What, exactly, is a Product Manager? "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs May 05 2021 False Career, Product management, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 817 The product manager venn diagram Product Management 3.268

What, exactly, is a Product Manager?

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I often get asked what a product manager is. What do they do? Where do they come from? How do you get into product management? Why do they like sharpies so much?

Product Management Venn
© Martin Eriksson, 2011

In his book Inspired, Marty Cagan describes the job of the product manager as “to discover a product that is valuable, usable and feasible”. Similarly, I’ve always defined product management as the intersection between business, technology, and user experience (hint – only a product manager would define themselves in a Venn diagram). A good product manager must be experienced in at least one, passionate about all three, and conversant with practitioners in all.

Business

Product Management is above all else a business function, focused on maximising business value from a product. Product Managers should be obsessed with optimising a product to achieve the business goals while maximising return on investment. Sorry, this does mean that you are a suit—but you don’t have to wear one.

Technology

There’s no point defining what to build if you don’t know how it will get built. This doesn’t mean a Product Manager needs to sit down and code. However, understanding the technology stack and level of effort involved is crucial to making the right decisions. This is even more important in an Agile world where Product Managers spend more time daily with the development team than with anyone else inside the business.

User Experience

Last but not least the Product Manager is the voice of the user inside the business and must be passionate about the user experience. Again this doesn’t mean being a pixel pusher but you do need to be out there testing the product, talking to users and getting that feedback first hand— especially in a start-up.

Manage what exactly?

Why do you need this breadth of skills? Because the role itself is incredibly broad and varied and you’ll be using them every day.

Vision

It starts with setting a vision for the product. This requires you to research, research, and research some more your market, your customer, and the problem they have that you’re trying to solve. You have to assimilate huge amounts of information—feedback from clients, quantitative data from your web analytics, research reports, market trends and statistics. You need to know everything about your market and your customer, and then mix all that information with a healthy dose of creativity to define a vision for your product.

Once you have a vision, you have to spread the word in your business. Get dogmatic, evangelical even, about the utopia that is your product. If you can’t get passionate about it, you’re in the wrong job or you didn’t come up with a very good vision. Your success, and that of your product, relies on every team member. From sales to a developer, understanding that vision and being at least a little bit passionate about it as well is important.

Build a roadmap

And then you switch gears again and start building an actionable plan to reach that vision. A roadmap of incremental improvements and iterative development that take you step by faltering step closer to that final vision. This is when all that hard work preaching the good word pays off. Your team throw themselves into coming up with better designs, better code, and better solutions to the customers’ problem.

Detail, detail, detail

Now we get really detail-oriented. As you work day in, day out with the development team as a product owner—defining and iterating the product as you go, solving problems as they pop up, and closely managing scope so you can get the product out on time.

The product is finally out there and suddenly you’re spending your days poring over data again. You’re constantly looking at how customers use the product, talking to them about the product, and generally eating, sleeping and breathing the product. Did you solve the right problem? Do your users get the product? Will they pay for the product?

And then you do it all over again. And these days it’s not a waterfall process. You’re not doing this step by step, you’re doing this for a dozen products or features at any one time, switching from strategy to tactics in the blink of an eye.

Sound tough?

Sure it’s a tough job but it’s just about the most fun you can have with your clothes on—certainly the most fun you’re going to get paid to do. You get to define the very essence of a product, design solutions to your customers’ problems, work with everyone in the business and play a very large part in your business’s success. We’re the unsung heroes of the tech world—or at least we’d like to think so…

Discover more content on Product Management or use our Content A-Z to find even more product management content.

I often get asked what a product manager is. What do they do? Where do they come from? How do you get into product management? Why do they like sharpies so much? [caption id="attachment_12863" align="alignright" width="300"]Product Management Venn © Martin Eriksson, 2011[/caption]

In his book Inspired, Marty Cagan describes the job of the product manager as “to discover a product that is valuable, usable and feasible”. Similarly, I've always defined product management as the intersection between business, technology, and user experience (hint - only a product manager would define themselves in a Venn diagram). A good product manager must be experienced in at least one, passionate about all three, and conversant with practitioners in all.

Business

Product Management is above all else a business function, focused on maximising business value from a product. Product Managers should be obsessed with optimising a product to achieve the business goals while maximising return on investment. Sorry, this does mean that you are a suit—but you don't have to wear one.

