I attended a webinar on Product Management today entitled, Product Manager 101: What Does A Product Manager Actually Do by Christopher Cummings of Lycos (did you know that they still exist?). His short form definition:
The product manager is the glue that binds the team together and the grease that keeps the product moving in the right direction.
So, what does a PM do? There are some key areas where product managers get involved, and these sound rather familiar from other presentations and recent training. A product manager
- Understands the market
- Develops market-based product strategies
- Creates relevant and usable documentation
- Brings products into the market
- Bridges every department that touches the product.
Of course, he went into detail on each of these elements with examples and highlights. Of the items that caught my attention:
- Use the software - a lot. Product managers have to know how the software works and what it does, and how customers expect it to behave. I've heard / seen others that have said the product manager doesn't necessarily need to be intimately familiar with the software. I suspect this depends on the anticipated usage. I have colleagues who sell infrastructure software that is difficult to "use" unless you have a full scale manufacturing plant outside your office.
- Keep a record of customer (and potential customer) compliments and complaints.
- Do plenty of research in understanding the market and developing those strategies. This is a key long-term activity that is easy to let drop when the short term work rears its head.
- The product manager is the face of the product. This swings both ways: Just like your waiter at a restaurant - they can make or break the perception of the product. In my experience the product manager is much more critical for internal perception, as the marketing and sales teams are heavily involved on the externally-facing work.
- The 5-C's of customer interactions: be Clear, Concise, Confident, Courteous, and Completely understand issues.
- The PM is responsible for profit & loss (P&L). This is a new one on me.
- Leverage your networks. Access experts inside and outside the company. Find customers and potential customers via your network connections.