This is not the easiest question to ask, because the answers can be numerous, and it depends on lots of factors. If we speak about a young startup, a product manager tries to bring different prototypes and parts of the product to work together, follows the timetable, and includes the smallest details into the product contract, communicates with users to target the product in a more profitable way. In a bigger company, the product manager leads meetings with product designers and the development team, communicates with administration regarding product strategy, integrates all the departments, and involves them into deeper understanding of what potential clients want. In large corporations and companies, the product manager works with feature requests and collects data from different departments, and leads meetings.
Briefly, if you are a product manager, you must do many different things related to your product, and your duties are never fixed; you must follow the situation and do everything that you can. But, a few constants can describe the work of a product manager and unite these professionals, no matter in which company or project they are involved.
You must do almost everything, but you don’t have so many things in control.
If the team of developers and designers failed to launch the product up to stated deadline – it is you who is held accountable. If your product doesn’t meet the goals set for this period – again, it is on you. Being a product manager means you are responsible for both success and failure of your product. You are the person who organizes and perfects all the processes. It doesn–t matter if the rest of the team doesn–t cope with the loads of work, or they do not do what they are told. It is up to you to make the resulting product correspond to the needs and wants of the users.
Having a position that requires a huge set of responsibilities is a complicated task, but unfortunately, that is not where it ends. You have no executive power. It means that, if somebody in your team is rude to others and the team rebels to work in such mode or if your designer is late for the third time a week, you cannot say ‘stop doing this, or you are fired’. You don’t have such duties; that’s why the tools of influence should be different, but still effective, because the responsibility for a product is on you.
If it should be done, it’s you who must make it possible
If you are a product manager, the phrase ‘it is not my job’ is taboo. Whether it is prescribed by your job, in the long run, you are responsible for the resulting product and its success. Your team stands behind you, and you must maintain great relationships with them. Sometimes, you must come to work an hour earlier to bring the team of developers some coffee, because they’ve been working all night. Sometimes, you must be especially stubborn with your executive, if the goals set to your team are unrealistic and should be reconsidered for the sake of the product. Sometimes, you must do favors for somebody else and ask other departments for favors in return, if your team cannot manage it on its own.
If you are involved with the beginning of the startup, you will be doing lots of things that are no way related to the product management. You will probably act as an HR manager, UX designer, administrator, and organizing manager in your office. The conclusion is: if nobody does this job, it is your job or you must find somebody to do it. It concerns not only small startups; such things happen everywhere, so if you are ready for the multitasking of the new level, welcome to product management. It doesn’t matter which size of project you are in; if you are responsible for it, you will be demanded to do the job that is not yours, and if it is not done, you will be responsible for it.
You are not the CEO
It is a common situation when a product manager believes his or her responsibilities let one behave like a boss. Those people who are bossy usually misinterpret the job of the product manager. Such people exaggerate their position, and for them, their status is more important than the actual success of the product. Teams rarely respect such product managers, and all they get is the illusion of their success, because if the product manager is not respected, the team would not provide the desired results of good quality. The product manager not only gives orders; it is about communication and fairness. If somebody in the team misbehaves, the product manager should make a fair decision with the team in mind.
What is the best profile of a product manager?
Lots of companies have a popular scheme of hiring product managers, so–called tendency of candidates to approve or profile. Google mostly hires product managers with a computer science degree from Stanford, while Amazon values MBA’s more. Usually, a profile of a successful product manager involves good business and technological knowledge. So, if you are a business type, fully understand the tech behind your product, and vice versa.
Now you know the classic and common cases of product managers, but the most successful and enthusiastic product managers are unconventional and do not correspond to a popular profile. The thing is, anybody can become a cool professional. Some of the best product managers we’ve seen were involved in politics, music, arts, marketing, construction etc. The main characteristics of a good product manager are curiosity, talent to solve problems, multitasking, and desire to develop and work with intelligent people.
Amazing product managers are the total of their previous projects, problems, approaches to solve these problems, the lessons they’ve learnt, and flexibility of their skills to adjust to every client, user, or organization of their collaboration.
If you are looking for a project manager candidate and want to find someone among your employees, here’s a hint. Ask people to tell you the informal structure on where the information goes and how people communicate and with whom if the problem occurs. Ask some of them, and in 100% of cases, few people will be somewhere in the middle. They will be those connectors who look for different solutions and other ways. It is rare for them to fit a typical project manager profile, but they have the possibility to rule out a complicated situation and organize everybody around, and probably, it is the person you are looking for.
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