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Last updated on 9/10/20

What is the role of the product manager?

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The role of the product manager is to help teams to ship products that customers love while achieving business objectives.

Although it's a very challenging role, many people who currently work as product managers describe it as the best job they have ever had. As a product manager, you will need to decide which problems you are going to solve, which users you are going to serve, which features need to be built, and (sometimes) which business model you are going to use.

what is product management?

Typically, a product manager will work with a team of developers, graphic designers, and testers. A typical tech team may have between 7 and 10 people (although teams can be bigger or smaller). The team will typically have one product manager who conducts research, interviews customers, manages stakeholders, sets the vision, defines which features will be built, tests completed features, analyzes the metrics of the product, and answers all questions that the team has.  Building consensus within the team for key decisions is important. 

The product manager lives at the intersection of design, customers, data and technology
The product manager lives at the intersection of design, customers, data, and technology

Multi-disciplinary

Product management is a multi-disciplinary role, meaning that the product manager must be able to wear several hats. The product manager must be an expert or comfortable talking to experts on the business, technology, design, and customer motivation/psychology sides of the organization. 

You can think of the product manager as someone who lives at the intersection of business, technology, design, and customers, and takes the inputs and considerations from each to shape solutions to real-world problems.

Business, Customers, Design and Technology
Business, Technology, Design, and Customers
Business

Being a product manager means making sure that the product is a successful business in and of itself. The product manager must monitor the performance of the product. The most important measurements of success could include the number of users, the time spent on site per user, the total revenue etc.  The product manager is responsible for making sure that all strategic objectives are met. đź’Ľ

You will have to work with other departments of the business, including sales teams, marketing teams, finance teams to understand their needs and helping them to understand the product (particularly new features). If working on a big product, you may have to talk to different regions around the world that each has their own regional needs. You may even have to deal with the CEO, who may easily be a major source of input into the work you do.

In addition to working with these internal stakeholders, you have to be the ultimate 'owner' of the quality of the product. Doing what everyone asks of you doesn’t always result in a good product.

Sometimes you have to "say no," and sometimes you have to find creative ways to fix the problem without using lots of the available time and resources of your team. You have to be an excellent communicator and be able to explain, trade off, and influence the key players in your organization, whether you are saying "yes" to their requests or saying "no!"

Technology

Some PMs are far more technical than others (some PM roles are even defined as “technical PMs”), but at the minimum, you will need to be able to talk with members of the engineering team and understand the limitations and capabilities of the technology that they use.

You will need to have an intuitive understanding of how complex a feature is and how long it will take to produce. Sometimes you'll also need to be able to suggest alternative approaches when a desired feature is technically too complex to implement.

The ability to discuss possible solutions with engineering teams is crucial to the role!

Design

The way that product management and design work together is a critical part of the success of a product-led company.

Sometimes, designers will start to think about potential features and experiences before the product manager does, and sometimes the product management may lead the design. Either way, the product manager will have to work with the designer to make sure that the UX (user experience) makes sense and is consistent with the needs and the features that are being built.

A "good eye" for UX is a really valuable trait to have as a product manager.

Customers

The product manager is the voice of the customer. All customers have a "job-to-be-done," and the product manager must understand target customers and what those customers are trying to do.  This understanding can be gained through interviewing potential customers, observing customers interacting with your products, and researching alternative (competitor) solutions.

Product managers don’t build features for the sake of building features, but rather so that the features that are being used are used in a way that helps customers be better at achieving important outcomes.

Being responsible for all everything that I have mentioned here may sound daunting, but I personally believe that it is the best job there is, and I also believe that you can do it. You need to be passionate. You need to love to learn continuously. And even more so, you need to be incredible at motivating and influencing people. You can do it, and it is my promise to teach you how. 

Terminology

Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement