What is Product Management? PM Roles and Responsibilities
By SaiSatish Vedam – Ex-Senior Director of Product Management, Oracle
What is product management? This is a question that often leads to various definitions. Different people have different perspectives on what product management entails. However, one common way of looking at it is as a combination of science and art. Product management involves identifying compelling market opportunities that address unmet needs or underserved markets. It requires quantifying the potential of these opportunities and finding a compelling solution that differentiates itself from existing alternatives.
The Challenge of Defining Product Management
If you ask 20 people about product management, you will likely get 15 different definitions. This challenge stems from the multifaceted nature of the role. Product management requires a deep understanding of customers, their pain points, and the market landscape. It involves making strategic decisions about which opportunities to pursue and determining how to solve them better than competitors or existing alternatives.
The Role of Profitability in Product Management
While growth is often prioritised in many companies, profitability remains a crucial consideration in well-run organisations. The decision to focus on profitability or growth depends on the business model and long-term goals. Neglecting profitability can lead to financial challenges and cost-cutting measures in the future. Therefore, effective product management involves balancing the pursuit of growth with a focus on profitability.
Three Fundamental Responsibilities of Product Management
In product development, there is a common focus on building the product correctly, ensuring quality, timeliness, and adhering to budget constraints. However, there is a critical step that precedes this process: building the right product. This involves understanding customers, their pain points, and unmet needs. By empathising with customers, product managers can make informed decisions about what to build and how to differentiate their product from alternatives.
Another essential aspect of product management is finding the right champions. These are key stakeholders who support the product’s development and success. Collaborating with champions from different teams helps gather support, resources, and funding for the product. Building relationships and influencing stakeholders are crucial skills for product managers.
The third responsibility is assessing the business impact of the product. Is the opportunity worth pursuing? Can it generate significant revenue? Product managers need to quantify the potential market size and forecast the financial implications of their product strategy. This analysis helps determine the feasibility and potential success of a product.
The Journey of a Product Manager
Product management is not without its challenges. Finding champions and convincing stakeholders can be a lengthy process. For example, identifying a new market or use case for an existing product may require extensive effort to educate the sales team and gain their support. It may involve validating the need and potential of the new market or use case. Sometimes, it even requires finding allies within the sales team who can help drive the initiative forward. By persevering and building relationships, product managers can expand the reach of their products into new markets.
The Importance of Customer Understanding
One of the key competencies of product managers is a deep understanding of customers. By empathising with customers, product managers can identify pain points and unmet needs. This understanding guides the decision-making process and helps in building products that truly address customer requirements. Customer feedback and insights play a vital role in shaping the product strategy and roadmap.
Quantifying Market Opportunities
Assessing the size and potential of an opportunity is crucial in product management. Product managers need to determine if the market opportunity is large enough to warrant investment. This involves forecasting the potential revenue and growth over a specific time period, such as one year, three years, or five years. By quantifying the opportunity, product managers can align their strategies with the organisation’s goals and make informed decisions about resource allocation.
Product management is a dynamic and multidimensional role that combines science and art. It involves identifying market opportunities, building the right product, finding champions, and assessing the business impact. Successful product managers understand their customers, quantify market opportunities, and navigate the challenges of stakeholder management. By mastering these skills, product managers can drive innovation, growth, and profitability within their organisations.
SaiSatish Vedam – Ex-Senior Director of Product Management, Oracle
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