Across the technology firmament, developers and designers rule the roost and are regarded as the celebrities of the domain. While the control that they command isn’t misplaced, we often forget, or worse, ignore those who guide them into the creation of apps and products that make our life easier. Yes, we are talking about Product Managers – the often unsung heroes – who tail designers and developers with their proverbial torch lights. These are the ones who see a product through from inception to implementation but they are often unappreciated. Everyone involved gets a piece of the pie called success, but more often than not, failure is attributed as the sole responsibility of a product manager.
It is important to understand that product management cannot be categorised as just any other role. It is, in fact, the possession of a set of skills that snowball an idea into seamless execution. While CEOs may operate as the ones where the buck stops, product managers – for all practical purposes – are mini-CEOs. Here’s why we believe so.
Captain of the ship; director of a blockbuster; product manager – same thing
Product managers are entrusted with the responsibility of running the show. For technology companies – especially startups or new entrants – their hopes hinge on the success of their product. Which is why product managers need to take ownership of the product and ensure its functionality without glitches. They oversee the entire life-cycle of a product, which involves hours of conceptualising, visualising, discussions, resource allocation, task breakdown, delegation, communication, execution and finally implementation. Just as a good CEO is expected to be involved in the smooth operations of all divisions in a company, a good product manager ensures all requisites, deliveries, milestones, deadlines and expectations are met.
The bridge over the river of tech
Product managers also serve as a bridge between departments and divisions, clients and individuals, and management and employees. Communicating clearly and decisively is another crucial aspect of their key result area. Which is why if you imagine product managers to be just messengers, you cannot possibly be further from the truth. They need to interact with diverse stakeholders involved in development, understand the requirements and objectives of each of them, and articulate it comprehensively to the channel where information has to flow to.
Channelising the inner chi
Insights form another important feature of product management. Good product managers possess insights that can help arrive at a logical solution to a problem. Experience and awareness play a key part here and that is what helps product managers develop insights. They are the ones who guide developers, designers and testers. They are the ones who appraise their performance and delivery. Unlike the CEO, a product manager knows which resource is their go-to-person depending on the situation.
Looking into the crystal ball
We are talking about foresight. It is already an established fact that product management includes awareness. This is awareness of market trends, technology curve, user behaviour, client behaviour, team strength, incumbent skill sets, timelines and more. This awareness helps product managers foresee any potential problems, risks or advantages and to develop a contingency plan to resolve or leverage a future outcome. They look into the future, much like CEOs are expected to.
Knowing when to take the rear seat
That’s right. All through the life-cycle of development, a product manager is poised literally with his hands on the wheel. After all, didn’t we say product managers run the show? And when the time is apt, product managers ease up, move out of the limelight and let their teams take charge. This not only instils a feeling of confidence in the team; it also gives your resources an opportunity to get a taste of a larger role with greater responsibilities. Additionally, the product managers let their team capture the glory and laurels.
Of course, there is such as thing called a bad product manager too. Just as there may be bad teachers and bad engineers. But the good ones (you know we are talking to you) lead their teams like champions. Like good CEOs, they encourage, reward, reprimand and adapt. They are proactive and help their team through development.