Technology

There's no point defining what to build if you don't know how it will get built. This doesn't mean a Product Manager needs to sit down and code. However, understanding the technology stack and level of effort involved is crucial to making the right decisions. This is even more important in an Agile world where Product Managers spend more time daily with the development team than with anyone else inside the business.

User Experience

Last but not least the Product Manager is the voice of the user inside the business and must be passionate about the user experience. Again this doesn't mean being a pixel pusher but you do need to be out there testing the product, talking to users and getting that feedback first hand— especially in a start-up.

Manage what exactly?

Why do you need this breadth of skills? Because the role itself is incredibly broad and varied and you'll be using them every day.

Vision

It starts with setting a vision for the product. This requires you to research, research, and research some more your market, your customer, and the problem they have that you're trying to solve. You have to assimilate huge amounts of information—feedback from clients, quantitative data from your web analytics, research reports, market trends and statistics. You need to know everything about your market and your customer, and then mix all that information with a healthy dose of creativity to define a vision for your product. Once you have a vision, you have to spread the word in your business. Get dogmatic, evangelical even, about the utopia that is your product. If you can't get passionate about it, you're in the wrong job or you didn't come up with a very good vision. Your success, and that of your product, relies on every team member. From sales to a developer, understanding that vision and being at least a little bit passionate about it as well is important.

Build a roadmap

And then you switch gears again and start building an actionable plan to reach that vision. A roadmap of incremental improvements and iterative development that take you step by faltering step closer to that final vision. This is when all that hard work preaching the good word pays off. Your team throw themselves into coming up with better designs, better code, and better solutions to the customers' problem.

Detail, detail, detail

Now we get really detail-oriented. As you work day in, day out with the development team as a product owner—defining and iterating the product as you go, solving problems as they pop up, and closely managing scope so you can get the product out on time. The product is finally out there and suddenly you're spending your days poring over data again. You're constantly looking at how customers use the product, talking to them about the product, and generally eating, sleeping and breathing the product. Did you solve the right problem? Do your users get the product? Will they pay for the product? And then you do it all over again. And these days it's not a waterfall process. You're not doing this step by step, you're doing this for a dozen products or features at any one time, switching from strategy to tactics in the blink of an eye.

Sound tough?

Sure it's a tough job but it's just about the most fun you can have with your clothes on—certainly the most fun you're going to get paid to do. You get to define the very essence of a product, design solutions to your customers' problems, work with everyone in the business and play a very large part in your business's success. We're the unsung heroes of the tech world—or at least we'd like to think so... Discover more content on Product Management or use our Content A-Z to find even more product management content.

184 thoughts on “What, exactly, is a Product Manager?

  1. Thanks for the insightful description. Do you have any suggestions for aspiring product managers? Most positions I have looked up require a minimum of 3-5 years experience as a product manager. I have a software engineering background and would like to cross-over. What are some great ways to get product manager relevant experience to prepare for a position?

      1. Hi Daniel, I did! Thanks for asking 🙂 I actually didn’t even realize you had commented here until a co-worker me who is trying to make a similar switch saw the discussion below this post. I decided to write about some of the things I did to become a product manager here http://bit.ly/1HkBsbM . MindTheProduct has been extremely helpful in my journey!

      1. CSM ? or CSPO? I would say CSPO gives a much more detailed insight into what a product owner / manager would need to know 🙂

    1. As an engineer, you’ve been working “from the inside out.”

      As a PM, you will have to reverse this perspective and work from “the outside in” (markets, competitors, customers).

      You have also likely worked in the “present.” Now you will have to work in the “future.”

      Your sales people and customers may be of limited value in this regard.

      Tom McAuliffe
      Former top-ranked GE Prod. Mgr.

  2. No wonder the most confused lot of the industry is tech recruitment group, and no wonder I have to keep modifying my resume! But can’t blame the recruiters- they come across same roles with myriad titles or myriad roles for the same title, depending on what the company they are recruiting for decides to call the role. Neither are the companies to blame cos IT is an ever-changing ever-evolving industry. If the company is a start-up there is hardly ever a separate “product manager” role; it is (naturally) only once budgets expand and companies grow that they form distinct UX, Tech and BA roles, and then finally Product Management.

