As Product Management becomes more critical for the success of any software company, there is a debate on where to draw the boundaries for the role. In small companies, such role could span across multiple departments such as marketing, sales, executives, engineering and support. Some of those departments especially marketing and support could even be part of the Product management group. Whereas in bigger companies role could be defined as interaction with these departments and have more structured interface for information flow. Ultimately it depends on maturity and size of the organization.
As per following table, Product Manager’s responsibilities are clear. These are minimum responsibilities and tasks Product manager should assume. For smaller companies, she could assume even more responsibilities.
Personal Traits of Product Manager
Behind every great product there is a person with great empathy for the customer, insight into what is possible, and the ability to see what is essential and what is incidental. This person has a deep understanding of the customer as well as her own teams’ capabilities. She operates from a strong basis of knowledge and confidence. She thinks in terms of delivering superior value to the marketplace, and she defines good products that can be executed with a strong effort.
The good product manager is constantly obsessed with the current and future state of her product. These are some of the questions that the good product manager is constantly asking herself:
- Is my product compelling to our target customer?
- Have we made this product as easy to use as humanly possible?
- Will this product succeed against the competition? Not today’s competition, but the competition that will be in the market when we ship?
- Do I know customers that will really buy this product? Not the product I wish we were going to build, but what we’re really going to build?
- Is my product truly differentiated? Can I explain the differentiation to a company executive in two minutes? To a smart customer in one minute? To an industry analyst in 30 seconds?
- Will the product actually work?
- Is the product a whole product? How will customers actually think about and buy the product? Is it consistent with how we plan to sell it?
- Are the product’s strengths consistent with what’s important to our customers? Are we positioning these strengths as aggressively as possible?
- Is the product worth money? How much money? Why? Can customers get it cheaper elsewhere?
- Do I understand what the rest of the product team thinks is good about the product? Is it consistent with my own view?
Product Manager vs Project Manager
Product managers own “What” and “Why”. Project managers own “How” and “When”.
Product managers are responsible for the overall product vision, directing the people (including all the touchy-feely stuff) and the roadmap (the strategy) for getting there. Project managers are responsible for getting the logistics, scheduling, planning and task allocations done. Think of is as the Product Manager being the CEO of the product and the Project Manager being the COO of the product.
Product Management vs Product Marketing
The easiest way to think about the difference between these two is to think of them as inbound and outbound. Inbound (Product Management) spends most of their time with engineering teams and customers, making critical decisions and ensuring that everything gets done to bring customer-focused products to market. Outbound (Product Marketing) makes sure that once these products are ready that they
get launched and marketed effectively to the target customer base.
- Market Analysis, Business Cases and Profit and Loss investigation.
- Customer and Market Research.
- Writing Marketing Requirements Documents (MRDs).
- Working with Engineering to finalize functional specifications.
- Competitive analysis for use internally at the company.
- Analysis of technology trends.
- Running alpha/beta programs and capturing early customer feedback.
- Making feature, schedule and cost tradeoffs as the product nears completion.
- Writing product launch plans.
- Product Messaging, including Positioning, Features & Benefits and Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
- Developing sales tools: white papers, presentations, collateral, competitive analysis for external use with customers.
- Working with PR to manage launch tours and product review programs.
- Setting product pricing.
- Working with Beta sites to generate customer success stories.
- Running product launches.
- Working with sales, channel marketing, corporate marketing, marketing communications, technical support, finance, operations and other departments to ensure the product is effectively introduced to the market and continues to be successful.
Product Manager vs Scrum Master
Product Manager is a product expert and scrum master is methodology expert. Product manager ensures the team is building right product whereas scrum master makes sure that all stakeholders understand the process and able to follow it. Product manager is a visionary defining “why” and “what” whereas scrum master owns “how”. Product manager should own the backlog whereas Scrum master should own roadblock (constraints in the project). Scrum master is also addresses all the impediments in order to make progress. Scrum master interacts with Product manager on regular basis to understand and execute product backlog. Although the two roles differ (driving the product vs. driving the team), the intersection of the two positions is critical to delivering a successful product and leading a successful agile team.