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Last month we were joined by Vidya Dinamani, sharing her insights as a leading Product Innovation coach. We thought we'd explore what a product manager is and what does their job really entail.
You don’t need to go to school to be a Product Manager, but you do need a few key things to be a great one. This post is dedicated to helping Product Managers figure out how to build an awesome product and the type of mindset needed to be truly successful. This is post is taken from the webinar we recently did with product expert Vidya as a follow on from our Sales and Marketing jams. Let’s get into it!
What is a Product Manager?
Typically it’s the CEO or founder of a company that acts as the original Product Manager, and usually come from a marketing or technical background. As a company expands, the need to have a CEO of Product work along side the CEO becomes really important.
This person will sit at the intersection of user experience and technology, and they can do a little bit of everything. The Product Manager is the owner of the end-to-end experience.
What does a Product Manager do?
What they bring to the table is that they own the customer experience; they’re thinking about the customer and they’re the voice of the customer. They carry the customer flag.
But they’re also carrying the business flag: the business goals, funding, targets, marketing, etc. They’re doing both. On top of that, they’re focusing on the lifecycle of the product.
The product lifecycle moves from learning to evaluating to design, then to testing and prioritizing, and finally, to the launch. Then the cycle starts again.
The Product Manager has roles and responsibilities in that cycle.
Learning: This includes the learning plan, customer research, and competitive analysis. The Product Manager is responsible for outlining exactly what you need to learn from any type of customer research you do.
Evaluation: The key question that people have trouble articulating is, “What’s the problem you’re trying to solve?” That’s where the product vision and roadmap come in. The Product Manager has to paint the vision for where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.
Design: Prototyping can help with casting vision, and you shouldn’t wait to have a prototype done. It’s best to be “rough and ready,” and the Product Manager can be out presenting something to the customer that they can relate to.
Testing: We believe in hypothesis test-driving. Someone needs to think about what you’re testing, how you’re testing it, and what customers you’re testing in on. The Product Manager’s job is to take those insights and deriving an answer to the question, “What do the customer’s really need?”
Prioritization: It’s important to have an outline of exactly how the product will function, when and where people will use it, and all of those things that someone who’s not a developer or designer will think about – the experience. It’s the “mechanics” of being a Product Manager.
Launch: When you’re finally ready to launch, how do you know if you’re successful? The Product Manager’s job is to watch and interpret the metrics. They need to communicate what’s happening with the product and then pivot if necessary to keep things active
What makes a great Product Manager?
One of the traits common to a Product Manager is a “hero complex” – they like to be in a lot of different places taking ownership. But the main thing is that they’re waving the customer flag and owning the customer experience.
It’s constant insight translation. It’s not about just hearing what they said, but translating that into what they meant, and then figuring out how to give them a product that they want and love.
But the Product Manager also has the business in mind: What are the business goals? How are they measured? And how will you get there? What features will the product have to get you to those goals?
Great Product Managers know that products are about simplicity. As Jack Dorsey from Square says, “Make every detail perfect and limit the number of details to perfect.”
Your product should have one purpose that it does beautifully. The Product Manager’s job is to figure out what details matter and then focus on making those details the best they can be.
What are the Product Manager fundamentals?
When it comes to the product itself, the Product Manager has to ask, “How do I build a great product?”
Traditionally, the focus has been on getting something to launch, but that’s actually not the best strategy.
The Product Manager has to figure out how to wow customers with their product. It’s not about just getting it to launch. You have to build something simple that will delight people, and that starts with the customer foundation.
What is the customer foundation?
There are three aspects of the customer foundation: the problem statement, the customer persona, and the customer needs.
The problem statement: You’re trying to understand the “why, what, and how” of your customer. It’s focused on a job the customer is trying to do and tying it back to your product as the solution.
The customer persona: The persona is used as a high-level picture, but it’s not only about demographics. When a Product Manager creates a persona, it’s about really understanding the target customer and their behaviors and attitudes. You want to get as specific as possible: who are they and what drives them?
The customer needs: This is about what the customer actually needs, not what they say they need. It’s about having insight into the problem and knowing what the solution should be, and then testing that solution in a variety of ways.
Wrapping it up
You have to understand the customer and you have to be talking to them all the time.
It will be hard if there’s a check at the end of the conversation, because it’s hard to ignore. But you have to stay focused on the customer.
You will receive a lot of advice, but it’s important to stick to what the customer tells you is important to them. That’s what makes a great Product Manager.
Vidya even gave us some specific tips for our Kiwi community to help them along the way to being more effective product managers and for helping them deal with US customers. Thanks so much for joining us, this session was invaluable. If you'd like to get in touch with Vidya, check out her website here.
Watch the recap of the session here:
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