Product Managers have a fascinating, all-encompassing role. They can be called many things, CEO of the product, Janitor, Super User. See Product Manager is a janitor basically.
All other business functions are well understood:
- Engineering develops the product
- QA assures that the product
- Sales converts a product into justifiable business value for each customer
- Marketing communicates the product proposition to a market of similar users / buyers
But what do Product Managers do?
- Product managers are frequently the glue that keeps the rest of the business functions inside a technology organisation stuck together. They fill in the cracks in between all these business functions.
- And they are the corporate 'oil' that lubricates other business functions within the company, making each function more efficient and in better harmony with each other.
The next version of the product is coming. It's in Engineering. Product Management has defined the requirements of the product and during the build cycle, it assists with dilemmas and issue resolution.
QA is shaping up to receive the product, but this new version is more sophisticated than the previous version. The QA team need to understand the common use cases / user flows in order to write system / regression tests. They rely on Product Management for guidance.
Marketing is familiar with existing positioning, but this latest release opens up new markets and positioning. They rely on Product Management for guidance: what are the USPs? what are the best use cases? how should it be positioned and to whom?
Sales may not be able to help for lots of reasons - they want to sell the existing products, not ones that aren't on the price list yet. The rest of the company is dependent on the Sales team selling the existing product in suitable volumes in order to pay the salary bill each month - you really want them sticking to the knitting and selling what's in the warehouse now, not yet-to-be-proven products still on the production line.
Additionally, they have had limited exposure to it: feature and functions aren't well understood yet, positioning isn't developed, use cases and case studies are embryonic at best
Account Management and Support want to know what's different about the new product and how can it be positioned to existing customers and how can they benefit most from it. Is it as good as the existing product? