Great companies are built on great products.
But a great product is a result of the mixture of the best engineering, design, and business processes.
Though the term product manager is in use for quite a long time in silicon valley, it’s only been a decade since it started making noise here.
What is a product manager?
Before we delve into what a product manager does, why it is vital to have a product manager, and how the role of a PM is changing over time, let’s look into some interesting definitions by the product folks to understand what a product manager is.
A product manager is someone passionate about user experience, technology, and business and skilled enough to effectively uphold the respective teams together.
Thus the product management veteran, Martin Erickson explains the concept using a Venn diagram
The product manager lies in the intersection between these three roles but not limited to them.
But a common misinterpretation among people is that a product manager should be able to meticulously code and develop products that fulfill the customer needs. Is that so? No.
A product manager should be able to understand the technology well and be able to take decisions carefully. All that is expected from a PM is to be experienced in any one of the fields and be familiar with others.
Likewise, Deep Nishar, former Vice President of product at Linkedin puts this forward as A great product manager has the brain of an engineer, the heart of a designer, and the speech of a diplomat.
What does a product manager do?
Product development is a process in itself and it has a lot of steps from concept ideation to development, testing, and taking it to the right audience. A product is the outcome of the efforts of different teams and product managers are the ones to analyze different customer touchpoints and set the right direction for the team.
Often, we have heard PMs be called as the CEO of the products.But a product manager should be mindful of finding the balance between a coach who guides the players on the field and the boss who drives the team as well.
A Product manager dives deep into the customer needs, sets the vision, defines what success looks like, and makes sure the team achieves the goals. Simply, they act as a bridge that connects the users and the internal teams at every phase of the process.
Does a company need a product manager?
A big yes. But why?
- Imagine working day and night to come up with a product that you think sells like crazy but doesn’t meet the customer’s needs. Seth Godin says Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers. But how do we do that? The PM comes to the rescue. The product manager researches over and over the market, what the customer wants, and the problem you are trying to solve. This makes sure the product is aligned with the market needs ensuring customer satisfaction maximizing the returns of the company.
- Usually, in medium to large organizations, different teams i.e, Technology, Marketing, Sales, Support work together to achieve the planned outcomes. But it also leads to a lot of brainstorming inside and everyone developing a new approach for customer requests. The PM acts as the thread that ties the diverse internal teams together and makes the right decision.
- With hundreds of customer requests coming in, it is important to prioritize the right things at the right time. The PM is responsible for taking in the customer feedback, converting it into actionable data, and delivering it to respective teams thus acting as the voice of customers inside the company.
Finally, the role of Product managers is constantly evolving and it is not possible to describe it with specific responsibilities like the other roles.
But irrespective of the size of the organization, PM plays a crucial role in the complete process of product development.
To summarize, product managers talk to the customers and translate the requirements to the tech team, revise them, express it in the features and again go back to the customers. This is an endless cycle and the PM is responsible to pull all the teams together in the organization.