Product Management is not yet a well-defined subject that can be learned to a high level by going exclusively down an academic route. It is, however, a role in demand all around the world, and an extremely rewarding career for those of us that are lucky enough to be able to do it.
So, how does one go about becoming a Product Manager? I have been exploring the question with the help of a few very generous people.
Today, I want to start by describing what a Product Manager actually does.
In future articles, I will dive deeper into how the PM and her team do these things. At the end of the series, I hope that you will have all the information you need to take your first firm steps towards a career in Product Management.
What does a Product Manager do?
Product management is the process of taking care of a product from beginning to end. This includes understanding what customers need, making a product that meets those needs, and making sure it aligns with the company’s goals. To make sure a product succeeds, product managers need the right tools, methods, and plans.
The Product Manager will:
- Obsess about customer needs: it’s crucial to start with customer needs when making and managing products.
- Learn through prototyping and experimentation: teams should work in the real world, using prototypes, experiments, MVP and the actual product to learn from customers’ reactions to artefacts that approximate the product experience.
- Focus on outcomes: teams must consider product features as part of a whole, and how that whole enables customers to achieve their goals (and the business to create fair value).
- Empower the team: product teams must be given the freedom and resources they need to make decisions. As first among equals in the Product Team, Product Managers are responsible for the success of the product.
How does a Product Manager do that?
- Knowing what customers want and making a product that meets their needs while also reaching the business’s goals. This is not about balancing users vs the business, it is about maximising value for customers and the business.
- Establishing product metrics, studying customer feedback, and creating plans for product improvement.
- Leading the product team, keeping everybody focused on the customer and outcomes, and making sure the team has the necessary resources and freedom to be successful.
- Involving stakeholders as partners in the end-to-end process. Partnerships go two ways: stakeholders must understand their role in making the product a success, and feel accountable for it.
That sounds easy
It is not. Traditionally, products were developed in projects, where all the scope was decided up front, and priority was given to completing the build rather than reaching the business outcomes, often introducing complex program structures requiring many people to complete isolated tasks in a pre-established sequence coordinated by a project manager.
Product Management turns each of those ideas on their head, embracing the principles from the Agile and Lean schools of modern business. Small, autonomous, enduring, cross-functional teams discover the right product by iterating their work in small increments, changing direction as they learn from the customer, who is using a product that gets continuously improved by the team during the entire lifecycle of the product.
Practice makes perfect, and nothing can substitute for doing the work for real. However, you can stand on the shoulders of giants by learning what others have already discovered:
- I will be writing a whole series here. Subscribe on the homepage if you don’t want to miss future posts.
- Explore my Product Management Library, a huge resource for all things Product Management. I am always adding new content to it!
- Are you into books? Have a look at this list of 20 Product Management Book summaries.
- Hungry for even more? Visit the Product Compass with Paweł, a growing resource of templates, books, free courses and more!
- Follow #productmanagement on Mastodon (or the Bird)
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