4 Things That Real World Product Managers Do

by drjim on June 20, 2011

Do You Know What Product Managers Spend Their Time Doing?

Do You Know What Product Managers Spend Their Time Doing?

What do product managers really spend their time doing? We like to talk about all of the things that a product manager should be spending their time doing – boldly defining new products and clearly laying out markets to go after. However, the day-to-day reality of being a product manager can be quite different. The folks over at Pragmatic Marketing have just released their annual product manager survey and it contains some interesting points…

Roadmaps

If ever there was a part of a product that a product manager should own, the roadmap is it. Just to make sure that we’re all on the same page here, a product roadmap lays out the changes and enhancements that are planned for your product in the future. You get to define the future: is it just this month, this year, or do you go out for 5 years?

Although the product manager should own the product’s roadmap, this is not always an easy thing to do. Development teams have been known to want to play a big role in saying what shows up in the product and when it shows up.

The reason that this is the wrong way to handle things is that for your product to be successful, it really needs to be your customers who are defining in what order (and when) features are introduced. Who owns the roadmap can be the source of many battles within the firm.

Requirements

When people ask me what skills a product manager needs to have, at the top of my list is the ability to communicate clearly. Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to product requirements.

Product managers own the requirements for their products. Normally, the creation of product requirements is not something that people fight over. I mean, who really wants to do all of that writing?

The key skill that a product manager needs to have is the ability to both clearly and succinctly express what the product needs to be able to do. This has to be done for multiple simultaneous audiences: the sales teams need to be able to read it and understand what’s coming and the development teams need to be able to read it and understand what they need to do.

Market Problems

In a world without problems, there probably wouldn’t be much of a need for product managers. Thankfully there are a lot of problems out there! I’m not sure if “problems” is really the right word to use here, I think that “changes” might be closer to the mark…

When we create and launch a product, we do so in a market that has certain characteristics: we know who our customers are and we know who we are competing against. From that moment on everything changes.

As things change, it is the responsibility of the product manager to change with it. We need to adapt our products, our marketing message, and perhaps even our pricing to deal with the new realities as they show up.

Positioning

What does your product do? Who does it do it for it? Why should your customers choose your product over somebody else’s? These are all great questions and if you don’t have a solid answer for each of them, things are not looking good for your product.

Knowing how you want people to view your product against all of their other options is a key point that product managers have to take care of. This higher level ability to “see” your product as the market does is very important.

Since we are dealing with an ever changing market, your product positioning will always be changing also. This means that as a product manager you need to always be “looking” at your product and making marketing adjustments to it.

What All Of This Means For You

It’s not easy being a product manager. There is no such thing as a product that just “runs on auto pilot”. Instead, every day we need to be making adjustments to both our products and how we market them in order to ensure that they will be successful.

A recent survey shows that product managers spend a lot of their time working on four main tasks. These tasks are: creating roadmaps, defining requirements, dealing with market “problems”, and ensuring that their products are properly positioned.

If we can master these activities, then we’ll have the core of what it means to be a great product manager taken care of. That being said, it’s not easy being a product manager; however, at least now you know what’s required!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: How important do you think creating business plans is as a part of a product manager’s job?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

The secret to true product manager success is to get more people to buy your product. Giving it away for free sure seems like a great way to get this to happen – but you probably won’t keep your job for long. Maybe there’s another way. Could rediscovering the lost art of using free samples be something that product managers should rediscover?

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