In this article, we’re going to discuss the hot new career out there in the tech industry called product management, what that is exactly and how you can take the first steps to become a PM. To learn more about product management visit our website and check out our comprehensive guide to product management.
What is a Product?
Let’s start by discussing what a product actually is. A laptop, a phone, a watch, a camera with which you record and the software you use to edit the video, the sound, YouTube, where you can upload the video – all of these are essential products and have hundreds of product managers working day and night to deliver the best product to the market.
So as you can see, there are basically two kinds of products here:
- One is the physical products that you can touch and feel,
- The other is software products, which are generally your apps, your SaaS platforms, and similar things.
What Does a PM Do?
The role of a product manager is very broadly defined as a mini CEO. That means that they are responsible for the success of a product which is generally defined by certain metrics or KPIs attached to the product.
Even though the role has ‘manager’ in it, a product manager is not a manager and they directly do not have anyone reporting to them but are responsible for taking all the stakeholders in a business together and making a product – which is why it is an extremely important role
What is the Product Development Process?
To understand the product manager’s role more deeply, let’s look at the product development process. All the steps in this process are something that a product manager is directly in charge of:
1. User Research
It starts with understanding user expectations, meaning user research. A product manager basically goes out and understands the market, the user, to figure out what kind of product is actually required.
The next step is planning. Based on the research, the product manager comes up with a lot of features that are required of the product they are trying to build.
3. Building a Roadmap
Next, the product manager needs to define a roadmap and prioritize these features. They need to figure out what should happen next month, the coming month, the coming quarter, the coming year and essentially make an entire roadmap for the product.
4. Building the Product
The next step is to build the product. This is where essentially, the product manager will start working with the business team, the designers, and the engineers to basically create the app, the platform, whatever it is that they are working on.
There’s a very infamous Venn diagram that goes hand in hand with the definition of product management. It shows the product manager sitting between the business team, the designers, and the technology team, and working with all of them together to ship the best product.
5. Releasing the Product
The next step is to release the product, meaning the product could be first opened up to some beta users, small target audiences to see how it’s really working, and then rolled out to the rest of the market.
The product manager works in tandem with the PR team, the legal and the marketing team, to understand the best go-to-market strategy.
So once a product has been built and shipped to the market, it’s the product manager’s responsibility to study the metrics, understand what is working, what is not working, and restart the whole process of going back to the users, understanding where the product needs to change.
They will again make a roadmap for the same product and then build it out again, roll it out to the consumers and do this over and over again.
7. Retiring the Product
Finally, in some situations where the product is not really working as well as expected or due to market changes, changes with competitors, the company decides to move in a different direction.
In these stages, the product manager is required to retire the product. This means you would typically reach out to your consumers, your users, and tell them that you probably would be shutting down your product at a certain date.
Types of PMs and Products
All the stages we’ve discussed are all part of the product development process and implicitly part of a product manager’s job.
Let us now discuss the types of product managers or the types of products that a product manager can work on.
1. Internal Products
These are products that are essentially used within the company for their day-to-day operations and are the easiest products to start your career in.
Basically, if you’re looking to start your career in product management, internal products are the best way to go because the users of this product are in-house within your own company so within your direct reach.
You can go and reach out to them, talk to them, understand their needs, build the product and test it out extremely easily making the stakes really not that high. If there are any issues affecting the product, it’s not really that big a deal because it is used internally within the company.
2. B2B Products
With these products, the users are typically other businesses, people who work in other companies.
The product managers generally work very closely with the sales team here to ensure that the product can be sold. Your features are generally defined by your paid clients, and they get a say on what needs to be built into the product. You will have to listen very closely to their requirements in this type of product as well.
The level of risk is not that high because the number of users is typically not high and it’s easier to go talk to your consumers directly and understand their requirements.
3. Consumer Products
This is the most challenging kind of product because you are trying to make millions of people into users and it is impossible to perform user research on all of them.
As such, you have to select a small group, understand their requirements and you hope these requirements would be similar to your typical audience. This is where great user research skills are required.
If there is an issue with the product, it can affect thousands or millions of users, making this an extremely challenging role and typically the most fun kind of product management role.
Main Qualities of a PM
We will end this article by looking briefly at what qualities any PM needs to possess:
1. A Problem-Solving Attitude
A product manager is always in charge of the problem and needs to figure out the solutions to those problems and get them implemented and fixed.
So you typically need to be a first principle thinker who can take a problem, dig deep, get into the root cause of the problem and figure out solutions.
2. Communication Skills
You need to work with all the other departments of the company, such as business, sales, design, engineering, marketing, and you need to make sure you find the best solutions for whatever problems your users have.
And speaking of users, communication is also a big part of user research. You need to know how to ask the right set of questions to understand your user problems. A lot of times, the users themselves don’t know what the problems are. So as a product manager, you really need to know how to ask the right questions.
3. Technical Knowledge
Now, we’re not saying that you need to know how to code, but having a good knowledge of certain coding languages is going to really help ensure that you know exactly what is being done by the engineering team.
4. Leadership Skills
As a project manager, nobody is really reporting to you, and yet you are responsible for getting the work done across teams. So you really need leadership skills to convince others that whatever direction you’re taking for the product is the right one. You need to get all the stakeholders on board, and even after that, you need complete ownership of the product, which means in case of success or failure, it is all your responsibility.
We hope we were able to summarize what the product manager does, what product management really is, and help you decide whether you want to pick that career or not. For more information on how to become a product manager check out myproductmentor.com