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Product Manager 101 : Role and Responsibility

Disclaimer :

This article written for new product manager out there, in the perspective of ‘what should i do’.

We talk about software product manager here.

What is Product Manager?

Product manager simply is the manager of the product. The product itself can be vary based on the industry. But, if we ask a software product manager in different company about their job description, maybe they will give more than 10 different answer, it depends on the company scale.

Sometimes people misunderstood the title with this question : Why an entry level employee can get the manager title?. Well, product manager is a role inside the development team, it doesn’t mean that the product manager is the “boss”. Just like the backend developer that “manage and create” the backend system, the product manager manage the product.

Entry level for this role is associate product manager, and then senior product manager, product lead/VP of product, and the last one is Chief of Product. They differ the role based on the scope of work, responsibility, and the different composition between tactical task, strategic task and managerial task. You can see the product manager career ladder more here.

What is My Responsibility.

Focusing on the product, this is product manager responsibility in general :

1. Visioning. Set the product road map through QI, Q2, and Q3. Software is like a living things, like your baby. You have to make sure that your software growing well and healthy.

2. Write product backlog and user stories (Software Requirement). You can use Kanban, SCRUM, or whatever, but you have to deliver the product requirement smoothly for developers.

3. Gathering customer and stakeholder feedback. If you have a big team, you can assign this task to UX Researcher.

4. Manage the Team. In Scrum, you will be the product owner. But sometimes you don’t have authority over the product, because the product owner is the client or your boss. So, you have to make sure that your team deliver working software in every Sprint (2 weeks period of time).

5. Prototyping. Make sure that the prototype really accommodate the user requirement. You can work with UI UX team on this.

6. A/B Testing. Involve in software demo at the end of the Sprint. You can work with Software Tester on this case.

Product Manager VS Project Manager

Manage the product or manage the project. In my opinion, it depends on your industry point of view. If your company main product is a software, you will be product manager. But if your company main product is not a software, in other words the software only a support system for the business, you will be a project manager.

However, ProductPlan explain the differences like this:

Product managers have strategic responsibility for driving the development of products, whereas project managers are responsible for overseeing the execution of those development plans.

What Skills Needed for This Role.

To develop great product, you have to combine these three needs:

  1. User, what your user want. Every business always follow the demands, and rarely goes otherwise.
  2. Business, is it profitable? Your user always want a cashback, but is it profitable for your business?
  3. Tech, your team capability. Do you have proper technical team to execute the idea? Is there any library you can use, or you have to build it from scratch?
                                                                       From MVP of Product Manager

You have to understand Business, Tech, and User (Market Research) to survive in this role. Like an Avatar, you have to balance all of the element to build a great product.

What is Product Backlog

One of your main responsibility is maintaining product backlog. In oldest way, we will call it software requirement.

Based on Scrum Institute, the simplest definition the Scrum Product Backlog is simply a list of all things that needs to be done within the project. It replaces the traditional requirements specification artifacts. These items can have a technical nature or can be user-centric e.g. in the form of user stories. The owner of the Scrum Product Backlog is the Scrum Product Owner. The Scrum Master, the Scrum Team and other Stakeholders contribute it to have a broad and complete To-Do list.

So, the component of a product backlog can be :

  1. User stories. Implementation of Use Case Diagrams, it usually come with this template :
    As a <User Role/Persona>, I want to <Needs>, So that<Purpose/Goal>.
  2. To Do List. Create a to do list to achieve user stories.

3. Prototype. Describe how the system works in user perspective.

4. Flowchart, Use Case, or Everything to make your team working effectively.

Learning by Doing

Different than any technical role in the software development, you cannot being an expert by doing the task individually. You have to work on team, and practicing what you learn in real teamwork.

There are tons of good article that can help you. I will list it here :
1. Product Manager Job Description.
2. MVPM : Minimum Viable Product Manager.
3. Product Manager VS Project Manager.
4. Creating Product Roadmap.
5. Product Backlog.
6. Product Manager Career Path

Any feedback? Please add it in comment.

Bon Voyage!

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