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What is Product Management and What does a Product Manager do?

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

In the bustling world of technology and innovation, there exists a linchpin that orchestrates the conception, development, and success of a product. Enter the Product Manager, a multifaceted professional responsible for steering a product's journey from ideation to market launch. But what exactly does a Product Manager do, and why is their role so pivotal? In this overview, we will simplify the role of product management and explain the responsibilities of a product manager.

Product management is a dynamic role at the intersection of business strategy, technology, and user experience. It involves overseeing the entire lifecycle of a product, from its inception to development, launch, and ongoing optimization. A product manager acts as the bridge between various teams, including engineering, design, marketing, and sales, ensuring everyone is aligned with the product's vision and goals. They are responsible for setting the product strategy, defining features, prioritizing tasks, and u

ltimately delivering a product that meets customer needs and drives business growth. This role demands a blend of leadership, communication, analytical, and problem-solving skills, making it a pivotal position in any company striving to create successful, user-centric products.

Since a product manager touches so many disciplines, their work doesn't really fit neatly into any traditional categories like engineering or marketing. They're not writing code or designing marketing decks, but they do handle tasks related to these areas. Their responsibilities span from high-level strategy to hands-on operations. To understand what these responsibilities look like, we can split a product manager's work into 3 main buckets: leadership, execution and product sense.

1. Leadership: Shaping the product vision and team

Product Managers own the product vision and drive it forward. It's not about dictating it, but about crafting, refining, and sharing it with the team. This involves a complex dance of collaboration with engineering, design, marketing, operations, and executives. If the vision is off, even flawless execution won't fix it.

As a PM, you lead through influence rather than formal authority. Building respect among your team members is key. This can stem from a deep understanding of customers or technical expertise. It's about using your strengths to drive the vision forward.

2. Execution: Turning Ideas into Reality

Translating ideas into actual products is the acid test for a PM. Ideas are abundant, but execution is where PMs prove their worth. This role demands a set of skills ranging from goal setting to prioritization and effective communication.

  • Goal Setting: As a product manager, you're responsible for setting and achieving the right goals for your product and team. This involves a careful balance of feature prioritization and relentless communication of your goals and plans.

  • Prioritization: Without sharp organizational skills, you'd be overwhelmed by the constant stream of tasks. Successful PMs are adept at organizing and prioritizing tasks, big and small. You have to be able to take a product vision, sequence it into key components, features, and stories and prioritize what features to work on and what tasks need to be done now, later, and never.

  • Communication: Perfect prioritization is useless if it's not communicated effectively. PMs are the hub of the wheel, connecting various functions. If communication falters, the whole operation does too. As a PM, you need to be able to articulate your roadmap to the engineering team and speak the sales and marketing language so your sales and marketing teams know what features will be built when and what to promise and market to customers. PMs work with a lot of stakeholders and therefore you need to learn how to speak different languages. You have to be adept at building and presenting decks to senior leadership, showing reports and dashboards to your business teams, and technical diagrams with your engineering team.

3. Product Sense: Guided by Insights

In dynamic environments, the product vision evolves. PMs must provide the right insights to adapt. These insights come from customer feedback, new technical capabilities, and market analysis. They are essential because they help validate that the team is pursuing the correct path (e.g., the feature we recently launched is increasing new subscriber conversion by X%) or informing the team about potential market, consumer or product changes that need to be addressed (e.g., the market appears to be shifting toward digital apps with more focused feature sets). These insights often fall into one of three categories:

  • Analytics and Data: Using your product's data and market insights to make informed decisions.

  • Customer and Market Needs: Understanding customer pain points and market gaps to deliver a product that addresses them.

  • Technical Capabilities: Leveraging new technical possibilities to enhance your product.

This is the PM cycle: Set a vision, execute, gather insights, and start again. Each PM role may have unique nuances, but this cycle remains constant.

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