    My two cents- Product Management is about building & managing relationships between a) teams, b) between clients & company, c) between product itself and its consumer; for all of which communication is the key. And in order to communicate, the Product Manager has to “speak” UX, Tech, BA, and maybe even QA, sales & training for example.

    In short, the Venn diagram totally hits the nail on the head.

    But how does it solve the problem created by this confusion when it comes to hiring or applying for Product Manager roles- how does someone like me with a checkerboard of tech/ UX/ BA titles merge em all successfully on a resume so that it gets through to hiring managers? Change titles of previous roles??

  3. Great article, Martin. I would also add on the tactical side, a PM has to be extremely good with prioritization of tasks. This would make or break a product or delay taking the product to market. You have to set a deadline for each release and work backwards on what you want to keep and what to take out. The other thing you touch upon, but is important is to build analytics into your product, to capture the ROI, usage and productivity gains.  

  4. Great stuff. Good perspective.
    As time goes on, smart businesses are recognizing that ‘Business’ needs (ie business requirements) are aligning more and more with user needs. This is causing a major shift in Product development away from “Business Requirements” and toward “User Stories”.Might be splitting hairs here, but as time goes on, I think it’s looking more like this:

    🙂

    1. Yes the UX will be overwhelmed by business, however it means that the UX would be considered in business, so the knowledge of business would include that portion and the role would not be different to that extent.

  5. Brilliant 🙂 This sounds like something I would write if I had more experience. Only a year of full blown experience as a PM but loving it so far coming from a Sales/Marketing background.

    Thanks for the post!

  6. Showing my age here because you seldom find these in automobiles anymore, but I started in product management in the 1980s, and often thought this was a good metaphor: PMs are the distributors, as in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distributor – from R&D to marketing to channel to customer to supply chain to communications to delivery to reinvention to business management – the spiritual, informational and motivational guide for all involved.  More metaphors: head of the octopus, point guard on basketball team.

  7. Martin, this is almost spot on with my perspective on what a Product Manager does. The only difference is that I would expand upon UX to also include customer/market objectives/desires, i.e. bringing in an external perspective.

  8. How would you define the difference between strategy and tactic in the context of Product Management?

    1. Broadly defined, Strategy is a plan for achieving a goal. Tactics detail what exactly it is you need to do to complete the strategy. 

      Our goal is to beat the competition. Our strategy is to create and sell a product that meets the needs of the market better than anyone’s product currently does – or will do in the future – at a profit. Our tactics include using specific research tools to understand the market; using our proprietary technology to develop solutions; testing prototypes in specific markets; and creating specific production methods that will generate a cost effective product at specific price points.Tactics are what you will be doing today. Strategy is the over-arching plan that guides your tactical decisions. Goals are what drive your strategy and help determine your measurements of success.

      1. This inspired some thought for me. Couldn’t you think of a plan for achieving a goal as tactics? The plan being the list of details? And beating the competition might be seen as an aspiration rather than a goal. Sometimes goals are presented as being more detailed like increase sales force by 20% this quarter to increase market share above 40% by end of year.

        Strategy can be hard to define, though. Maybe something like it’s the guiding principle that informs how we will move from where we are to the completion of the goal. There has to be a more elegant way to state it than that though. Any ideas?

        1. Strategy is the plan for how you will achieve the goal, specifically what you will do, but just as (or even more) importantly, what you will not do. If no one can disagree with your strategy, then it really isn’t a strategy. No offense Mkrohne, but “to create and sell a product that meets the needs of the market better than anyone’s product currently does – or will do in the future – at a profit” sounds great, though it’s not a strategy. A strategy could be “to create and sell a product that meets the needs of the low end of the market with a cost structure that allows us to underprice the competition by 90%.”

          Note what’s implied by that statement. We’re not going to have the best, most fully featured product. We’re probably not going to hire a sales force, and we definitely won’t be throwing the wildest party at SXSW. We’re going to be a low-cost, low-end disruptor to an existing market. This is only one of lots of possible strategies. The right one is a matter of your market, user, and product.

  9. Thanks for the article.  In the Venn diagram, I think there could be 5-7-9+ circles with the intersection in the middle called Product Manager!   Ultimately, a PM’s day job varies significantly depending on product type, organization stage and product stage, but all PMs have a common primary task: to be the voice of the product.

