Product management is the function of an organization within a company that coordinates all aspects of bringing new products and features to market. It deals with new product development, upgrades, planning, verification, pricing, product launch and business justification.
The role of product management progressed out of a set of responsibilities that conventionally were undertaken by lead engineers and developers – scoping out the issues facing customers and making critical product decisions to address those problems. While some developers can clearly drill-down to understand the why behind the what, others might not have that skill. Regardless, product management spans from market trends, to user needs, to requirement definition, all the way to sales training and marketing readiness. In fact, to do product management right, you need a full team not just part of someone’s time.
The product manager is the person that is responsible for the overall process of getting a product to market. They can lead the cross-functional teams from product conception all the way to product launch. The product manager is responsible for defining and executing product plans to fulfill the strategy of the product and the company’s vision. We can say that product management is a disciplined process of bringing new products to market while making sure of their success in the marketplace. In doing so, product management unites business, product development, design, business owners, support and sales teams in order to at a broad level make sure of two things:
- We are building the right thing by getting feedback from the market and the sales team.
- That we are building things right by working with engineering teams, architect and the dev team.
Why do you need product management in your organization?
Product management is a crucial function within any organization; it is a buffer that moderates the different business needs.
- Revenue pressures – There is a huge pressure to attain revenue in competitive environment, innovate faster, add new features and sell more.
- Cost & efficiency pressures – Management and finance on the other hand want steady cost, efficiency and do with what we have.
Product managers are good jugglers of priorities and need to learn the art of balancing the revenue targets and cost guidelines in order to introduce products that not only liked by users but also profitable. Effective Product Managers not only build a story for their product and vision but also build a business case and back their priorities and decisions with market data. They collect data about the market conditions including customer requirements, size of the market, market trends, the competitive landscape, as well as external influencing factors. It is more crucial than ever for product managers to back their decisions and build a business case in order to gain management approval and rally their organizations behind them.
How different is product management from product marketing?
Product management helps the organization understand users wants, customers’ needs at the micro level. Product managers translate those needs into defined requirements that the development team can understand and work with, in order to build a product that satisfies these customer needs. Product managers build business cases for their products and march with the development team in order to execute and deliver on customers’ needs. Product managers define and own the roadmap for the product, and work with different teams to deliver on that roadmap. Product managers typically manage the full product lifecycle from ideation to launch.
Before initiating the process of product development, you need to first to define your target market as well as your user personas so that you can pinpoint the customer base traits and the right needs to satisfy when building or improving the product.
Simply put, product marketing is the intersection of product, sales, and marketing. Product marketing managers, or simply called product marketers, lay the vision and plan to communicate the product, its features, its benefits, why it’s different from competing products, and why customers should care. Product marketing defines the messaging and sells the story internally and externally for the product.
This means that the product marketer must be able to answer some essential questions such as:
- What is the market gap?
- What are the business needs that we are trying to address?
- What are the customer pains?
- What is the main problem that the product solves?
- How the product solves the needs of the target market?
- How the existing customers feel about the competing products?
- How the product is differentiated from the competitors?
- What are the unique characteristics that make the product stand out from the competition?
For these questions to be answered there must be a clear communication channel between the product, marketing, and sales teams.
Companies with formal product management functions reap many benefits, including:
- Strong collaboration between internal teams
- Good translation of business needs to technical requirements
- Clearly defined expectations
- Well aligned products to market needs
- Low risk of product failures
What is the role of a product manager?
As we’ve seen, a product manager is simply the person in charge of managing the full lifecycle of product definition, development, and launch. The product manager is also responsible for communicating directly with marketing and customer acquisition teams to coordinate the process of marketing for new product features as well as keep a close check on the needs and requests of the customers.
Here is a quick list of the main roles of product managers:
- Understand customer needs
- Provide product vision and roadmap
- Prioritize activities and processes based on market needs
- Formulate product pricing strategies
- Negotiate with stakeholders
- Drive the product launch
- Arrange market testing initiatives
- Do customer validation
- Learn from customer calls
- Document requirements
- Manage the roadmap
- Work with dev teams on an agile or other framework to get things done
The Core Functions of Product Management
The professionals that make up the product management team spend most of their time concentrating on the following tasks:
- Conducting research to gain required expertise about the target market, the personas of the user, as well as the competitors.
- Developing the roadmap and ensuring everyone has buy in
- Acting as a voice of the customer
- Communicating plans by formulating a working strategic plan using the defined roadmap and presenting it to the stakeholders across the company, i.e. investors, executives, development team, and so on.
- Acting on customers’ feedback as well as data analysis. This is after designing, testing, and introducing the product or service to the marketplace, examining data and soliciting direct queries from users, what works, and what doesn’t work.
What is a product roadmap?
We often hear product roadmap, but what does it include? How is it presented? And who owns it?
The product manager is the owner and gage keeper of the product roadmap. The roadmap is the result of an arduous research, discussions, and consensus-building.
A good product roadmap should set achievable expectations for the entire company. It sets a path for the future and offers the organization a point of reference to inspire the entire organization. It is the blueprint for the product evolution. A product roadmap is what the organization needs to turn the vision and mission into a concrete plan for making the main goal a reality.
However, the product management team deals with different stakeholders; they need to build different flavors of the same story and present different formats of the same roadmap depending on the target audience.
There are two essential types of product roadmap:
- Internal roadmap: This type of roadmap is used internally, and it highlights the vision, both short-term and long-term goals, and the linked processes. An internal roadmap is usually used by the product manager and management of the organization to control the progress of product management. It typically shows more details, some internal dates and evidence/insights in some cases.
- External roadmap: Unlike the internal roadmap, an external roadmap is a high-level representation of the internal roadmap, it is typically less complicated and is usually formulated for the sake of the shareholders or stakeholders, existing or potential customers, and investors among other persons of interest.
Product managers are responsible for the success of a product and leading the cross-functional teams. It is a very important organizational role in technology companies that sets the strategy, roadmap, and feature definition for a product or product line. The position can include marketing, forecasting, and profit and loss responsibilities among many other roles. The role can span some activities from strategic to tactical, from customer facing to dev facing. Regardless of the product, the market or the functions that product managers fulfill, product management is one of the most rewarding jobs you can have, and sometimes the most frustrating role you can think of. If you ask product managers, they will not prefer to have it any other way; so, go get busy and build exceptional products.