Customer Discovery Series Part I: The Role of Product Management

What does a Product Manager do?  I've already posted about this, twice, but it's time for a refresh.  As Product Management gets more publicity as a discipline, people often ask me what the role of Product Management is all about.  Let's go through it in more detail...

 Product Managers wear many different hats - project managers, designers, strategic advisors, developers - all for the sake of being the voice of the customer.  No two days are alike for a Product Manager (although with the introduction of the Product Owner role with Agile, the days can sometimes feel like they have the same structure).  Sometimes she is meeting with the CEO to discuss where the company is going, other times she is meeting with sales to understand the latest crazy request that came through, and some days she is meeting with the development team to write user stories and prioritize.  

 Without Product Management, some truly devastating things can happen in an organization.  I've shared the comic strip before, it's one of my favorites.  Without Product Management, your company runs the risk of building products that customers don't want and event worse, don't solve the real problem.  Think of Segway and Blu-Ray technologies - great products, very innovative, but there wasn't a problem that either of them solved.  Both of those products quickly got replaced with other entrants into the market that addressed a challenge for their user.

The best example I've seen to describe Product Management is the Venn Diagram.  In this, it puts PM at the center of User Experience (or UX), Technology and Business.  The role really is a mix of all three.  The PM has to answer three questions - What does our solution do? What is the economic impact? How do people experience it?  Sitting at the center of these three areas asking these questions is where PM's can have a huge impact on the business.

Some people have said 'product managers are like mini-CEO's'.  The more time I spend in Product Management, the more I could not disagree with this statement.  I'll cover this in an upcoming post, but if I were the CEO for my product line, I'd be able to make decisions and rule with an 'iron fist'.  As a Product Manager, you typically don't have that much power and need to work with your team to justify why the problem you've chosen is the one the development team will address next.

All said and done, there's really nothing that relates to business that product managers don't get involved in. In simple terms a PRODUCT manager is responsible for the overall success of a product from its birth to its burial; the product lifecycle. "This position is at the intersection from where founder strategy, user feedback, development team management, and market awareness come together. From what’s been said, it certainly appears that this is not a role that you “fall” into, but rather could aspire to be in." - Ken Yeung


  1. I've been recently promoted to the post of Product Manager and I truly enjoy it. I've been following your blog for some time now and I find your tips very useful. I try to put them into practice every day.

    1. Thanks for the feedback! Glad you are enjoying this!


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