Movie stars, celebrities, and sportspeople have managers to take care of their business affairs. So, why shouldn’t a superstar product? And if every product can aim to be a superstar, then they will all need their own Product Manager.
And that’s what we’ll look at in this article; the role of a Product Manager:
- Why we need them
- What they do
- The breadth of their role
So, let’s dive into the world of Product Management.
Why Do we Need Product Managers?
The product management role has evolved from that of Brand Manager. This began in the 1930s, at Procter and Gamble, as an off-shoot from the world of advertising for consumer goods. Soon, every brand of packaged item would have its own Brand Manager. (You might like our article on Branding)
In the world of technology and software, this is equally important. But the needs of the role are slightly different. And the biggest one revolves entirely around communication.
The engineers who create products speak a different language and have different modes of thinking from the customers whom their products serve. And what of the commercial people responsible for:
Often, engineers have very different concerns from these other professionals. Sometimes, they have and show very little interest in the commercial aspects of their product. They want to produce something elegant, innovative, and clever.
Enter the Product Manager
So we need someone who can hold together the three disparate interests of:
- Technology and engineering
- Commercial and business interests
- Customer needs and preferences, and the experience customers get
This is the role of the Product Manager. Their job is to bridge the gaps between these communities. They take responsibility for the welfare of their product, acting as:
- Strategist for its future
- Communicator of its needs and capabilities (inwards to the business and outwards to the market)
- Keystone that holds together all of the stakeholders and disciplines that it needs to relate to
A Product Manager will therefore measure her or his success by the success of the product they manage.
What is Product Management?
The role of the product manager is principally to form the strategic direction for their product. This means overseeing its:
- Improvement cycle
And they must also act as an advocate for their product both internally and externally.
As an internal advocate for their product, a Product Manager will fight to secure the resources it needs for its:
- Improvement cycle
This means pitching for commercial support from all the organisation’s functions and departments – often in competition with other products.
A key part of the role is therefore often one of data analysis and forecasting. Often, Product Managers have a direct P&L (Profit and Loss) responsibility for their product. They might operate like ‘mini business owners’.
Making a product profitable is, therefore, a key concern for Product Managers. So, the product management role will often encompass the marketing and promotional responsibilities that Brand Managers have always had.
But the role must go beyond advocating for the product in the market. Product Managers must also listen to the Voice of their Customer (see our article on VOC: Voice of the Customer). Gathering market intelligence and understanding their customers’ needs and priorities is a central part of the product management role. And it cycles back to becoming an internal advocate for those views – as a way of steering the product strategy to make a more profitable product.
The final thing that a Product Manager may take responsibility for is overseeing the customer support that follows sales. It certainly makes sense that they have an involvement in this, because:
- all forms of customer service have a profound impact on how the market sees the product
- through customer support, you learn about the product’s strengths and shortcomings, and also emerging customer needs that the product cannot presently meet
You may like our article on Customer Care – BeyondCustomer Service.
How to Be a Product Manager
Hang on. Woah there! I’ve never been one. So, all I can do is list out some of the duties of Product Management. Not all Product Managers will have all of these aspects to their role. And neither do I claim that this is a complete list of the things a Product Manager could do as a part of their job. But it’s a strong starting place for understanding what a Product Manager does.
- Product Research
- Gathering and analysing product- and market-related data
- Capturing feedback and ideas from customers and potential customers
- Product Strategy
- Developing a long-term vision for the product
- Prioritising features and requirements for present and future development
- Creating a Product Roadmap for the future of the product
- Maintaining a release plan for production, testing, and release of new features and capabilities
- Product Development
- Defining product differentiators to separate the product from its competition
- Co-ordinating the development and testing of new features and capabilities
- By the way, we have an article on Product Development
- Commercial Co-ordination
- Working with teams from finance, customer service, sales, logistics, and marketing
- Product Promotion
- Product Support
- Working with after-sales and customer care team to support customers in using the product
What is Your experience of Product Management?
We’d love to hear your experiences, ideas, and questions. Please leave them in the comments below.