Reading Martin’s excellent “What, exactly, is a Product Manager?” post yesterday I felt compelled to revisit a really interesting exercise I did about 18 months ago – one that I would encourage everyone to do, whatever their profession. Whilst at Shopzilla, the then VP of Engineering, Phil Dixon, challenged some of his team to rewrite their role descriptions into something more inspirational that captures the true essence of what makes them good at their job, stripping away the banalities and cliches that we see all too often.
The series of posts became known as the “I am”s, and although I didn’t work in Engineering, Tara Fraser’s initial “I am a Project Manager” set the bar so high that I couldn’t resist. The “I am a Product Manager” that was eventually published was the result of my collaboration with two US colleagues, both of whom are truly excellent Product Managers. However, the outcome was a typical horse-designed-by-committee if I’m completely honest, and suffers from being too generic in my opinion.
Now, 18 months on, and nine months into a new role at Just Eat I thought it would be interesting to review my thoughts and see whether recent experience has significantly changed my view of what makes a good Product Manager. Reassuringly, it hasn’t. What follows below is my original unpublished text with just a few minor edits for readability. In my mind this captures the true essence and core of what I do as a Product Manager.
I know my product
- What it does and doesn’t do
- How it works (or at least, how the pieces fit together)
- How it creates value for our users, our partners, and most importantly, our business
I have a vision for the future of the product
- I clearly articulate how the product can get from here to there
- I see the big picture, but am also clear about the details of every new feature
- I keep abreast of industry developments and stay in tune with what our competitors do
- I am always looking for, and thinking of, new ideas
- I encourage and welcome new ideas from everyone
I am the bridge between the stakeholders and the engineers
- I listen to all the stakeholders and ensure their needs and goals are clearly understood
- I turn high level business goals into tangible user stories
- I work with the engineers to understand what is feasible and what the constraints and costs are likely to be
- I help the engineers to understand how new features should work, what is important, what is less important
- I ensure the business knows what they are getting
I am guided by the facts and understand the trade-offs
- I test out ideas rather than acting on blind faith or gut instinct, although instinct plays a part in deciding what to test
- I research what works and constantly iterate to make improvements
- I prioritise the backlog by understanding the relative business value of each feature
- I consider the impact of product changes on all its constituencies
- I am flexible and pragmatic about scope – I’d rather deliver 80% of the business value now than wait three times longer to get everything
I am passionate about the quality of the product
- I have a strong attention to detail and encourage these qualities in everyone who works on the product
- I want our users to have the best experience possible and to be our advocates – I care if the product doesn’t meet their expectations
I am a Product Manager, and my success is founded on the brilliance of everyone who helps shape the product into reality.