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This week I’m focusing on a product manager’s role in the team. About 80% of organizations don’t have a clear matrix to define what a product manager does in a team.

In startups, engineers are expected to ship the product, without them the product development will not take place. Marketers are expected to create awareness about the product and sales people are expected to sell the product.

So where do the product manager’s fit in exactly?

Is this role a dependable one?

A lot many such questions have been answered by experts from different companies.

Since I had bookmarked all the articles, I thought it would be good to collect insights and share with you along with the resources. These insights will help you to have a crystal clear vision of the product manager’s role and how can you advance yourself in the same role to be a great one. What is it and what is it not? What should be the expectation of the team from the Product Manager? Why shouldn’t the PM consider himself as the CEO of the product? Which white space should the PM fill in? And, a lot more….

Disclaimer: I’ve sourced all the supporting insights from various resources and I’ve mentioned those resources at the end. It is always an ethical practice to give due credits to the original source.

1. You identify the problem

Spend time picking the right problem, but get things in code asap. a solution can only be as good as your understanding of the problem you’re addressing. This is non-controversial. Like an irrefutable fact. And yet most software teams fly right through the problem definition part.

A problem well stated is a problem half-solved | Charles Kettering

2. You do your job that is

Help your team (and company) ship the right product to your users.

3. You understand your customers

Particularly as a PM, you really want to feel you’re tight with your customers and you really understand what their perspective is. You need to feel like you’re at the coalface of your product, and the natural extension as you scale is you just drift further and further away from that coalface.

Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care | Damon Richards

4. You define the strategy

Work with short milestones, ideally two weeks. It’s impossible for an engineering team to have a detailed six-month roadmap. It will never be accurate. In two weeks, people understand what they can get done this week and next week, and they can keep it all in their head. It’s also enough time to make substantial, visible progress.

5. You understand what it takes to develop and to ship

Great product managers understand the very tricky balance between getting it right and getting it out the door.

The last 10% it takes to launch something takes as much energy as the first 90% | Rob Kalin

6. You define the game

Clearly defining what game you are playing includes your vision for the product, the value you provide your customer, and your differentiated advantage over competitors.

7. You get the decision made

You may not be the decider at the table, but it’s your responsibility to make sure a decision gets made. Half of this is getting the right information in front of them. The other half is getting the right people behind them.

8. You ship

In the end, the product managers ship, and that means that product managers cover whatever gaps in the process that need to be covered. Sometimes they author content. Sometimes they cover holes in the design. Sometimes they are QA. Sometimes they do PR. Anything that needs to be done to make the product successful they do, within the limits of human capability.

9. You get the bugs fixed

Bug fixes and feature fixes start shipping. Crisp analysis of the data appears. Projects are re-prioritized. And within short order, the key numbers start moving up and to the right.

10. You’re a good marketer

The best product people are naturally good marketers, and vice versa.

11. You bring the team on the same page

At the same time, you need to represent your team 100%. This means sharing your slides or your outline prior to the meeting so they’re informed and feel good about everything, even if it’s just over email.

12. You are good at decision making

Great product managers have a good feel for what seems right or wrong and are also good at listening to early feedback from testers and others who try it.

13. You are an articulate communicator

For a PM you need to learn how to communicate with engineers. You have to be respected by engineers and when they bring up an issue have the ability to understand what the issue is.

14. You know the difference between the priorities and random ideas

Be able to very finely distinguish between the things leadership cares about versus lower priorities or random ideas.

15. You know when should you stop

A huge challenge in any management role is how far involved to be or where to pull back.

16. You are the best advocate for your team

The best product managers are the advocates for your users and represent users in nearly every conversation when making decisions about the product.

17. You stay agile

In a good agile system, engineers push on product and vice versa but the key is always to be transparent, and to respect and listen to each other.

18. You learn fast

In conclusion, the skills a PM needs are on a day to day basis are design, communication, marketing, engineering and general business. You need to be good at all of them and great at one or two of them. The secret to being successful as a PM is your ability to learn fast.

19. You are the force multiplier

A strong product leader acts as a force multiplier that can help a cross-functional team of great technologies and designers do their best work.

20. You give due credits to the team

Compliments should always go to the team. Credit should be handed out freely and generously. Success belongs to the team but failures belong to you.

Next to excellence is the appreciation to it.

21. You fill in the white space for everyone

You have to be a good communicator and make things easy for people. “Fill in the whitespace everywhere for everyone,” Jackson says.

22. You are patient enough for the solution

Any PM will be enthusiastic to share what features are coming down the line, but it’s a temptation you must learn to resist. You won’t actually know if your solution solves a user’s problem until it’s released.

23. You’re a time saver

You have to be protective of your time and your team’s time. As a PM, you’re in meetings all the time where executives are very blunt and say that things aren’t working at all and the team needs to do a way better job at X, Y or Z. “You have to develop a thick skin, and then you need to learn how to translate all of the criticism you hear into something motivating.

Time is the real money.

24. You negotiate well on disagreements

You only agree to decisions in a meeting that you’ve had a chance to think through and feel confident in your team’s ability to execute.

25. You articulate well

You should be able to articulate the highest level strategy behind a product but also be ready to explain why a particular UI element is placed the way it is.

26. You show the vision

Engineers want to be inspired by the vision, see a plan for the tactics, and then see how the latter will add up to the former with all things considered.

Make people see what is invisible to them.

27. You are strategic

Find the smallest definition of your idea, get it into your customers’ hands and learn from it.

28. You write good emails

You have to be a ninja-quality expert at email. PMs at Facebook and Google regularly receive over 500 pieces of email a day but being responsive is mission critical. It’s okay if engineers and designers are bad at email, but PMs absolutely cannot be bad at email. You have to get back to people right away.

Good writing is clear thinking made visible

29. You don’t produce any tangible artifact

While engineers produce code and designers produce mockups and graphics, product managers don’t produce any tangible artifacts for the final product.

30. You don’t code

What you will more likely do is a whiteboard with them on a conceptual level what the code is doing rather than the code itself.

Computer languages differ not so much in what they make possible, but in what they make easy | Larry Wall

31. No matter what, you get the shit done

The best product managers are the ones who simply roll up their sleeves and help their team through this journey.

You make things happen.

32. You talk and others listen to you

Sign of a great PM: One sign of a great PM is that other people get quiet when they start talking. A lot of PMs talk too much and spend time on things that aren’t important until people start tuning them out. If you see a PM talking and everyone else stops talking and listens, you know they are pretty good.

If people listen to you, these respect you.


Lessons in product management with Intercom’s Colin Bentley and Brian Donohue

Top Hacks from a PM Behind Two of Tech’s Hottest Products

Great PMs don’t spend their time on solutions – Inside Intercom

A Product Manager’s Job

Be a Great Product Leader

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