Why does this question come up so often?
- Product Management is often a misunderstood function in companies
- All teams and companies seem to do Product Management differently
- There is often little or no formal process guiding Product Management in the company
What is Product Management: A Guide for Individuals, Teams and Companies
We created this guide to help individuals, teams and companies answer the question: What is Product Management? If you can successfully understand, articulate and define the goals of a healthy Product Management function then your ability to introduce and optimize Product Management will be dramatically increased.
This guide will be useful for:
- New and Experienced Product Managers, Product Marketing Managers and Product Owners
- Those who want to become Product Managers, Product Marketing Managers and Product Owners
- Those who interact with the Product Management function in their company.
We hope that this guide helps you explain Product Management as a function, clarify roles and responsibilities, understand key deliverables, define core skills and ship some great products!
So Really… What is Product Management?
Product Management is a critical strategic driver in a company. It can make a huge impact in terms of whether products, as well as the entire company, succeed or fail in both the short and long term. It’s the only role in a company that grasps all aspects of the business, including customers, the market, competition, trends, strategy, business models, and more. As such, great Product Management makes great companies.
The benefits of having a great Product Management organization are hard to ignore:
- Delivering products that better meet customer needs
- Increasing revenues and profitability
- Creating delighted customers who generate positive word-of-mouth referrals
- Capturing and owning markets long-term due to solid product strategy which drives overall company efforts
High-performing organizations value the contribution and direction that strong Product Managers bring to the company – and the bottom line.
What is Product Management’s Function in the Company?
Central Point of Communication
One way to think about it is that Product Management is in contact with all company departments, as shown here, as well as external entities such as customers, press, analysts, and partners. Although each of the other groups understands its role in making the company successful, Product Management is the only group that has a holistic point of view and understands how all the pieces fit together to bring great products to market.
Watching the Whole Product
Product Management focuses on not only the product’s features and benefits, the role expands to look at how product value is understood by the customer. This includes how a product is sold, supported, financed, and anything else that the customer could consider as part of the product. While driving delivery of the “Whole Product” is not strictly identified as a Product Management job description, wise Product Managers reach beyond their official responsibilities to make sure that a customer’s needs are met through all departments in the company.
Defining Product Strategy
Product Managers are responsible for defining product strategy. They understand the relative position of their product in today’s market and what tomorrow’s product should become so that it can compete in the future marketplace. Product Management constantly tracks how fast they are making progress as they execute against a defined product strategy.
Defining Go-To-Market Strategy
Product Management knows that products are only successful if the product is bought by customers. Their definition of a go-to-market strategy means that the right pieces are put in place so that a successful product is marketed and sold effectively.
Product Managers are responsible for gathering customer-focused requirements. Their job is to correctly collect and analyze customer input.
Following on from requirements gathering, the next step is for Product Managers to translate that into product requirements which engineering uses to create the final product. This translation of “the customer said” to “the product does” is a core Product Management function which involves immense effort and tact in guiding engineering to the best solution.
Guide Sales and Marketing
Product Managers are responsible for guiding sales and marketing to use the best messages when promoting products. In some cases, this role is given to Product Marketing Managers. Sales and Marketing use the information given to them by Product Managers to best communicate the value of the product and complete the sales process.
What is Product Management’s Relationship To Other Groups and Key Stakeholders?
Product Managers, Product Marketing Managers and Product Owners work with a wide variety of people and departments collectively known as Stakeholders. Here is a description of the most important of these stakeholders and how Product Management helps them achieve their goals.
Companies have project managers to keep the process of product development on track. Project Managers coordinate different departmental tasks and schedule concurrent activities so that a product is released to market in as short a time as possible.
In the sequence of getting product into customer’s hands, Marketing is the next function over from Product Management and Product Marketing. The marketing role includes generating customer demand, helping Product Marketing and sales respond to competitive moves, taking care of public relations, planning events, and creating material that supports the sales force and channel.
The overall goal of a sales function is to facilitate the sales process. A sales process is one in which customers conclude that they should purchase your product — and then do so. Outside of the traditional sales person who has a direct relationship with the buyer, in more complex sales situations, Sales Engineers or Technical Sales Managers are also involved. This technical sales function dives into the detail of the proposed solution including demonstrating the product in action. They ensure that once purchased, the product will do what it’s supposed to do.
Product development or, as it is sometimes called, engineering, is the organization that creates your product. Many specialties fall under this one title, including (but certainly not limited to) the following categories:
- User experience or interface designers
- Software developers
- Hardware engineers
- Quality Assurance
Your relationship with product development is key to your success as a Product Manager. The product development people translate the customer problems that you define into real products that address those needs. The quality of your communication and influencing skills is critical in making sure that you have a good relationship with Product development.
What is Product Management’s Relationship To Other Groups?
Almost every department in a company interacts with Product Management. When you introduce yourself to a department, ask them what the key deliverables and outcomes are that they work on with Product Management. While you may not talk with these departments daily, when you do, this is their perspective on their jobs and the nature of your work with them.
Finance is really focused on keeping the numbers straight and making sure the company is making more than it spends. You work with this department on cost of development, revenue and profits, pricing, and sometimes, forecasting.
Operations streamlines sequences of tasks to deliver products and services, as well as manage many critical company processes. You need to convince them to implement as simple a process as possible so that your customers can easily buy your product. Conversations with operations are often very detailed. Hang in there. These details can make or break the success of your product.
Service and support provide the after-sales support that keeps your customers satisfied as they use your product. Talk to Support folks to discover customer issues and train them on new products and changes to existing ones.
What is Product Management Summary
A well-oiled Product Management function can deliver amazing products that customers understand, buy and use. Becoming great at Product Management requires focus on the product and marketing side of the business. Every day brings a variety of challenging and exhilarating situations that Product Manager’s face and find solutions to. Are you ready to dive in and learn more?