In practice, the role and duties of the product manager vary according to a diverse set of dynamics. Type of the product, stage of the product, size of the company, overall company culture; all these are conditions that greatly predefine and even dictate the role and impact of the product manager. Above all, it significantly matters who the PM is working with and what attitude and atmosphere dominate among the team members.
As mentioned above, based on the product’s current phase PM’s duties will vary. Roughly, the product lifecycle can be divided into Discovery, Planning and Execution phases.
Product discovery is about building the right product for your customers. Underestimating the importance of this phase will surely lead to losing the connection between your product and the user’s needs. As a PM you should identify the problem and find the right solution to it. Here your best friends are the data and the customer. Data gives you the right direction for the next product opportunity, especially when you already have customers and are building new features.
When the data is small or vague, it can be hard to come to product conclusions. Here it is very important to top up quantitative insights from users and potential customers. The great way to achieve this is by conducting customer interviews.
I can advise product managers to involve their engineers as much as possible from this very first phase. Your developers are not there to “code” your ideas into working pieces of software, use their mental power and help them better understand the business and goals by giving them the problems and coming up with joint solutions.
So, as Marty Cagan says, first, you need to discover whether there are real users out there that want this product… Second, you need to discover a product solution to this problem that is usable, useful, and feasible.
Useful to read:
Marty Cagan – Inspired
Nir Eyal – Hooked
After communicating with customers and gathering data, the next couple of days are spent on prioritizing the products and features worth pursuing. It is crucial to align it with the company strategy. The larger the company is, the more enhanced the planning phase will be. It is not as straightforward as the discovery phase where you pick up most of the data or customer-backed ideas, but this should not stop you from struggling to deliver what matters the most. Very often you will find yourself in meetings with upper management and representatives of different departments. Mainly these meetings will take place while your team is working on delivering the current iteration.
Not only is your team there for you but the entire company as well – involve the right people in the right process and steps.
Useful to read:
Once you are in an agreement with the management and stakeholders you will be working closely with designers and developers to execute the decided features. You will be crafting mockups and prototypes, defining and preparing requirements for developers and tracking the current development process. As a part of these processes, do not forget to run usability tests. As long as the product exists you have something to improve and you have a customer that wants to see even a few of his problems solved through each of your new updates.
The mistake many product managers make is thinking that their job is over once the feature is built, but it’s not. You need to work with the marketing team to ensure the product is shipped and you need to have the right metrics set to track your product and make the right conclusions once the customers start using it.
Useful to read:
John Doer – Measure What Matters
Doc Norton – Escape Velocity
Just remember, no matter how much your day-to-day activities may vary, the PM is still the person who is responsible for the product success and user satisfaction.
What is really difficult to do is to try by all means not to become a “backlog administrator” who is grooming the defined roadmap and making sure the backlog reflects the product roadmap – all of this is important and should be done but with an emphasis on making sure the right thing is being built and it is worth building. Thus, to succeed in this role, the PM needs to:
- Have a deep knowledge of the domain and business
- Know the customer and possess the data
- Be persistent, creative and open to new ideas
- Know when to pivot, pivot, pivot!!! (“Friends” fans will understand😄)
I think the good PM should be managing the product, not the team. You need to trust your team and support them from the product perspective and not guide their daily work routine.
Though, it is a common saying among Agile people – ”One product, one product manager”, don’t get confused; you will never be able to cover all the cases. Involve others into the process as often as you will find necessary, this is especially crucial during the Discovery phase.
If you want to enjoy your role and everyday work you’d better put some time and effort into having the right people, defining the right product, setting up the right process and developing the right culture.
- Product Development