The product management guide

Aha! helps product managers get their mojo back

What is the role of a product manager?

The Product Manager is an important organizational role typically in a technology company. It is similar in concept to a brand manager at a consumer packaged goods company. The product manager is often considered the CEO of the product and is responsible for the strategy, roadmap, and feature definition for that product or product line. The position may also include marketing, forecasting, and profit and loss (P&L) responsibilities.

The product manager often analyzes market and competitive conditions and lays out a product vision that is differentiated and delivers unique value based on customer demands. The role of the product manager spans many activities from strategic to tactical and at its best provides cross-functional leadership—bridging gaps within the company between different functions, most notably between engineering-oriented teams, sales and marketing, and support.

The product manager is the person responsible for defining the ‘why’, ‘what,’ and ‘when’ of the product that the engineering team will build. They are the CEO of their product -- which means they lead cross-functional teams from a product's conception through to its launch.

Here are the core aspects of product leadership that all product managers should feel accountable for and work hard at:

The product manager is responsible for setting a product vision and strategy. Their job is to clearly articulate the business value to the product team so they understand the intent behind the new product or product release. They own the strategy behind the product along with its roadmap and must work with engineering to build what matters.

PMs must plan for what their teams will deliver and when they will deliver it. This holds true no matter which dev methodologies product teams use. The product manager owns the release aspect of product. Responsibilities include knowing when (and when not) to create a master release; managing features and dependancies in and across releases; and managing releases with phases and milestones.

Every organization wants better ideas -- but it is tough to manage and prioritize them. Product managers own ideation -- the creative process of generating, developing, and curating new ideas. They collect, curate, and promote the most relevant ideas into features. They know which ideas should be promoted to features -- the ones that will achieve key objectives for the product line and business. They also ensure that key feedback and requests are seamlessly integrated into their product planning and development processes.

The product manager defines the features and requirements necessary to deliver a complete product to market and lead the product team to success. They are responsible for articulating the ‘what’ and working with engineering to determine the ‘when.’

The product manager is typically seen as the CEO of a product. For the product manager, this means they are responsible for making product decisions and often is the lead resource for the rest of the organization when deep product expertise is required. This includes supporting the organizations that help bring the product to market and work directly with customers -- namely marketing, sales and support.

Building great products is invigorating. And leading product is the best job in the world when you know how to do it right. Great products are built and adopted by customers when a group of committed, focused, and passionate team members play their positions to the best of their abilities. And this starts with a strong product manager who feels a deep sense of responsibility for their role and managing what is defined above.

When done right, product managers have the best job on earth.

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