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Have you ever been fascinated with a product and wondered what thought process went into creating it? Have you wondered how a company is able to identify a real market problem and build a product which seamlessly solves the need?

The process of developing a product takes a village. Because the truth is, a lot of skilled professionals contributed to each product’s development. However, one of the most important skill sets that is essential to the success of any product launch is Product Management.

Who is a product manager?

A product manager focuses on developing a product within an organisation. He works together with a product development team (which includes developers, designers, analysts, sales representatives, etc.) Product management entails guiding a product through multiple iterations such as product research, product feature development, product market fit, etc.

The role of product management is like the captain of a football team. He is not the owner of the club (founders) or the coach (CEO), but he understands the goal of the club, ensures every member of the team has a shared understanding of the goal to be able to achieve the goal of the organisation.

Although most people tend to combine them together, the role of product manager is slightly different from the product marketing manager. While the product marketer articulates the value of the product to the market the product manager communicates the importance of the users need to the product development team.

The product manager delivers on the business strategy but the product marketer delivers measurable benefits to the business. A product manager focuses on the user while the product marketer focuses on the buyer.

Problems product managers solve

Product management is trying to solve the problem of shared understanding. A shared understanding of the customers, their problems, of how the team would achieve its goal, how success would be measured and how roles would be broken into tiny, deliverable bits.

Shared understanding of the market, it needs and how that need would be met is the ultimate goal of product management. Shared understanding is when every member has a full grasp of  what the team is trying to achieve and how their role contributes  to the overall objective . Great product teams focus on activities that build a shared understanding. It is what separates great product teams from good teams.

How can product managers ensure that there is a shared understanding as a team?

Product managers can close the knowledge gaps by finding out how well they and their team know the following:

  • The Who- Do they have enough context on the profile of customers they are solving for.
  • The What - Do they understand what problem they are solving.
  • The Why-  Do they understand how this fits into the bigger picture of the company vision/strategy.

What product managers  do

Although, the day-to-day responsibilities of a product manager vary across different sectors. However, all product management roles involve certain universal tasks that are critical to achieving the goal of the organisation. Here are some of them:

Research

Product managers primarily focus on the end-user of their product. The research is usually done in partnership with dedicated research teams or on their own, depending on the size of their organization. PMs analyse user needs and product-market fit, and speak for customers within the organization and make sure the voice of the market is heard and heeded.

Defines roadmap, product requirements, and success

After conducting research, PMs help define the organization’s product roadmap, which essentially documents the workflow for when and how each feature will be released. Working with project management teams, each new product built will be broken up into various incremental steps that will be executed over a set period of time based on available resourcing.

PMs ensure that the engineering team they work with manages a backlog of ideas, prioritises the right things and is aware of all of the requirements and steps needed to complete the product’s vision.

Tests and launches

Once the development process is complete, PMs lead the testing of the new feature, doing so through setting up experiments and iterations. Sometimes large initiatives are broken up into smaller phases, such as a “beta” launch. PMs measure the success of each phase, and work with engineering to address any issues that arise during testing.

Analyses and presents results

When a new feature is live and in front of users, the product manager typically communicates the successes or shortfalls of the product to business leadership. They leverage different analytics tools and reports to ensure that the product is meeting the expectations set at the research phase.

Skills every product manager needs

Storytelling

Since the product manager will be doing a lot of communication, acquiring the skills of storytelling will help them share their perspective. A product leader should be as inspirational as they are tactical, and storytelling is a valuable tool of choice. Through customer interviews and market research, product managers learn more about the customer than even the salespeople.

Research and analysis

Your decisions as a product manager will be data-driven so it is essential that you have research and analysis skills. Data can alert you to opportunities or threats in the market. It will lead you to the right places to focus resources, and help validate product and feature ideas before allocating resources to them.

Empathy

Product management is about empathy. Empathy for the developers and how they work, empathy for the customer and their pain points, and even empathy for upper management, who juggle aggressive goals and impossible schedules. The skill of empathy can be developed through immersion within and intimate understanding of each stakeholder. This skill separates the product teams that can rally the organization around common goals from those who are incapable of doing so.

Bottom line

Product management guides every step of a product’s lifecycle — from development to positioning and pricing, by focusing on the product and its customers. The role of a product manager is to be the bridge between the  user and product developer. It is an intersection between business, technology and the user experience.