A responsible species called product manager

Is that an amusing title? If yes, then product management (PM) has retained its title of being one of the most esoteric functions in IT. And this has reasons: compared to the epic number of service organizations, there exist only a few product companies, implying a fewer number of product managers – a breed that can’t be found in herds. Despite of a severe need for PMs within  the chamber, the absolute demand compared to other profiles is minuscule, causing the profile to remain unexplored even by recruiters. Whether or not that makes PM a big deal, the ones that have tasted it will agree that it demands a unique mix of aptitude, attitude & innovation – that can’t be taught in class. And above everything else, it demands hell-a-lot of responsibility.

Most people destroy the niche status of product management (PM) by confusing it with project management. I would say, planning, execution & reporting is only a minuscule part of the PM profile. PM is everything about the product from vision to release which is not a simple 1-step transition. At least, it involves:

  • Envisioning a product that solves a problem or improves some productivity parameter
  • Understanding the market for the product & preparing a market requirement document (MRD)
  • Creating a concept to get management buy-in; At senior levels with P&L responsibility, it may accompany projecting numbers
  • Detailing the product functionality & behavior through prototypes & product requirement document (PRD)
  • Maintaining a prioritized feature roadmap
  • Planning execution & providing visibility to management & other functions
  • Tracking product quality in terms of usability, defects, stability & performance
  • Providing inputs to marketing as they identify & segment markets, brand & position the product, and finally trumpet to prospects & analysts
  • Demonstrating the product to early adopters to get feedback
  • Training the sales team to demo to other prospects
  • Helping legal understand features for building intellectual property & fool-proofing deal contracts; keeping a watch on data privacy
  • Ensuring required customizations & timely implementations
  • Gathering direct (e.g. market, customers, etc) & indirect (e.g. analytics, registration/sales conversion, etc) feedback
  • Revisiting projections once the product is out in market

Does that sound like a profile for the weak-hearted? Isn’t that a lot of responsibility? And while you work with a 10-30 member product team and a dozen other functions, none will ever report to you. Uncle Ben never said with great responsibility comes great power. But (uncle) Prasad says, with great responsibility comes great fun! Are you the responsible species that is ready for the challenge?

If you are already part of the clan, then join our LinkedIn group PMclique, and follow our Twitter channel @pm_ux by mentioning or tagging #pm_ux.

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