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What is Product Management? …and a Product Manager? | Video

What is Product Management? ...and a Product Manager?

Product Management sounds a bit like Project Management. But it’s very different. However, I often get asked the question.

So, in this video, I’m going to answer the question, what is Product Management – and what is a Product Manager?

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This is learning, so, sit back and enjoy

Product Management = Communication

To start with, I could argue that the core of the product management role is communication.

The engineers who create products speak a different language and have different ways of thinking from the customers whom their products serve. And what of the commercial people responsible for:

  • Marketing?
  • Sales?
  • Logistics?
  • Finance?

Often, engineers have very different concerns from these other professionals. Sometimes, they have and show very little interest in the commercial aspects of their product. They want to produce something elegant, innovative, and clever.

Enter the Product Manager

So, we need someone who can hold together the three disparate interests of:

  1. Technology and engineering
  2. Commercial and business interests
  3. Customer needs and preferences, and the experience customers get

The Product Management Role

This is what Product Management does. Because, a product manager’s job is to bridge the gaps between these communities. They take responsibility for the welfare of their product, acting as:

  • Strategist for its future
  • Communicator of its needs and capabilities (inwards to the business and outwards to the market)
  • Keystone that holds together all of the stakeholders and disciplines that it needs to relate to

Therefore, a Product Manager will measure her or his success by the success of the product they manage.

Product Management and Strategic Direction

The most important role of the product manager is to set the strategic direction for their product. This means overseeing its:

  • Development
  • Launch
  • Improvement cycle

The Product Manager as Advocate

In addition, they must also act as an advocate for their product both internally and externally.

Internal Advocate

As an internal advocate for their product, a Product Manager will fight to secure the resources it needs for its:

  • Development
  • Maintenance
  • Improvement cycle

This means pitching for commercial support from all the organization’s functions and departments – often in competition with other products.

Therefore, a key part of the role is often one of data analysis and forecasting. Indeed, often Product Managers have a direct P&L (Profit and Loss) responsibility for their product. They might operate like ‘mini business owners’.

External Advocate

Making a product profitable is, therefore, a key concern for Product Managers. So, the product management role will often encompass the marketing and promotional responsibilities that Brand Managers have always had.

But the role must go beyond advocating for the product in the market. Product Managers must also gather market intelligence and understand their customers’ needs and priorities. 

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I asked Project Managers in a couple of forums what material things you need to have, to do your job as a Project Manager. They responded magnificently. I compiled their answers into a Kit list. I added my own. 

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About the Author Mike Clayton

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.

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  • Jim Young says:

    So, what’s the difference in roles between a project manager and a business analyst?

    • Mike Clayton says:

      Jim – great question.
      I have recorded a video: What is Business Analysis and what is a Business Analyst. I’ll be editing it in early November and it is provisionally slated to go live on 20 January, 2022.
      In short, Business analysts identify business needs and determine solutions to business problems. Project Managers make those solutions happen.

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