Institute of Product Leadership
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What does a Product Manager do? Product Manager Roles and Responsibilities

By  Rajeev Srivastava – Director of Product Management at Google

The role of product managers is multifaceted. It extends beyond merely identifying customer needs or business requirements that a product or a feature can help them meet. They define what success looks like for the product and rallies a team to turn that vision into reality.

The best product managers are visionaries who can guide the success of their products and lead cross-functional teams to turn that vision into reality. This article discusses in detail the multifaceted responsibilities of a product manager, the importance of their visionary leadership and effective collaboration between relevant teams.

Key Takeaways:

  • The best product managers successfully drive the entire vision of the product irrespective of market conditions, team dynamics or other inevitable roadblocks.
  • Product managers need to objectively evaluate the product ideas, irrespective of whether the ideas are theirs.
  • Product managers should ensure that they strategically prioritize tasks and features to ensure that the product aligns with their vision. 
  • They should have the necessary skills required to understand the entire process of product development.
  • It is critical that they effectively collaborate across UX, technology and business teams.
In this article
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    Being a Visionary Leader

    The best product managers in the world do not really seek to replicate existing products. Instead, they are visionaries driving the entire vision of the product and lead their teams to deliver on those goals. But the journey to becoming a good product manager comes with inevitable roadblocks and challenges like market conditions, non-market conditions, team or organization dynamics and so on. The best product leaders are really the ones who lead from the front and tackle the product problem head on.

    Evaluating Product Ideas

    Regardless of your situation as a product manager, you are expected to evaluate ideas. Evaluating ideas is independent of where the ideas come from. Product managers often get hung up and question themselves whether the ideas need to be their own or not. But in order to become a good product manager, it is immaterial whether you come up with your own ideas or not. The much more important goal while solving a product problem is to evaluate those ideas, determine their merit, and be objective about their evaluation. These are the parameters used while defining the product.

    Setting an Effective Strategy

    Setting a strategy is not just about understanding what the product can do, but also about what the product cannot do. The challenge lies in prioritizing tasks and features to ensure that the product aligns with their vision. The must not do list is a very important part of being a product manager because it helps narrow down the list, allocate resources efficiently and focus on the problem better.

    Understanding Product Development

    Product means different things to different people. Product is not something that you are building for one customer at a time. When you build things for one customer at a time, it’s called custom development. There is a time and place for that and many of us have spent time in our careers building custom products, which are highly impactful, in some cases it is portable. You can build it for one customer and take it to other customers as well. But generally, product development is about scalability and repeatability. A successful product, once built, can be deployed multiple times. A product manager’s skill lies in his ability to understand and prioritize the product’s features and capabilities.

    Cross-Collaborating across Teams

    A product manager’s role requires him to operate at the intersection of three major teams- UX, business and technology. The extent to which product managers can successfully implement this concept depends on their ability to tailor it according to their needs. This is not a one-size-fits-all situation.

    UX is a very important team because it helps in understanding the customers’ expectations and ensuring that the product successfully meets those expectations. If they do not meet those expectations well, they have a very interesting idea to solve a business problem. They also need to ensure that the resources in their technology team (engineering, data science, etc.) have the required skill sets to meet product goals. This involves close collaboration with engineering teams to determine feasibility and push the boundaries of what is feasible.  

    Being a visionary product manager involves more than just identifying customer needs and setting business objectives. It requires you to face the problem head on, strategize efficiently, evaluate ideas objectively, understand product development and collaborate well across different teams, be it UX, business or technology.

    About the Author:

    Rajeev SrivastavaDirector of Product Management at Google

    Frequently Asked Questions

    A product manager should know how to be a visionary problem solver irrespective of external challenges, evaluate ideas, strategize and prioritize their ideas, understand the process of product development and work well across different teams.

    UX or user experience team helps in understanding the customers’ preferences and expectations from the product and implement those ideas in the product.

    The technology team mainly includes engineers and data scientists that solve the technical aspects of a product problem. Product managers should decide the “why” of the product, whereas the tech team should determine the “how” of building the product.

    To set effective OKRs, start by ensuring they align with your company’s strategic vision. Objectives should be challenging yet achievable, and key results should be quantifiable. Engage team members in the goal-setting process for buy-in and clarity. Set OKRs on a quarterly basis to maintain agility, and ensure regular check-ins to track progress and adapt as needed.

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