What do Product Managers do? What is expected of them? And how not to become overwhelmed?

The answers to the first two questions above depends much upon the organisation, its size, the department ‘Product Management’ lives in your company and the industry sector that you work in.

One thing is certain regardless of company demographics the job of the Product Manager can be overwhelming - a view shared by comments made by review on Alyssa.S Dver book ‘Software Product Management Essentials’ – a good read for all new and up-and-coming product managers.

Being overwhelmed is bad news for everyone: company, product and the Product Manager. So as a Product Manager it is essential to understand what your stakeholders expect of you and to share with them what you expect from them. It’s a good idea to map this out and identify any possible conflicts. Areas of conflicts that need to be resolved quickly either via your line manager or directly with the people involved. I’m half way through this exercise: I solicited feedback from all my key stakeholders: MD, line manager, business owners, e-marketing etc... The results of the first three are listed below:

Managing Director

  • A clear understanding of the online strategy of each of the products in my portfolio.

  • A clear understanding of the key commercial drivers of each online business and more importantly what drives them.

  • A close relationship with the key people driving our online businesses. And through those relationships become an integral part of the online businesses you support.

  • The ability to communicate clearly and effectively on technical and development matters. Give clarity where there is confusion and doubt.

Line Manager AKA Head of Web Solutions Group

  • Stay positive and take ownership.

  • Communicate proactively and openly with me, your colleagues and our stakeholders.

  • Raise issues affecting your performance, the performance of our group and the performance of our products.

  • Highlight risks and potential mitigation strategies.

  • Suggest solutions to problems.

  • Come up with ideas on how we can improve our department and products, and how we can grow revenue.

  • Take the initiative to develop your skillsHelp your colleagues to develop their skills.

  • Have fun at work ?

Business Owner (Responsible for P/L)

  • In depth understanding and knowledge of the product you manage.

  • Understanding of and empathy with the commercial requirements.

  • Identifying issues and finding solutions before they become a problem.

  • Being innovative - suggesting new solutions and approaches that will benefit the site and it's users.

  • Being a solution finder.

  • Prioritising the major issues.

  • Communicating complex issues in a manner that non-technical people understand.

  • Acting as a facilitator between commercial departments and the IT/IS department.

As mentioned in the introduction – what you do as a Product Manager and what is expected of you depends on where you are working and what you are working on. Typical Product Management activities include:

  • Managing the brand.

  • Responsibility for the profit and loss (P/L) of the product.

  • Being the internal and external product champion.

  • Generating sales leads.

  • Writing product specifications and business requirements.

  • Being the liaison between sales and technology teams.

..and list goes on. The Silicon Valley Product Group has produced two articles that have dealt with the function and roles of the Product Manager: Titles, roles and responsibilities - and Where should Product Management Live.

The key point for any new or up and coming product manager is to identify what is expected of you– what you expect from others and then go about to remove any potential areas of conflict .

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