    In terms of product type, at a semiconductor company, the PM is deep in the numbers — NM die size, expected yields, competitive performance analysis, etc.  At a mobile app company, the PM plays with competitors’ apps and monitors Gizmodo.  These two PMs have different skillsets and spend their days differently.

    In terms of company stage, early product is built by founders and engineers, typically with no PM. Somewhere along the way, an official PM is anointed.  If it’s consumer, the UI team, devs and other stakeholders in the organization probably have as much knowledge of the product as the PM from Day 1. If it’s B2B, the PM may have the most business knowledge initially, but good devs, sales, PSO and others will quickly come up to knowledge parity with the PM.

    In terms of product stage, V1 may be out the door with no PM and V2 may be PM “coordinated.”  But we often see a V3 that is the big update to fix those V1 legacy issues and the V2 rush to market issues with a full revamp or product line extension, and V3 may be truly PM-led.

    But regardless of the situation, my view is that the PM’s most important task is to be able to speak for the product.  Any question that can be asked about the product is something that the PM either knows or is responsible for finding the answer to.  Why did V1 do this, but V2 does that.  Why is this button green instead of blue….  It means that the PM is spending time with customers, CEO, sales, UI, support, dev, analysts, personal research, etc., coalescing all of the information.  And for one of the more important questions — What does the product want to be when it grows up (or at least for the next rev)? — the PM’s personal opinion may not be the best.  But the PM’s formulated response based on the information he or she has pulled together about the product is THE answer.  Thinking about the product as a “person” with its own personality, quirks, and future desires, the PM is the channel for that “person” and does whatever it takes to speak most effectively for “it.”

    1. Something like this would be on plane with what i feel is a decent definition of what i see the venn diagram looking like …

      1. That is absolutley the best!!! I always refer to my desk as the deli line- take a number and dependant upon your order I would pull a hat off the wall… meaning sometimes I was the insperational speaker, the designer, the firefighter, the police, the crossing guard, the teacher, the manager, the janitor.. and many more

  10. Great post. How about marketing, where does that fit? Many product management roles include a healthy portion of marketing strategy and planning, if not execution.

  11. It’s unfortunate the question gets asked but needless to say being Product Number 1 at company always means someone asks you this question or it’s to your benefit as to what you actually do. 

    I would always describe it with a slight slant – I would define product manager as a intersection of 

    > User – what the user wants ?
    > Tech – what we can actually build?
    > Marketing – what we can actually sell?

  12. A key requirement for the Product Manager is that he/she define the need, market potential, competitive environment, manufacturability, and above all, profitability. Over the past 30+ years, I have seen sales people ask for a product with features that made the product extremely complex and dififcult to produce resulting in very high cost. We all have heard the phrase, “evrything but the kitchen sink”. The Product Manager has to have very good understadning of what key features need to be included without exceeding targets for the cost and profit margins. He has to take a firm stand against the tendency to add bells and whistles just because someone promises truckload of orders if we have it.  

  13. A key requirement for the Product Manager is that he/she define the need, market potential, competitive environment, manufacturability, and above all, profitability. Over the past 30+ years, I have seen sales people ask for a product with features that made the product extremely complex and dififcult to produce resulting in very high cost. We all have heard the phrase, “evrything but the kitchen sink”. The Product Manager has to have very good understadning of what key features need to be included without exceeding targets for the cost and profit margins. He has to take a firm stand against the tendency to add bells and whistles just because someone promises truckload of orders if we have it.  

  14. Do you think a Product Manager exists more to:
    – support Sales (by providing them tools and knowledge, as well as firefighting customer problems to give them more time to sell ) 
    or
    –  direct them (by communicating the product’s business goals and defining the target customers)

    1. Neither. A good PM works with his sales team to understand the needs of the market and then figures out how to get those features into an existing product or new product. More about collaboration than support or directing.

  15. 1年以前,我写了一篇博客并画了一张图( http://www.ikent.me/blog/3019
    我认为,PM应该同时关注产品设计、工程技术、市场运营。
    PM在做一个产品的同时需要从这3个方面入手,力求达到一个平衡点。在团队里,PM总是那个寻求满意解的人,而不是最优解的。

    今天看到阁下这篇文章,发现观点出奇的一致,感到非常的荣幸,幸会幸会!

