Marty Cagan describes in his book “Inspired”, the job of the product manager as “to discover a product that is valuable, usable and feasible”. In relation to a startup a discussion with Pinkesh Shah went like this – A start up looks for the very clichéd type “Go – Getters”; but a startup looking to balance business, technology and user experience will look for a manager experienced in at least one. A great Product Manager will however be passionate about all three, and conversant with specialists in all.
Business – all said and done Product Management is a business function, focused on maximizing business value from a product. A good Product Manager will be fanatical with optimizing a product to achieve the business goals while maximizing return on investment.
Technology – A product Manager does not need to code individual lines, but it is imperative to understand the technology stack and most importantly understand the level of effort involved; this empowers in making the right decisions.
User Experience – the Product Manager is the voice of the user within the business and must be zealous about the user experience. Essentially this means that the Product Manager needs to be testing the product, talking to users and getting that feedback first hand – especially in a start-up.
Why does a Product Manager need this extent of skills? Because the role itself is incredibly broad and varied and the environment in a startup will require them to be using these skills every day.
Primarily it begins with setting a vision for the product, which requires research, research and research. Research ranging from market, customer and the problem they have. In a startup environment this means assimilating huge amounts of information – feedback from clients, quantitative data from web analytics, research reports, market trends and statistics and then synthesize all that information with a dollop of creativity to define a vision for your product.
Armed with this vision a good Product Manager will get assertively evangelical about the ideal that is the product. A product Manager who cannot get passionate about it – is in the wrong job or more importantly didn’t come up with a very good vision.
With this infectious passion the ideal Product Manager will start building an actionable plan to reach that vision. A roadmap of augmentative improvements and iterative development that take the startup step by step closer to that final vision. The payoff is all teams coming up with better designs, better code and better solutions.
And finally the product is released, and the Product Manager pores over data again – looking at how customers use the product, going out and talking to them about the product and so on.
A startup will want a good Product manager to switch from strategy to tactics in the blink of an eye.
An absolutely stupendous Product Manager will define the very essence of a product, design solutions to customers’ problems, work with everyone in the business and play a very large part in business’s success.