An Overview of Product Management Roles - Piyush Awadhesh, The Lisbon MBA (2012 - 2013)
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Piyush Awadhesh has 4+ years of experience in Product Management roles and is currently working as a Product Marketing Manager with a reputed American multinational conglomerate company. He completed the prestigious Lisbon MBA program (in partnership with MIT’s prestigious Sloan School of Management) and went on to work with major brands, bridging technology and business goals to provide productive solutions. Prior to his MBA, Piyush did his BTech from BIT Mesra and worked as a Technical Consultant.
How do you define a product? We can have multiple definitions and have lengthy debate over it, for the sake of this article, I would stick to something simple…
“Product is something that solves a pain, serves a need or satisfies a want in a cost effective manner while offering ease of use and convenience”
If we do a deep dive, the whole idea of Product Management evolves from this statement
Now let’s apply our mind over a simple matter of what does it take to build a product?
Everything revolves around economics. How much do I want to spend? Until when? What will I earn? When?
Finance (in most cases the budget of the BU) defines the size of budget that can be earmarked for the product development. Set out a clear path of investments that will be given to the product in a phased manner based on short term goals.
What exactly are we trying to build? What is the minimum offering that will entice the customer to user our product? Are we solving a pain or satisfying a want? Is it the aspiration of the customer that we want to meet?
Amidst all the excitement of building the best product with best features, it is important to always remind the team about the only problem that the product intends to solve. It’s of paramount importance to build those core feature right (the first time) and deliver best of user experience. Even if it comes to dropping a few features from your product to build those core features right, so be it, but the success or failure of your product might depend on this.
Understanding of Market
To whom and how, will we sell? Why will somebody buy our product? What are the unique selling points? What is my market size? What is my target customer’s purse size?
One of the most important dimension to product development. Marketing and Sales team are often attributed to have their ears close to the ground. They can offer what’s happening, what is selling and what is not. What are our competitors trying to do? A lot of research and careful analysis is need to ensure that the product is a success otherwise even the best engineered product can fail if it doesn’t have empathy for the user.
Who will build it for me? Do we have all the required expertise? Is it viable? Is it feasible? Is it possible?
Before starting the product development, it is important to be pragmatic and set out a roadmap that can be achieved, in time and with the best of quality that guarantees a decent chance for the product to succeed. Even if you have the best product in the world but it is delivered much later than all your competitors then there is huge opportunity cost.
Design Thinking (Industrial Design + User Interface Design)
How should my product look? What will create a first positive impression in my user’s mind?
One of the biggest changes that the tech industry has imbibed in the last few years, is putting the design at the center of the product development. Apple has been doing it for decades and now everybody wants to do it. Build a product that appeals to your user. Apart from solving a pain or satisfying a want for the user, your product should invoke positive emotions in the user.
Business Priority (in case you are part of a company which has multiple product lines)
What does the higher management want? When do they need it? Will this product be the right fit in the company’s portfolio? Is the brand experience similar? Do we need to be part of the existing product umbrella? Is it a new brand offering?
A product plays an integral part in the strategy of an organization. The roadmap for a product should include bits that are consistent with the company’s strategy for the product. The messaging, look n feel, branding etc. Essentially a product is how an organization communicates to its user, it better be right.
Who will support once the product is launched? What kind of help options do we need to provide?
As opposed to the good old days, most companies do understand today that the consumer cycle doesn’t end with the user buying the product. Infact, it is the post purchase experience including customer satisfaction that may determine how well your product does. It is important that this is given thought and addressed.
Are we infringing on somebody’s patent? Do we need to file patent? What should be the terms and conditions for the use of my product?
While everybody wants to be on the right side of the law, the complexity increases if you are targeting multiple regions for your product launch. Each country has its own privacy laws and legal framework which your product needs to meet.
Now we should have a fair idea of how complex can product development be. Imagine if for each of the facets mentioned above, we have a representative putting out his/her agenda that governs the direction of the product development, the kind of chaos and confusion that would ensue. For a finance guy, a conservative budget is more important than a sales representative’s requirement who wants an additional feature that would help him/her to side sell or engineering may want their technical debts to be cleared that would help them deliver a best in the class product rather than spending time incorporating that one change initiated by the early consumer (VOC) feedback.
This is where a Product Manager’s role becomes important. A Product Manager has to represent all the stakeholders when it comes to product planning. Product Management role is a bridge between all the stakeholders of the organization and the engineering team. Building a product roadmap which includes and effectively prioritizes all the stories (Features) that delivers on the organizations goals becomes the key. A product’s success can more often than not determined by the successful execution of the key goals and a Product Manager plays a pivotal role in determining the path to success.
Before we start thinking of Product Managers as super humans who can do everything, we need to dispel that thought. Like there are many dimensions to product development, there are different kinds of roles within Product Management. Many organizations have their own take on the definitions and often have their own interpretations.
Following are a few roles that most of the organizations have…
Technical product manager, manages the roadmap, liaisons with all the stakeholders and primarily interfaces with the engineering team to get the job done and runs the deliveries with the business team.
Product Marketing Manager, more of market facing role. Manages the communication for the product.
Solution Owner, owns end to end product development, marketing and sales related decisions. Manages pricing, market analysis, customer segmentation etc. and is involved at a high level in most aspects of Product Management.
On Qualities that a product manager should possess, we will leave it for another day…