    1. Then your company has the wrong people in the product manager role. Your product managers should be adding value, even to you as a programmer 🙂

      1. Zep’s right. It’s a bit like saying architecture or testing is overhead and takes time away from programming – technically true but the result is better with a bit of planning and testing…

    2. Then your company has the wrong people in the product manager role. Your product managers should be adding value, even to you as a programmer 🙂

  16. I must say first that I love and respect the fact that you value product management, and have actually taken the time to do all of us in this field justice, by posting a blog on what the role of a PM actually is.

    Product Management and people’s incredible misunderstanding or apathy for the role is the bain of my existence. I often try to educate others, but find that most do not care, or still do not understand.

    And while I also love the venn diagram (the simpler we can describe product management to people the better),  I have to disagree with a major (and a few minor) notions you make about the role of a PM.  

    As many have probably mentioned, the role varies across organizations. That sole fact bothers me.  In my opinion, the role of a PM shouldn’t change  so drastically from one company to another so that it results in confusion about the role. Some Engineers are faster than others, some are more strategic. Designers are designers- whether they work at a bakery, startup or financial institution. So why the special treatment? Some product managers are more technical where as others are more strategic, but this is no different from cases I’ve described above.

    I’m no Marty Cagan, Ben Horowitz, Steve Blank or Steven Johnson,  but I respect everything they have to say, and make sure I read as much as I can about their views on product management.

    From what I’ve gathered- whether it’s from some of the names above, or others, or just from being in the field long enough, the role is very easy to describe: It’s applying your knowledge or understanding of technology to meet the needs of your market and consumers, while making sure they align with your business goals. So with that said, I would probably rearrange your venn diagram. Especially because the circle that I is missing, is one I believe to me the most critical role of the product manager, which is knowing your market and consumer so well that the product practically builds itself.

    My first thought was that the circles of your digram dont carry the same meaning. Business and Technology are two high-level sides to business. User Experience, on the other hand, is simply one of many skills a Product Manager should know to be able to deliver the market a usable product.  But I question how  PM can possibly define the user experience for a user that she does not know. (At least, it’s not listed on your diagram as being a critical entity that a PM intersects with).

     It’s impossible to provide an unmatched user experience if you don’t even know who your user is. Are they well educated and tech savvy? affluent? elderly, or between ages 6-12? 

    I only make this argument to emphasize what I believe to be the most important role of a PM, and also the missing circle of your diagram, which is the market. Without a solid understanding of your product’s market and customer (Who the customer is, what their goal is, what problems they suffer from, what their patience threshold is) a product manager will not know what product to build, what problem to solve, what feature to improve or strip out, or why her product simply has no users at all.  UX is really a trivial piece to a much bigger picture.
    Finally, while I do agree that you are spot-on with the intersection between Business and Technology, I question your supporting arguments of the two, (but it could just be a matter of semantics) Re: Technology- You mention a product manager has to know HOW a feature is built in order to know WHAT to build (or what can be built).  I don’t find this to be entirely true. Knowing what can be built or having a very good understanding of a certain technology to apply it in creative ways is  very different from actually knowing how to apply it.  It’s a matter of “can” versus “how” – and often the ‘how’ can done in many ways, and it’s up to the engineer to determine the best one for the business.  A good example, for example, is knowing that Company XYZ’s API can be leveraged to enhance content on your site. In this case, the PM is making a very well informed assumption, based on her knowledge of technology, that the API solves the content problem.  But she must then turn to the technical experts and use her technology bent to be able to effectively communicate her vision, without solving the problem technically, in order to understand not just if it’s feasible, but how much effort is involved, how much it costs to outsource, or if it’s dependent on making a change in the infrastructure first, before implementing.And Finally: Business. In my opinion, a product manager must understand the goals of the business in order to gather market needs and align them with business goals. Additionally, she must be able to communicate potentially complex technical concepts or features to less tech-savvy individuals.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment and sorry you think I missed the mark but bane of your existence? Makes me sound like a Bond villain…

      I agree that Product Management is an unnecessarily fluid concept, but I think some variance between product managers can only be expected in such a broad, generalist role. The core is the same – bridging business, technology, and the user experience, but the day to day focus is different depending on the team, the company and the product.

