July 20, 2020

Product Management

Why Are Product Managers The Secret Ingredient?

By Hanna Varanchuk

Product is the foundation of any business. It all starts with a crazy plan. However, idea outcome and success largely depend on the product management process. Let’s see what product management is and what roles the product manager performs.

What is Product Management? 

Product management is an organizational function that accompanies each stage of a product’s life cycle: from development to positioning and pricing, focusing primarily on the product and its customers. To create a competitive product, product managers consider related customer interests and make sure that market tendencies are taken into account. Thanks to this focus on the client, managers regularly supply more advanced and high-tech products.

History of Product Management

  • The idea of product management originated during the Great Depression, when a marketer proposed the concept of “​​Brand Men”, an employee for managing a specific product, as opposed to the usual business model. 
  • 1943-1993 – Hewlett-Packard maintains a 50-year growth of 20% per year, introducing the Brand Men philosophy into its new company. 
  • In the late 1940s, Toyota develops JIT production principles (just-in-time) later adopted by Hewlett-Packard. 
  • 1953 – Toyota develops the Kanban method. 
  • In the 1980s, the development of Agile processes, combined with a broader recognition of “brand management”, occurs in many IT and software companies. 
  • The “Agile Software Development Manifesto” was written in 2001, which pretty much broke all the outdated stereotypes to make room for the idea of ​​product management. 

The Manifesto sets out twelve principles, one of which states: “Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the life of the entire project.” A product manager fills the gap between development and marketing. 

Roles in Product Management

It happens that a product management process is carried out by one person. Most often, this is an experienced business marketer who can listen to the customer and speak fluently in technical jargon or a developer who understands the product so well that he/she can manage its creation. Since it is tough to find experts in both areas at once, product management is often carried out by a small group of specialists. Development, design, and business departments work together. For instance, the roles may be as follows:

  • Chief Product Officer monitors product life at the organizational level.
  • The product owner takes a more active role in the development and is responsible for the timing of engineers’ work to interested parties.
  • Product Marketing Manager maintains, improves communication between the buyer and the development team, helps to understand the customer better and implement their idea in the product.
  • User Experience Researcher studies user behavior and gives recommendations on usability is a great addition to any team.

The product manager is responsible for the product development strategy.

Product Manager: Responsibilities and Skills

A product manager is a person who is responsible for a specific product that a company offers to the market. He/she knows everything about the product and organizes the team’s work. Even after the final release, the manager is engaged in its improvement.

The main responsibilities of the product manager are:

  • understand customer experience;
  • develop a general vision;
  • prioritize processes and activities;
  • develop pricing and positioning strategies;
  • negotiate with stakeholders;
  • build and follow a road map;
  • organize Product Testing Groups;
  • launch the product;
  • participate in the development of a promotion plan;
  • create and maintain product awareness at all levels among product teams;
  • work with the project manager (development of project documentation, communication with stakeholders and customers, informing customers and/or interested parties about the stages of work).

Thus, a product manager must have knowledge in three main areas: business, technology, and user experience.

The skills set of the product manager includes:

  • understanding of the product and related customer needs;
  • market knowledge;
  • innovation awareness;
  • strategic thinking;
  • technical knowledge;
  • communication skills;
  • relationship management;
  • understanding user behavior and empathy;
  • ability to explain business and technical requirements to all team members;
  • ability to measure product success.

How to become a product manager?

Very often, a product manager does not have a university degree in this particular field. This may be a former developer, and a specialist in the marketing department or UX designer, who gained experience in related fields.

  • If you are a techie, an important feature of the product manager position is to be a leader. Take a look at the product from a new perspective—what actions need to be taken to improve it. You can start by launching your small project. This is not necessary but will give you invaluable experience in managing a project.
  • If you are a marketer, at first glance, these positions have much in common. However, the product manager is still actively involved in the development. Therefore, you should delve into the technical side of product development. So, knowing of the problems that customers face every day, you can offer your solutions and evaluate how much time and engineering effort it will take to solve them.
  • If you are a designer, many designers work in home-office or remotely. To become a product manager, pay attention to working with clients and the ability to negotiate.

Conclusion

According to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, over 30,000 new products are introduced every year, and 95 percent fail. Among other problems, a large number of products are not ready to enter the market. The proper product development process can reduce these risks to nothing.

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