Landing the role of Product Manager for any company should be seen as a major individual achievement. It is most certainly a step in the right direction in terms of career progression.
This sought-after role brings responsibility, requires sound analytical and judgmental skills and should afford an authority that should consolidate your position while working towards the important goal of increasing your company’s presence in the competitive business sector it operates in. Another minor consideration is that salaries for this position are often on the healthy side of good!
But, with the kudos of this job comes accountability. Decision-making must be a strong point and any juggling skills you may have acquired along the way will certainly help keep the numerous challenges encountered along the way in the air until resolved in an effective fashion.
Origins of this vital role:
We will touch briefly on the origins of this position and explain why the original concept is as strong now as it was when first suggested almost 90 years ago. A Product Manager (PM) wears many hats and those striving to become A PM to be reckoned with need to understand and nurture the qualities required to reach the top of their profession.
The term describing today’s PM was initially coined during The Great Depression by a young New York based advertiser by the name of Neil McElroy. In 1931, he wrote to Procter & Gamble proposing the idea of a “brand man”. He suggested that this person should be employed to manage a specific product rather than work in a traditional business role.
This was the first mention of a Brand Management position being created in a company, but the concept took hold quickly. Over the next half-century, many firms adopted the principal of brand management and adopted the term “Consumer Product Management” when referring to it. These principals carried through to the 1980’s and were adapted to meet the needs of the emerging, but rapidly growing global software market.
Successful brand managers were in extremely high demand and pursued by technology firms due to their very specialised skill-set which combined deep product knowledge with the sense of ownership.
Mr. McElroy didn’t fare too badly either. One of his many senior positions I the upper echelons of business was as President of Proctor & Gamble.
What exactly is the role of today’s product manager?
The ‘product’ they will be looking after has certainly evolved. This is now classed as the website, online service or application used for customer interaction.
Exact responsibilities of being a PM obviously depend on such things as company size and its range of products. This means that a product manager could have responsibility for an entire system; the rapid and increasing importance of mobile applications is a good example here, or they will be given responsibility for a part of the company’s overall system.
An effective PM should be an educator to those around them. They should serve as a crucial conduit between different parts of the business and the best PM’s take on and accept full responsibility for the product in question and gauge their overall effectiveness through the success of the product(s) in question.
What are the major responsibilities of a Product Manager?
A PM’s responsibility is to guide the strategy, onward roadmap and definition of individual products or a product line. They need to be effective analysts to comprehensively understand market indications, trends and the direction it is heading. They also need to be fully aware of competitor activity and ensure their company are ready to prosper in the highly competitive business environment they operate in.
A PM’s goal is to define a product vision that will stand out from the crowd, one that will make potential customers sit-up and take notice due to the unique value being offered.
Product Managers need to be effective strategists and tacticians as well as cross-functional leaders. They need to be the bridge between those inevitable organisational gaps that appear between different functional groups within a company.
Additional responsibilities across the different business functions can also involve elements of marketing, forecasting and that all-important P&L (Profit and Loss).
A highly effective cog in the company machine:
Opportunities for qualified Product Managers will continue to grow. The profession already offers various positions with job titles that reflect responsibilities based on current experience. Those intent on making it their chosen long-term career will generally look to start as an Associate Product Manager and from there rise through the ranks of management and onto the board of directors. The ultimate position is attaining Chief Product Officer status with a reporting role directly to the CEO of the company.
Qualities that define a good product manager:
There are key abilities that an effective product manager must have and display. They need to understand the ‘product’ process from inception to launch and ensure that whatever is launched appeals to potential customers because of the all-important features that give it the edge. Above all the product in question must be easy to use and clearly ‘visible’ to the market it is entering.
Investing in a product manager with foresight, vision, determination and a desire to educate others within the company of their specific responsibilities and how these fit into the company’s overall strategy will create unity and understanding.
A well-chosen Product Manager will also mean that a company is investing in the future health and wealth of their operation.