What exactly does a Product Manager do? Redefining Product Management function

There has been an array of definitions for the product management role – mostly derived from the standard one (shown below), which I believe isn’t the most accurate definition of Product Management role as of today.

Product Management Role Definition
Product Management Role Definition (courtesy Atlassian blog)

That is, product management intersects between UX, Tech and Business functions.

FYI: This definition was created in 2011 by Martin Eriksson – when there was no Uber, Airbnb & Google was still largely a search company. Yahoo was still around, iPhone was just making inroads into people’s lives.

That is, the product world was still very linear.

The world has changed, digital transformation has disrupted pretty much all the industries and while the product management role has evolved, the definition hasn’t.

And this leaves aspiring and current product managers rather confused and bewildered.

It has to be said, though, that defining the Product Management function is never easy. And this is because Product Management is inherently multi-disciplinary and true roles differ from company to company, industry to industry and geography to geography as well.

(Re)Defining Product Management (in 2019)

(Re)Defining Product Management: What EXACTLY does a product manager go?

In this video, I have tried to provide a succinct and accurate take on this question to help newcomers and intermediate Product Managers alike.

Definition of product management, from first-principle thinking

Let’s define the product management function from first-principle thinking, irrespective of industry, geography, and business type.

A Product Manager represents the customer to the team and ensures the company builds product which customers want. Products which the team can build and sell (based on capability) and helps the business achieve desired outcomes.

Product Management Role and Responsibility Definition
Product Management Role and Responsibility : The New Definition.

That is, a more practical definition of product management as opposed to the ones which are merely ‘skill’ based. The need for speed skill changes with industry, geography, corporate culture and even among teams within the company – but the core definition shouldn’t.

Redefining Product Management Role:

A role that intersects between business needs, customer requirements and capability of the team.

NOTE: Our next Product Management course starts September.

The course, unlike any other course on the planet focuses primarily on driving product-thinking skill (as opposed to just learn-tools and get-a-degree sort of snake-oil-salesmanship) to the participants and we ensure that participants implement these learnings in real-world products.

Do apply, if you are keen on becoming the next 10X product manager.


Why is understanding of ‘Capability’ important.

Capability is constraint as well as awareness.

It is 2012 and imagine you’re a PM at Nokia trying to beat Apple – you would need to really understand Nokia’s (tech, product and marketing) capability and play on the strengths (which could be different from an emerging competition called Apple).

  • Do you expect Nokia product management to go all-in and start writing down features which it can’t build (pinch-and-zoom among them, which Nokia did struggle with)?
  • Do you expect product management to rethink product, distribution, branding of the entire Nokia suite, knowing the fact that PM team has ZERO authority in a majority of these roles (unless you expect product managers to have godly superpowers)? PM should push for changes, but not be gated on these (assuming you are being paid to launch meaningful products).

Well, PM should be rethinking the design, distribution etc. – but the 10X product managers are very good at priotizing the market opportunities based on teams capability (awareness about capability is a godly intuitive characteristic amongst 10X product managers).

The 10X Product Manager’s daily prayer goes like this:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the
Wisdom to know the difference

Tl;dr: Business, Customer and Capability: mixing these is all that matters. Great product managers understand this very well.

Let me know what’s your take on this definition? Do you agree/disagree? You can take the conversation on your social (or email me: ashish@nextbigwhat.com).

»Know when the next article in ‘Unboxing Product Management’ series goes up







Aside, responsibilities of a typical Product Manager

What does a typical product manager do? Well, here goes the high-level definition:

  • Define the problem & value proposition.
  • Define the market & the customer.
  • Work with the technical team to ship product.
  • Work with marketing & sales on collateral.
  • Study competition & capabilities.
  • Define requirements and prepare roadmap.
  • Maintain stakeholder communication.
  • Be an evangelist for the product.
  • Tweak the product based on feedback, analytics.

[Ashish Sinha is program director of the NextBigWhat Academy’s Product Management Course]

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