Why is product management important?
August 31, 2018
August 31, 2018
A common misunderstanding and confusion with product teams especially young ones is trying to figure out why is product management important. Many startups and small business teams do not have anyone with a title product manager and debate why they would need one and what would this role do that would be important. They have a process of their own where maybe a founder or product owner drives feature decisions forward and lays out the path the team follows. What they fail to realize is that makes their founder or product owner, the product manager and what they are doing is product management albeit a very immature or basic model of it.
Product management is the overall decision making about the path forward for a product. This includes driving decisions on what features will be added and being on the hook for driving business growth through product development. Why is product management important? Because anyone with a product is doing it! And if you are a product based business, the ability for you to properly manage your product will define if your product and business will be successful or not.
Why is product management important? Product management typically covers the following areas:
Product Vision: This requires understanding the overall goal of the product and business. What problem are they trying to solve now and how will that look 5 years from now. This can be originally defined by the founder and passed on as the vision evolves overtime to define where you want to be in the long term view of a business.
Product Roadmap: With the vision in place, what are the features needed and large deliverables to accomplish the vision. The features should be laid out in a product roadmap to visually show and share. These are not specific requirements but the big blocks of changes that your product needs in order to grow into the vision and rough estimates of timelines you plan to accomplish it in.
Competitive Analysis: What is the competition in your space working on? How do you stack up against them and how can you keep your product separate and ahead? You need to know what others are doing so you stay on the cutting edge and maintain some differentiation with them.
User Feedback: Product managers need to understand the constantly evolving pain points of the customers they plan to serve which requires creating constant feedback loops to drive product feature suggestions. This requires completing user interviews, asking customers for feedback and then evaluating and closing feedback loops to keep users engaged and excited to be part of your product planning.
Revenue Growth: A business needs to drive revenue and for a product team, that means understanding what it takes to sell the product and reduce churn of the product. Typically this requires product enhancements and updates to make adoption easier and the product more sticky to drive churn.
Single Focus: As a team, there needs to be a single focus on what you are building, how you are building, why you are building and complete buy in on the direction which requires the product manager to sell the vision and align all of the team members on the path forward.
With the general responsibilities of a product manager defined, we can circle back to the original question, why is product management important? As you can see the responsibilities of a product manager need to occur within a team in order for the product to move forward. You may not have a full time product manager or anyone with the title but someone or group of team members are steering the ship deciding which features to add, how the product is moving forward and the long term goal as a business you are trying to achieve. This is why product management is so important because it is a field that gets little visibility or understanding but is an inherit part of all product companies.
The best practices of product management are often buried where most people confuse product management lifecycle with a software development lifecycle. Terms like Agile and Waterfall are development methodologies that a product manager may need to work within during the kick off and operational workings of a release but the day to day responsibilities of a product manager should be well outside of a development lifecycle and should be all of the activities that lead up to the scope definition and then monitoring the adoption and customer feedback of the delivery to continue to drive the product forward.
Perhaps another way to answer the question would be to flip it. What does a product team look like without product management? The answer is the team has no direction on what they are doing, why they are doing it or if what they are building as a product meets customer needs at all. There is no research to why you are not on boarding more users or why your customers may be churning. There are short term releases that are adding features that do not build on each other but a shotgun approach to see what works. Perhaps this view best answers why is product management important.