So what do product managers actually do?

The role of a product manager can be different across organisations depending on the industry it’s in, size of the company, nature of the product and so on. I’ve seen product managers who are mainly responsible for product delivery and product managers who are mainly responsible to setting a strategic direction but not necessarily in product delivery. The variety in the role makes it difficult to standardise product manager’s skillsets but regardless of where you work, there are underlying qualities that differentiate a product manager from a great product manager.

One of my favourite product management books is called ‘Inspired’ by Marty Cagan. In his book, Marty talks about three types of product managers:

  1. A product manager who likes to escalate all decision making to a CEO or the senior management. Marty describes these type of product managers as the ‘backlog administrator’ – they simply manage the product backlog and works with the delivery team on execution. I see Certified Scrum Product Owners often falls into this category – obviously not all but many do.
  2. A product manager who likes to escalate decision making to a group of stakeholders. Marty describes these type of product managers as the ‘roadmap administrator’ – they are seeking design by committee to prioritise the roadmap features. From what I have experienced design by committee doesn’t work because you end up with a mesh mash of ideas and a very mediocre outcome.
  3. A product manager who can make decisions and is accountable for the outcomes. Marty describes these types of product managers as the ‘real product managers’ – they have a deep understanding of the customer, data, industry knowledge and their business. I see this group of product managers making data driven decisions and understand both customer and business needs.

A product manager’s role is so much more than managing JIRA tickets, running scrum meetings and facilitating stakeholder meetings. It requires strong leadership skills and business acumen. A great product manager understands customer needs and is able to create value for customers while also create value for the business. A great product manager, in my view, is someone who is able to empower the cross functional team members to create and deliver a great product that solves customer problems while ensuring the business objectives are met.

What do you think?

Julia, the product gal

Want to read more about hiring guild for an awesome product manager, check this out https://www.toptal.com/product-managers/product-management#hiring-guide

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