What Is Product Management?
Product management plays a crucial role in the creation, specification, delivery, monitoring, and enhancement of products within an organization.
It supports each stage of the product lifecycle, from conception to launch.
Product management guides the company on how to use its resources to boost competitiveness and satisfy customers. It also collaborates with different departments to help the business achieve its objectives.
To create a successful product, you should hire a Product Manager who places users at the heart of the process. A customer-centric product will outperform the competition.
Product managers ensure regular product updates and oversee all aspects of the product. Updates allow the product to keep up with technological advancements and introduce new features.
Without product management, a company might struggle to identify their target market’s needs and develop an effective product. This is why product managers are so important.
Who is a Product Manager?
A product manager is the champion, spokesperson, and caretaker of a product, ultimately responsible for its success within an organization. The product manager gets the job done if they’re empowered to make a difference and aren’t hindered by internal or external pressures.
The product manager is accountable for the product. If the project succeeds, they deserve a lot of credit. Yet, if it fails, they should accept full responsibility. As a consequence, a product manager must be a vigilant advocate for the product, constantly focusing on improving the user experience.
It’s like serving two masters: balancing the needs of customers and the business. Bridging this gap can be challenging. An effective product manager creates a vision of success for the product and rallies other stakeholders to realize it.
Product Manager vs. Product Owner
Understanding the role of “product manager” might seem straightforward, but then there’s the term “product owner.” Are these roles the same? If someone owns something, aren’t they responsible for managing it? Who’s the actual “owner”? Do they get royalties?
They’re different roles. In organizations using Agile Methodology, “product owner” serves a separate function from the product manager.
Product owners in Agile-led organizations take a tactical, practical approach to product development. They work with cross-functional Agile teams (project managers, UX architects, designers, developers, QA specialists, merchandising departments, and others) to translate the product vision into actionable tasks.
Essentially, the product owner manages the Agile backlog, not the product itself. Additionally, product owners might oversee specific components of a product instead of the whole thing.
For example, at Walmart.com, a “top of funnel” product manager might be responsible for the homepage, browsing and searching, or basket and checkout experiences, but not the entire website.
Responsibilities of a Product Manager
A product manager’s responsibilities can vary depending on many factors. Keeping in mind that a Product Manager’s purpose is to build the product, their responsibilities will change based on the company’s size and the team’s composition. The use of Agile product development can also influence a Product Manager’s role.
The following factors determine how a product manager will operate in your organization:
Technical or Not
Product Managers can be technical or non-technical, depending on the team’s skills and the company’s resources. The Product Manager might be the lead engineer, which would require a different skill set than a PM who schedules and motivates.
The smaller the team, the greater the responsibilities. Conversely, if the team is larger, the Product Manager’s role might be more specialized.
Specialist or Not
The larger the company, the more specialized the Product Manager’s job can be. At the beginning of a project, a PM might cover various tasks:
- A designer devising a solution
- An engineer building the solution
- A businessperson explaining the problem in terms of market demand and finances
- A researcher interviewing customers and surveying their satisfaction
Eventually, Product Managers’ main job will be to figure out what the best product is and pass that information on to engineers so they can build it.
Key Skills of Effective Product Managers
Top-tier Product Managers usually possess the following skills:
Product Managers convey a lot of information between business people and engineers, so they may encounter concepts they don’t entirely grasp. Effective project managers communicate and organize well, ensuring the right information gets passed on without getting lost or misinterpreted.
A Product Manager’s primary responsibility is keeping engineers and business people informed about a product’s progress so they can act. Effective project management requires communication; otherwise, you might need to find another job.
Product Managers communicate with parties who have different expertise. A PM has to adapt both the language (technical jargon) and the communication style.
Engineers value task items and problem-solving specifics, while business people prioritize profit-loss figures, high-level thinking, and user feedback. Engineers prefer the “how,” while businesspeople prefer the “why.” Product managers who can work with both will be more successful.
Empathy is an essential skill that’s often overlooked. Product Managers work with individuals possessing a wide range of personalities and specialties. Top-down management—setting deadlines and must-have features without involving others—is typically a recipe for disaster. The most effective project managers strive to understand each person with whom they work.
Some engineers may need more freedom, while some business leaders require frequent updates. Treating these individuals the same way will undoubtedly lead to pushback from at least one of them. PMs should try to understand both engineers and businesspeople, especially when their priorities differ. Engineers focus on perfecting features, while businesspeople have deadlines to meet.
B2B vs. B2C
Product managers adopt different strategies depending on whether their products are B2B (business-to-business) or B2C (business-to-consumer). Products sold to businesses (often software, services, or raw materials) are B2B, while products sold to individuals are B2C.
The main differences between a B2B and B2C product manager are:
- Sales and Client Acquisition: B2B product managers need to be mindful of long sales cycles and the product-related documentation required by marketing and sales teams. In contrast, B2C product managers might work on shortening sales cycles and creating conversion-friendly content.
- Post-Sale Customer Service: B2B product managers require a deep understanding of customer interaction and relationship-building after sales, as B2B products often need hands-on onboarding and post-sales support. Conversely, B2C product managers handle customer support more like a transaction, focusing on promptly answering customer questions.
- Roadmap: Both B2B and B2C product managers need to balance customer retention and new customer acquisition when considering new features. For B2B products, losing a customer has a much more significant impact than losing a B2C product customer.
Careers in Product Management
If you’re interested in becoming a product manager, consider these career paths:
- Entry-level: Associate or Junior Product Managers aid and assist the Product Manager.
- Mid-level: Product Manager
- Leadership: Product Leader, Chief Product Officer, VP of products – These high-level roles concentrate on an organization’s product strategy.
Product owners and technical product managers are two other product management roles. Product owners focus more on short-term objectives than product managers do on long-term goals. They concentrate on the finer aspects of product development, turning the product manager’s vision into a backlog for the engineering team.
Technical product managers usually have a background in software development. Their focus is on how the product functions and how it fits into the company’s software ecosystem, so they need more technical skills than a conventional Product Manager.
Product managers enjoy a lot of creative freedom. They’re involved in development, marketing, sales, and engineering without holding ultimate responsibility. However, it’s a high-impact role. Many product managers are held accountable for product success. Additionally, the product manager represents customers, advocates for the product, and strives to improve it. There’s no role more critical in achieving business goals than this one.
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