What is the role of a product manager?

The best product managers are visionaries. You guide the success of a product and lead the cross-functional team that is responsible for improving it. It is an important organizational role — especially in technology companies — that sets the strategy, roadmap, and feature definition for a product or product line. The position may also include marketing, forecasting, and profit and loss (P&L) responsibilities. In many ways, the role of a product manager is similar in concept to a brand manager at a consumer packaged goods company.

Product managers provide the deep product expertise needed to lead the organization and make strategic product decisions. You analyze market and competitive conditions, laying out a product vision that is differentiated and delivers unique value based on customer demands. The role spans many activities from strategic to tactical and provides important cross-functional leadership — most notably between engineering, marketing, sales, and support teams.

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Though the scope of work is broad, the responsibilities of a product manager can be broken down into a few key areas. Here are the core aspects of product leadership that all product managers should feel accountable for:

Setting strategy

At the highest level, you are responsible for setting your product's vision and strategy. Your job is to clearly articulate the business value to the product team so everyone understands the intent behind a new product or an enhancement to an existing product.

Strategic planning involves laying out major areas of investment so you can prioritize what matters most to achieve the product goals. As product manager, you own the product roadmap — the timeline that defines what you will deliver and when.

Defining releases

Product managers translate product strategy into planned work — defining what the team will deliver and the timeline for implementation. This holds true no matter which development methodology your engineering team uses.

You are responsible for managing the release process and dependencies in and across releases to complete release phases and milestones. You coordinate all of the activities required to bring new functionality to market. This involves bridging gaps between different functions within the company and aligning key teams — namely marketing, sales, and customer support.

Evaluating ideas

Every organization wants better ideas for the product. Product managers are responsible for crowdsourcing, developing, and curating ideas that will deliver value to customers. You own the organization's idea management process and determine which ideas should be promoted into features to push the product strategy forward.

To this end, you also ensure that feedback and requests are seamlessly integrated into the product planning and development processes. You communicate the status of ideas back to the customers, partners, and internal team members who submitted them.

Prioritizing features

Product managers prioritize features by ranking them against the strategic goals and initiatives. You have to make difficult trade-off decisions based on the value new features will deliver to your customers and to the business.

You are also responsible for defining the requirements for each feature and the desired user experience. You work closely with engineering on the technical specifications and ensure that teams have all of the information they need to deliver a complete product to market.

New product development is invigorating. When you feel a deep sense of responsibility and commitment to the direction of your product, you will build what matters and find deep satisfaction doing it.

Mature product teams use purpose-built product management software to set strategy, define features, build roadmaps, and keep stakeholders informed of progress. Roadmap software like Aha! provides a single source of truth for communicating product plans. Sign up for a free 30-day trial to try Aha! now.

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