I often get asked what a product manager is. What do they do? Where do they come from? Why do they like sharpies so much?
In his book Inspired, Marty Cagan describes the job of the product manager as “to discover a product that is valuable, usable and feasible”. Similarly, I’ve always defined product management as the intersection between business, technology and user experience (hint – only a product manager would define themselves in a venn diagram). A good product manager must be experienced in at least one, passionate about all three, and conversant with practitioners in all.
Business – Product Management is above all else a business function, focused on maximising business value from a product. Product Managers should be obsessed with optimizing a product to achieve the business goals while maximizing return on investment. Sorry, this does mean that you are a suit – but you don’t have to wear one.
Technology – There’s no point defining what to build if you don’t know how it will get built. This doesn’t mean a Product Manager needs to be able to sit down and code but understanding the technology stack and most importantly understanding the level of effort involved is crucial to making the right decisions. This is even more important in an Agile world where Product Managers spend more time day to day with the development team than with anyone else inside the business.
User Experience – Last but not least the Product Manager is the voice of the user inside the business and must be passionate about the user experience. Again this doesn’t mean being a pixel pusher but you do need to be out there testing the product, talking to users and getting that feedback first hand – especially in a start-up.