Product management - is one of those professions, that is difficult to describe and give a clear definition (it refers to any organization), partly because in each company people are doing this work in a different way. Not long ago, I discussed with my friends: "who is a product manager?" Some of them have recently started to work in this field, others have already achieved some success in this area.
Product manager’s main responsibility is to help his team (and company) to deliver the required product to your customers.
If you divide the process into small points:
Help your team
The best product managers spend all their time on the highest priority things that help their team to deliver a product.
It mainly concerns:
- Coordination - make sure that the team effectively plan, make decisions and work together using clear goals and objectives;
- Cooperation - everyone understands what is happening, when and why, especially now, with the conditions of inevitable changes.
‘By the word "team" I mean a certain number of people working together under the product itself and all the others involved in its promotion, including designers, engineers, quality assurance staff, guys responsible for technical documentation, marketing departments, development customer technical support, legal department and etc.’
Many people think that product manager is the executive director or someone who "writes" specification. But I think this opinion distorts the influence and product management authority. Best product managers create working conditions where team can feel project involvement, where everyone contributes and has the opportunity to suggest something and communicate their ideas. Best product managers coordinate making key decisions and involve each team member in this process, they are responsible for identifying differences, eliminating downtime and finding common solutions (or at least make sure that all are involved in the process). This doesn’t mean that you should do everything what product manager assumes to be right. I also don’t want to say that product managers should not have their own good ideas, but the main goal is not to find a team that just does what it was told to do. Instead of this the best product managers involve all team members and build a process on the basis of collaborative decision-making.
From a tactical point of view, helping your team means to record and summarize the notes after a long meeting or writing a specification that reflects agreed and planned actions in writing. I’ve noticed that writing a good report may take more time than meeting itself. So your main responsibilities in working with your extensive team are: gather feedback, share the plan of action, and ensure that no obstacles or traps block your team on the way to the result – delivering your product to the consumer. It can be called as the involvement of all groups into the ACT SOLID expansion team.
What does it mean?
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Programmers produce the code, designers create the appearance and graphics, but product managers don't give any substantial characteristics to the final product. In the end I believe that team and product success depends on the efficiency of product managers.
Help your company
As a product manager you need to understand the overall company’s goals and objectives, as well as how your team comes to agreement with overall vision. The best product managers with whom I happened to meet or work perfectly understood it - they often turned to the vision of the founder and did everything to make what their team worked on helped them get closer to this goal. They could clearly articulate how the achievement of goals and indicators on their product can help the overall company strategy. Besides, they believed that their team had to work for the benefit of the entire company, in collaboration with other teams, not just do what they personally considered important. One thing that I always try to find out during the interview with candidates to the position of a product manager is how often they compare their own vision with a shared vision of the company, in particular, the vision of the founder, executive director and vice president of the group. Just as in the case with the help to the team, I'm not saying that product managers should not have their own good ideas, but they should be able to implement their ideas in line with the basic vision and objectives of the company, as well as to get support higher ex-officio colleagues.
In fact, there is nothing more important than delivering the product to your users. You may help your team a lot creating great things, finding the right product or implementing the general idea, but all that will matter only if it will help your team release the product to the market. Great product managers see the difference between developing the right product and releasing it to the market on time. Teams are always testing, checking their products, considering feedbacks, but any project comes to the point when the team has to announce that the product is ready enough (but of course it’s never 100% ready). Teams with clear goals and tasks, and good understanding of the user and his needs, can find the balance. A good product management usually facilitates this process.
Delivering is important, but the best product managers usually ensure that the team creates the right product. Creating something new is always fun, but is not always a surefire success. That is why the goal of the team is being creative and inventing a new solution that will represent the right product and meet user’s demands. Good product managers can feel what is right and what is not, and consider feedbacks from testers and users of the product. They are great at understanding the vision of founders and management of the company, and do everything to make the product correspond their ideas.
What is even more important for a great product manager is finding out after release if the delivered product is “the right one”. They should cooperate with the team to make sure that the main properties of the product are measurable and that there are answers to the difficult questions about whether people really use the product. What they do after the product delivery is sifting the data and helping the team find out which parts are not working, and then make up a collective plan for improvement and further checks.
The most difficult part in development is formulating its main usage, i.e. describing who and why will use the product. The best product managers act as advocates for their users and represent their interests in nearly all decisions related to the product.
This requires deep understanding of your target audience, their challenges and problems, and how your product can deliver value for them and manage their needs. Good product managers always listen to customers’ feedbacks – it may be usability testing, meeting with users in the field, reading emails or tweets to the technical support, or working with people from your company who do it every day. But the best ones absorb all this invaluable information and transform it into a product vision which ensures the team that they are creating the right product.
The absolute truth is that no product can satisfy everyone, it is a continuous process of constant product development and improvement. The best product managers are those who roll their sleeves up and help their team on this way.
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