What is the role of a product manager?
Product managers are responsible for guiding the success of a product and leading 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. They often 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.
The product manager is the person responsible for defining the why, when, and what of the product that the engineering team builds. This means they lead cross-functional teams from a product's conception all the way through to its launch.
Here are the core aspects of product leadership that all product managers should feel accountable for:
- 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. The product manager owns the roadmap and must prioritize building what matters most to achieve the strategic goals and initiatives behind the product.
- Product managers must plan what their teams will deliver and the timeline for implementation. This holds true no matter which development methodology the engineering team uses. The product manager is responsible for defining the release process and coordinating all of the activities required to bring the product to market. This involves bridging gaps between different functions within the company and aligning all of the teams involved — namely marketing, sales, and customer support. Responsibilities also include managing dependencies in and across releases to complete release phases and milestones.
- Every organization wants better ideas — but it is tough to manage and prioritize them. Product managers own the creative process of generating, developing, and curating new ideas. They determine which ideas should be promoted into features to push the product strategy forward — namely those that will achieve key objectives for the product line and business. To this end, they also ensure that feedback and requests are seamlessly integrated into their product planning and development processes. Product managers then communicate the status of ideas back to the customers, partners, and internal team members who submitted them.
- The product manager prioritizes features by ranking them against the strategic goals and initiatives. This requires making difficult trade-off decisions based on the value that new features will deliver to customers and to the business. The product manager is also responsible for defining the requirements for each feature and the desired user experience. Product managers 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.
Building great products is invigorating. Successful 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. 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.