When it comes to defining what excellent product management looks like, opinions can vary hugely. That’s firstly because while product management has existed under different names, it’s only really become practice and a role in the last 20 years. While engineering and design have been defined over decades, product management is still a work-in-progress.
Secondly, if you ask an engineer, designer, marketeer or exec what an excellent product manager looks like, their answers will be biased towards their expectations of what a product manager should do to support their goals. As product managers work with a variety of functions within a business, you can see how answers may vary.
Lastly, product management looks different at a small start-up compared to a larger company. At larger organisations, product managers usually work with a spectrum of different areas – strategy, sales, operations, marketing, UX, engineering, design, technology – where their role focuses on aligning these teams towards the vision of the product. In smaller start-ups, product managers will often work directly with founders or the CPO to set the vision and get stuck in on doing a lot of the “doing” themselves by prioritising features and writing requirements for the developers themselves.
Good product management balances the product across three disciplines: UX, business and technology. But on top of that, excellent product management follow a set of principles alongside these core components:
Ground yourself in customer insight
I know, I know, we’ve all heard this before, but grounding your product decisions in customer needs and pain points is essential to achieving product-market fit so that your customers actually want to use your product. Product management starts with a deep understanding of your customers, so be sure to invest time into customer research, testing and putting time into looking at customer support issues and requests.
Align vision and strategy
Founders and execs will have a vision for what the company wants to achieve and product management helps turn that into an actionable strategy for the product team to deliver products and features that achieve that vision.
Be ruthless at prioritising
Product management is as much about soft skills as hard skills. Product managers not only have to prioritise customer needs but also the needs of many different internal stakeholders with a finite set of resources. Excellent product management is about making tough choices and communicating a clear rationale on difficult decisions to others in the company. Sometimes these can be data-driven decisions, but other times in the absence of data, intuition is required. Sure, balancing desirability, feasibility and viability in prioritisation are essential, but so are influencing and getting agreement from others in your company.
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