Check out our 2021 update "What is Product Management in startups and technology companies?"
In this article you’ll learn:
- What is Product Management at a tech company
- The key responsibilities of a Product Manager
- What you need to be a successful Product Manager
- Why is Product Management an interesting role for Consultants and Bankers
- Recommended readings and resources
“The product manager of today is increasingly the mini-CEO of the product.”
They set the product vision & strategy, while leading a diverse team (engineers, designers, marketeers, etc) in delivering the right product to the market. They define the product roadmap, including features and requirements, and they articulate the business rationale behind it. They are responsible for articulating the ‘what’ and working with the engineering team to build a successful product.
In order to deliver the right product to the market, product managers need to be user experts. They constantly analyse users needs and identify potential future needs. As the figure below suggests, their expertise lies in the intersection between the business, technology and the user experience.
It is critical for product managers to be good at taking and analysing feedback. Feedback comes not only from the users, but also from the engineers, the marketers and virtually every other stakeholder. Product managers are skilled at collecting feedback, filtering out the noise, and prioritising what is most important to act on.
Another key requirement for product managers is to have exceptional organisational skills. These come in very handy while dealing with different teams who don’t report directly to them. In addition, product managers need to stay on top of diverse projects at any given time, e.g., product launch, developing new products, conducting customer research, strengthening relations with key stakeholders.
Product managers at tech firms are tasked with building products for customers or internal use. Although the main goal of product managers is to increase the business value from the product, the responsibilities and skills required can differ widely depending on whether they manage a software product (e.g., PayPal, LinkedIn) or a hardware product (e.g., FitBit, Square).
When it comes to software products, knowledge of software development (i.e., coding) could be highly beneficial. PMs lead teams of software engineers and speaking their language helps to understand the nature of work and managing overall timelines and expectations. For this reason, some companies require their product managers to know hard skills such as coding.
Another factor impacting responsibilities and scope of work is the stage of the company (i.e., early-stage vs later-stage). In early-stage companies, the PM is responsible for a small team and for a big chunk of the product or even for the entire product. During the later stages, with larger teams and more complicated products, the PM will be responsible for smaller pieces of the product. For instance, PMs at LinkedIn are responsible for small sections of one of the sub-products (e.g., the jobs filters of LinkedIn Recruiter).
It’s important to note that product management is quite different from product marketing. Product marketing managers are responsible for articulating all the products features into customer-facing messaging. They are tasked with giving product demonstrations, delivering presentations to customers and prospects, as well as creating marketing collateral. They define the product for market understanding. Product managers are responsible for the earlier stages of the product life cycle.
Responsibilities of a Product Manager
Understanding the audience
This is the core part of the product manager’s responsibilities. Understanding and analysing the target audience’s current and future needs to ensure your product solves any need or problem. This insight can be gained from conducting surveys, focus groups, and testing prototypes.
Build an understanding of the market (landscape) and the competitors
An important task for successfully persuading the audience to use your product and not the competitors. A thorough understanding of both the marketing and competitor landscape becomes crucial while analysing the current offered product/ service and planning for the next product.
Build a strategy and tie it to the business model
This responsibility highlights the importance of understanding the business model. It is essential for the product manager that the product strategy matches the business model and the results are generating desired revenues.
Product design phase
Important to understand and communicate to all the teams your goal with the product being designed. This includes figuring out the user flow followed by building a prototype and testing this prototype with the segmented focus group and finally using their feedback to improve the product.
Building the product
When working with various different teams, remind yourself and your teams that they’re working towards your vision of the product and ensuring that the product is solving the user problem.
How to take the product to the market
Having a product that does not sell is of no use to the user or your firm. Therefore analyse why new users should adopt your product and communicate these reasons to the audience.
Monitoring the analytics for the product
Gather customer feedback and analyse how and where you can improve the product.
What does it take to be a successful Product Manager?
As a product manager, you will be required to lead teams that don’t report directly to you. Being able to lead where needed is something all product manager’s need to be able to do.
2. Organisational skills
Being organised is essential in every job, for the product manager’s however, this becomes even more important as they attempt to lead various teams. Being analytical is important for managing product, assessing feedback and to be able to successfully analyze any relevant data.
3. Analytical skills
Analytical skills are used at every stage by a product manager. Exceptional analytical skills assist them when building the strategy model while understanding customer needs and as they sort through the enormous amount of feedback.
4. Project management skills
Product managers have to coordinate with a variety of teams. Being able to efficiently manage and prioritize is the only way that you will be able to coordinate with all the different teams.
Why is Product Management an interesting role for consultants and bankers
Consultants have strong organisational and analytical skills which are extremely important for managing product development process. They are also versed at navigating various business units & function while interacting with multiple stakeholders and multidisciplinary team, which is routine in PM.
Moreover, Product Management requires strong soft skills in order to lead teams which are not directly reporting to you, which is something consultants and bankers excel at given that they spend most of their time advising clients.
As noted earlier, some PM roles are not relevant to consultants and bankers since they are technical in nature, requiring hard skills such as software development.
How to land a job in Product Management
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Recommended reading and resources:
List of recommended readings:
- Martin Eriksson – “What, exactly, is a Product Manager?”
- Andy Ayim – “What does a Product Manager do?”
- First Round Review (Company Blog) – “Why Chefs and Soilders Make the Best Product Managers”
- Maddy Kirsch – “Product Management for B2B and B2C: Are They Really So Different?”
- McKinsey – Product managers for the digital world