Product Management as a discipline has existed for a long time, but may still be slippery depending on your background. You can certainly Google it and find a bunch of content. This is the answer that I like to start with: the product manager is the person who is responsible for achieving business outcomes. Now what are those exactly? Of course, that’s going to vary based on specific circumstances, but we can certainly list some obvious candidates like revenue, profitability, customer growth and satisfaction, and so on. That’s a big tent but the buck’s got to stop somewhere, and the product manager is “it.”
The product manager’s role is to form and evolve the product vision, obtain resources and marshal the team to get it created, and figure out how to get it to market and properly supported; thereby generally guiding along all the moving pieces needed to create a specific piece of value. This person must recognize and balance the many wishes of stakeholders including buyers, users, development, sales, marketing, customer support and others in the team.
Speaking of team, another descriptor I like for the product manager is “core team leader.” The core team has representatives from all these functions needed to deliver value, and the product manager ensures their contributions are thought through, committed, and on track as needed at each phase of the creation process.
It’s critical to note that the product manager is an agent of organization and ensuring things get done, in addition to being responsible for specific content, though how much will vary depending on the team. If the product team has gaps, for example no product marketing support, it may well fall on the product manager to create marketing collateral. Heavy lies the head…
Note that this is a discussion of a view of the product management role, rather than specific titles. The organizing function and the responsibility for successful results is the key point. Where product management resides in a corporate structure is also variable, sometimes reporting through engineering (OK), sometimes through a CTO office or similar (perhaps better), or as a discipline of its own reporting to General Management or the Exec Team (best!).
Another excellent topic is the distinction between other roles near and dear to our hearts, like product owner, project manager, and business analyst. How does product management relate to the Agile development process? Look for additional posts with thoughts on how these roles relate and contribute to the job of creating value and achieving desired business outcomes.