What is a Product? Who is a Product Manager?
This seems like a silly question, but it’s actually a topic that you need to really pay attention to. Obviously, everyone knows what a product is. It could be anything. It could be a shirt that you are currently wearing or a laptop where you are currently reading this article, or the vehicle you drive, etc.
All of these things are products by the classical definition.
From the title “Product Manager”, we can understand that a “product manager” is someone who manages a given product. However, it’s not always the case that a product manager is in charge of an entire device or a piece of software. In many organizations, especially large companies, product managers are in charge of sections of what we normal consumers would typically think of as a product.
When you use Facebook, you’re actually using a multitude of different features. At companies like this, each feature is so vital and complex that it’s usually assigned to a group of people called a product team or a feature team to manage it. So at Facebook, the photos are one product. Though it is actually a feature, it’s called a product in product management lingo. The news feed is a product, the user profile is a product, messaging and commenting, are both products too. Every single one of these products is managed by a product manager and worked on by them and a team of designers and engineers which, again, are called product teams or feature teams.
Let’s go a little bit deeper with that Facebook example.
The news feed at Facebook has multiple product managers working on it, believe it or not because it’s such a big piece of technology. One product manager leads a team that works on the ranking algorithm, one product manager leads a team that works on the advertisements, and there are a bunch of other product managers working on different things that have to do with that news feed.
But there are also cases where product managers are not split up by the features in larger applications or products like Facebook, or by pieces of software, but rather split up by platform.
For instance, at a company, there may be a product manager in charge of everything on the Android app and another one in charge of everything on iOS, and another one in charge of the website.
There are also product managers that work on things like advertising and subscription services, depending on the business model of the company.
Thus, it should be clear that as far as the role of a product manager goes, a product can be anything from an entire product as a consumer sees it, or in some cases split up into smaller sections for larger companies or more complex products.
Product Manager Role
Product management is actually a pretty difficult role to define, which is why you don’t really find the concrete, concise, good explanations just by Googling it. Try Googling it right now to find a really good description, you will understand.
The Venn diagram below pretty much sums up the role of a project manager
Product manager roles and responsibilities change across different industries and different companies. If at one company, you’re a product manager and you have one set of responsibilities, you might have a completely different set of responsibilities at another company, depending on the company, the industry, and the size.
However, there are some core tenants that makeup product management.
The first and most important thing to know about product management is that you’re actually not a manager of anybody. No one reports to you, you’re nobody’s boss, and you definitely can’t fire anyone. This is actually by design because a product manager needs to continuously interact with a number of different people, get maximum collaboration from their engineers and also the designers that they work with.
Think about it for a second. If you wanted honest feedback from engineers and designers that you worked with, but you’re also their boss, do you think they’re going to tell you if they have any disagreements with what you have to say? Probably not. So you want them to tell you every single time that they disagree with you.
A product manager is someone that sits in between multiple areas of the company and acts as a communications hub, organizer, and enabler for everyone else.
As a product manager, you’re kind of a blocker/enabler for engineers and designers. The communication and enabling aspect of product management is a very important one. Engineers are very good at engineering and designers are very good at designing, so it’s best if these people spend their time doing what they’re best at. While engineers focus on solving hard technical challenges, product managers are talking to various stakeholders, users, receiving feedback, and looking at metrics to decide what things can be built next to and which of those things is most important and the best use of time.
A Product Manager is entirely responsible for the product he is in charge of and is responsible for that product’s success or failure. If there’s something wrong with any product, you can blame the product manager.
Summary of Product Manager Role
In short, we can Define the Role of a Product Manager as a combination of multiple roles such as a Communications hub, a Prioritizer, a Researcher, a Presenter, and most importantly who is responsible for the ultimate success of the product.