What Is A Product Manager?

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At the highest level, Product Management is a process that allows an organization to manage the creation of a product or service from idea to production, and finally, retirement. Product Management aims to create exceptional customer value, generate a long-term competitive advantage, and deliver year-on-year profitability for an organization. There are many variations of the Product Management process but Research, Plan, Build, Release, Refine, and Retire is the one used throughout this document.

A Product Manager is the role responsible for managing this process. A product Manager is adept at researching where the next product might come from. They will use a combination of speaking to customers, media, competitors, internal data, and more to inform their decision making.

A Product Manager has a deep, intuitive understanding of customer needs and are the voice of the customer within an organization. They are able to find an organization’s first customers, are able to articulate the customer persona, and the customer’s  journey with an organization, from first interaction to last. A Product Manager is able to find active customers, and solicit feedback in order to improve the product.

A Product Manager is responsible for understanding the organization’s vision, mission, and strategy, setting the product vision and mission, designing the product roadmap, determining what to build and when, determining the available resources, and schedule. They will also need to answer the question “why does this product or service exist?” along with defining levels of success for it’s eventual release.

A Product Manager will collaborate to design the product or service which may include use cases, requirements, wireframing, specification documents, etc. Depending on the type of organization a Product Manager works for, will depend on how involved they will get with the design process. If done well, the Product Manager will deliver products that surprise and delight their customers with exceptional experiences. A Product Manager should not only know their own organization, but that of their competitors. To do this, a Product Manager needs to keep abreast of market trends and media releases.

A Product Manager is a hub within an organization, sitting between developers, designers, marketers, sales, management, and more. A Product Manager encourages transparent communication and submission of ideas from all areas of an organization. While collecting input, a Product Manager is a master of organization and prioritization. Much like Product Owners and Scrum Masters, Product Managers have influence but, typically, don’t have direct reports. A Product Manager uses a combination of leadership, authority, expertise, emotional intelligence, and negotiation to guide organizations and its teams in delivering great products. Along with these soft skills, Product Managers also uses qualitative and quantitative data to inform their decision making process.

A Product Manager should have a general understanding  of business, technology, and user experience. During the Release phase of any product, a Product Manager will work closely with all teams to make sure everything goes according to plan, the teams are working efficiently, and there are no roadblocks to the release. In short, a Product Manager has the ability to see the bigger picture and translate it into great products. Ultimately, a Product Manager is responsible for the success or failure of a product. How Product Managers do what they do is described in the sections below.

Product Manager Job Description

The role of Product Manager differs greatly depending on the type of organization. While not indicative of every role, the example below is a real job post for a Product Manager within a large organization. It serves to highlight the translation of the paragraphs above into real world application:

Requirements:

  • Work directly with a full stack development team to develop the existing and future products
  • Lead & initiate user research with regular customer usability testing
  • Lead product improvement projects from ideation, wireframing & design through to development, split testing & go live. Collaborating & aligning with all other business-units as part of this process is key to ensure success
  • Monitor conversion rates and analyse the success of your launches; taking conversion rate optimisation beyond the click, looking at the quality of traffic and final sales numbers attributed to the product changes
  • Set high targets for growth, we are here to solve user problems, dominate our competitors and grow revenue. Your performance will be measured on reaching and exceeding these targets and the impact to finder’s profit your projects deliver.

Experience and Skills:

  • Experience managing the entire product development lifecycle, including ideas, mockups, testing, delivery and ongoing tracking
  • Experience aligning business ideas to set goals and build a product roadmap
  • Strong stakeholder management skills
  • Experience working with designers & developers, both internal and external to deliver results
  • Prior UX experience; carrying out user testing, synthesizing results to form design guidelines
  • Strong wireframing techniques, preferably with a simple tool like Balsamiq
  • Designing split tests which prove your ideas, implementing the results live to the website
  • Understanding of technical SEO and how this impacts website design/infrastructure
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