Responsibilities of a Product Manager

Okay, the title of the post should really be “Additional responsibilities of a Product Manager”.

We all know that great product managers build products that the customer, and the market in general, needs — and there are numerous blogs and posts on the Internet that talk about building “market centric” products. But, is that enough? As someone put it “once you’ve discovered what needs to be built, go through hell to build and ship the product”.

In my opinion, a product manager, in addition to having the pulse of the market and knowing what exactly is required to be built, will also need to shoulder the following (incomplete list of) responsibilities:

  • Be market centric: Educate the organization (both management and R&D) on the significance of market driven products. Sales teams are always close to the management (as they bring in the money), but the products we intend to build will need to solve customer problems and have competitive edge, and in addition any innovation would make the product really successful. The focus should be in observing and listening to “customers” more than anyone within the organization.
  • Shoot down “flying monkeys”: Jim Holland (of fame) has a very interesting post – check it out here. On my personal front, I’ve had a similar experience in the past wherein the Business VP interacts with R&D and directly assigns them work completely bypassing product management. He did that based on requests from the Sales team. That was a perfect recipe for chaos and potential disaster!
  • Educate the management: Constantly educate the management, and the organization in general, with crisp presentations on market demands, market trends, competitive landscape, technology direction, et al. The intention is to educate them that the product vision, roadmap, direction, and development is in sync with the market needs and trends.
  • Get off “implementation mode”: Think and communicate like a business leader. This will help product managers gain respect from R&D.
  • Get off “sales mode”: Think and communicate in terms of P&L. This will help product managers gain respect from the entire organization.

Now that is what I call stellar product management!

Would love to hear your thoughts based on your experience.

Key attributes of a successful Product Manager

One of the most common questions in interviews for Product Managers is the question on key attributes of a successful product manager. It may also be asked in a different way as “what makes a product manager successful?”

Whilst success for product managers is contextual based on the Key Result Areas defined by the organization, some of the attributes common to all types of product managers are the following:

    1. Market Knowledge
    2. Communication and Influencing skills
    3. Product Knowledge

Now, let us look at each one of them:

1. Market Knowledge: There has been a wide acceptance of the authority of product managers — that they do not have any authority over others in the organization. Whilst this may be true from a people-management perspective, product managers could gain authority on product development and projects just by being an expert of the market. Being an expert in market matters such as target market characteristics, market trends, purchasing power of customers, competition, technological landscape, et al. Try it yourself — it works.

2. Communication and Influencing skills: This skill is probably equally important to product managers as that of the first one. Being a market expert with poor or no communication (both verbal and written) and persuasive skills is a disastrous situation for a product manager to be in – it doesn’t put the market knowledge into fruition.

3. Product Knowledge: Finally, knowing one’s own product is very essential. This will give confidence to the product manager while evaluating his product’s gaps and limitations with respect to market needs. This is also essential go gain respect within the organization. It is an awkward situation when a product manager puts together a requirement for a new capability, and later discovers it is already available in the product.

Your thoughts are most welcome.

Which stage of Product Life Cycle is most difficult to handle and why?

I believe the “sustaining” phase (AKA the “maintenance” phase) after product launch is the most challenging. Product development can be done with particular “objectives” , and once the product is launched it is extremely important to ensure the product is sustained the manner it should.

This is the critical phase in PLC that will ensure the product does not derail from where it should be heading.

The “sustaining phase” ensures that the product lives up to the demands of the changing market needs. And knowing when to exactly decommission a product is part of sustaining efforts.

Thoughts welcome!

Importance of Sales Engineering in Product Companies

According to Wikipedia:
Sales engineers advise customers on how best to use the products or services provided. They may also collaborate with the design, production, engineering, or research and development departments of their companies to determine how products and services could be made or modified to suit customers’ needs. Sales engineers use their technical skills to demonstrate to potential customers the usefulness of the product or service and how it may suit the customer better than a competitors’ products. Courtesy:

My comments:

All that is said above is absolutely correct. But I would like to discuss the significance of Sales Engineering from Product Development and Customer commitment perspectives.

I attended a Product Management working session with Sales Engineering a couple of weeks ago, and really understood the importance of them in a technology product company.

Then, back at the hotel room, sitting in a corner of my room and wondering about all the disruptions with internal systems, I realized that it’s such a nice approach to have a representative of Product Management out on the field with the Sales reps and ensuring that the correct solution is being proposed to customers, every time. In fact, Sales Engineers will also need to be empowered “not to approve” Sales reps from proposing incorrect or unavailable solution to customers.

No more false commitments will be made by Sales reps, period.

Sales Engineers (or Solution Engineers or Application Engineers as the role is referred to in different companies) do not only check false commitments to prospects, but also present the solution to “technology” & “usability” buyers, especially in the case of complex products.

So, in summary, having Sales Engineers will ensure that Sales do not commit to customers that may:
 a. Create unwarranted disruptions within the internal organization or processes
 b. De-rail the Product Roadmap in a big way such that it will create chaos and confusion

Are you working in a technology product company, and wonder about the numerous disruptions in Product Development? It is time to think about the importance of Sales Engineers for a moment!