Building strategic roadmaps
Building a roadmap is the responsibility of the product manager. It is an important communication tool. A roadmap shows exactly how you intend to reach your product goals and objectives. A roadmap can help the engineers and designers understand the exact timing and order of important work. Another roadmap can be used to communicate your progress and timeline to senior executives. An effective roadmap helps the teams stick to the product vision and deliver the right results.
Organizations frequently receive new ideas for products from various sources. Product managers should create a process to store, evaluate, and process new product ideas to deliver value to customers. To excel in your role, ensure that the product planning and development processes make effective use of feedback and requests. It is not possible to please everyone, or accommodate every idea. Develop a prioritization framework and learn how to say “no” or “not now.”
Building the product
A product manager is ultimately responsible for the product. It is important to communicate the goals and objectives to all the teams and ensure that they deliver according to plan. You should run beta and pilot programs so assess your product before releasing it to the market.
A product manager has to set the priorities for the teams. Ranking product features against strategic goals and objectives will help you set your priorities. You are responsible for selecting the features that make it to the customers. Rely on data to define the desired user experience and technical specifications. You may interview customers, or invite them to test prototypes to get their opinion.
Monitor analytics for the product
Great product managers are result-oriented. Collect data about how your product is performing. Analyze the data collected and make observations. Pay close attention to feedback from clients, read research reports, and monitor market trends. Compare the performance of the product to the goals you set for the product and look for ways you can improve the product.