      Speaking of that core – I agree that knowing your market is absolutely essential, which is why the first paragraph describing product management is all about market research. I think I find market knowledge so fundamental to both the business and UX circles that I just didn’t call it out separately. I also use UX in it’s widest sense to mean the overall user experience and customer engagement, so maybe that venn circle should simply be the customer.

      1. Just what I thought when I read Katelyn’s comment. You have replied well Martin. Knowing the market can be regarded as a day-to-day task and can be embedded more into UX as well as Business. PM is too broad a subject in definition and execution to include its guts in a diagram.

      2. Hi Marin,

        I have got an opportunity to work with one startup company in ERP product as a Product Manager! As i have never worked as a product manager before and had experience as an ERP consultant for more than 4 years, i m thinking whether i should take this opportunity or not? As a fresher in Product management what should be my minimum remuneration in INR? What could be my challenges as a product manager? How should i prepare my self to deliver the best? Is it going to be a good career path for me?

        Thanks in advance
        Himanshu

    2. Thanks for taking the time to comment and sorry you think I missed the mark but bane of your existence? Makes me sound like a Bond villain…

      I agree that Product Management is an unnecessarily fluid concept, but I think some variance between product managers can only be expected in such a broad, generalist role. The core is the same – bridging business, technology, and the user experience, but the day to day focus is different depending on the team, the company and the product.

      Speaking of that core – I agree that knowing your market is absolutely essential, which is why the first paragraph describing product management is all about market research. I think I find market knowledge so fundamental to both the business and UX circles that I just didn’t call it out separately. I also use UX in it’s widest sense to mean the overall user experience and customer engagement, so maybe that venn circle should simply be the customer.

    3. Are you serious? While I appreciate the effort you put into your reply, brevity would be a fantastic quality to have. My take on “Tech” is that Martin means “Engineering”, the really technical people (and less business savvy but still have a basic idea of what a business is). While I mostly agree with your last paragraph, I don’t see a “WHY”.

  17. Hi Martin,

    The role of the product manager seems to be ambiguous to many project managers (although there are many articles, including this one, that clarify the differences between the two), and that’s why I would like to republish your post on PM Hut.

    Please either email me or contact me through the “Contact Us” form on the PM Hut website in case you’e OK with this.

  18. Hi Martin,

    The role of the product manager seems to be ambiguous to many project managers (although there are many articles, including this one, that clarify the differences between the two), and that’s why I would like to republish your post on PM Hut.

    Please either email me or contact me through the “Contact Us” form on the PM Hut website in case you’e OK with this.

  19. 1. Pretty dead on conceptually but I’d add a few more circles of varying size to that diagram: Design, Customer Service, Marketing, (sometimes QA) and the CEO. In my experience every one of these camps, no matter how they’re grouped, has a voice that needs to be heard.

    2. I generally describe the job to a layman as an architect and general contractor all rolled into one. Imagine building a house if the homeowner, city planning department, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, tilemen, painters, landscapers… if they all showed up at once and tried to collaborate without anyone leading on the vision (the architect) and then leading on the execution (the general contractor). You’d… eventually end up with… something but without those leading and coordinating roles it would be a triple loss: take longer, cost more, and not fulfill the original goals.

    3. Finally, I usually call the roll “Product *Development* Manager”. In my mind, a Product Manager manages (babysits) something that’s mostly built or done. A Product Development Manager is part of building something new.

  20. Basically you can not write a line of code,get a bunch of “nerds” to write it for you and make much more money than them.You can get away with having practially zero real knowledge about software and make it big in the software industry.

    Not to mention you get invited to all the parties and much higher social value.You truly deserve the all company paid business trip to Europe where you present to customers what you “innovated”.

    Oh and after the product is made,you can go ahead proclaiming after what a great innovator you are.The nerds just wrote the code,the IDEA was yours.Oh what a true visionary innovator you are.

    1. In my engineering career, I’ve had a fair share of run-ins with bad product managers, but I think you are underestimating what they do, especially the politics and the planning. Of course each project is a joint effort, but the person coordinating the various aspects of it is naturally going to get recognition.

    2. Dude! Sounds like you need a new product manager!

      All kidding aside I believe the product manager’s core function is to prioritise and define the problems to solve – it’s up to the team as a whole to come up with the best solution to that problem. But that’s another blog post…

      And yes, whoever designs it gets the credit. And no, I’m usually the one stuck back in the office while the founders are out partying 😉

    3. Looks like you’re a bit frustrated. Coding is not everything. Are you talking to legal to see that the company won’t get sued? Are you sitting with Finance to create the business cases? Are you reading contracts, NDA’s, T&C’s and EULA’s until your eyes hurt? Are you training customer service and Sales? Are you creating & powerpoints about what the product does and how it fares and presenting in front of the board/senior management? Are you discussing marketing strategies? Are you doing market research, organising workshops with customers and analysing findings so that you can understand what your customers really want? Are you talking to providers? Are you supposed to know at any point in time what your competition is doing? Are you devising price strategies? Etc. etc.
      No, I think not.

    4. I think finding a company that knows everyone is important and should be made to feel valuable to the organization should be your priority. Some do. And by the way, there is actually a lot of value to the sales and customer interaction elements, as well as research, communication and strategic management that make up the profession, and makes it possible for the work to be financed. Generally, that skillset is not found in a code-writer, who would likely hate the politics, business, and social skills that actually are work, when you get down to it, that just seems like ‘play’.

    5. Nerd,
      It’s always sad when there are inequities in valuing all facets of a team effort. In an ideal world, I feel all contributors should be appreciated.

      I used to work in the “tech” sector as a scientist in the Pharma Industry where the “business” and “UX/customer” groups were upheld on a much higher pedestal. I later branched out into project/program/product management. While it is true that there are a lot of customer-facing activities + the perks that go with it, my workload + hours vs. salary is far lower than the folks in dev.

      *Sigh* While I love what I do, it’s tough when your contributions aren’t valued as much as other functional areas.

      —–

      Martin,
      Thank you for your article. It brings much needed insight to what seems to be an often misunderstood role. Although it’s been a function of mine for a while now, my title has never been “product manager”, which leads to even more confusion.

      To further cause confusion, although I do work with dev teams on software projects, I also function as a “product manager” for process improvements, workstation/facilities improvements, and in deploying new methodology to production. I’ve found that I can actually apply Agile to these non-software related activities (in a slightly modified fashion), and perform my role as a “product manager”. However, I’ve had a number of titles – none of which includes “product manager” and very rarely does it include “project or program manager” either. As a result, it’s been tough for me to convince companies that I have a wealth of experience. Any suggestions?

      I think I’ll provide companies with your Venn diagram from now on. Hopefully that will help them to better understand the type of services that I can provide. 🙂

  21. Modify UX to Science, and you have defined our entire undergraduate major… https://sites.google.com/site/isbtwiki/

  22. Modify UX to Science, and you have defined our entire undergraduate major… https://sites.google.com/site/isbtwiki/

  23. You also become the walking encyclopedia of what the product is and can do. You’ll spend a lot of time telling commercial what can be done already and how to do it.

    1. Funnily enough I’ve found QA tends to become the encyclopedia of product knowledge – especially when they’re writing and maintaining test plans and automated testing. I seem to be too focused on the next thing and optimising things that aren’t working to remember what already works… 😉

      1. Agreed, QA does tend to become the encyclopedia of product knowledge, but as it’s derived from distilling the product over multiple iterations, not the case if the product is currently in development. Unfortunately, QA is often overlooked as a source of information by developers as they see the role as being one of testers, not exactly at the top of the food chain in a competitive environment.

        As an aside, I have yet to find a Product Manager who possessed the levels of passion and experience in UX to be useful other than for quick, visually opinionated commentary.

        1. You obviously haven’t worked with a good one yet! 😉

          I’m passionate about UX and love getting involved – as a head of product at a startup I don’t have a UX team to fall back on so have to do it myself. I do however know my own limits and when I need to bring in the experts…

          I agree QA often gets mistreated but its one of the things I love about agile – at my previous company we made QA a central part of the team and because they got involved from day one they worked with the devs to write the test plans and execute them. 

          1. I couldn’t agree more with this article. Personally I came from a UX/UI background before taking on role as Director of Product. All I can say is that I am extremely glad that I had that toolset under my belt.

            Without compassion for the user you just end up being a feature slinger instead of creating a valuable product and experience.

        2. Couldn’t agree more about good QA – where the lazy/smart developer goes to find the current state of the nation. They always know the most far flung corners of the app.

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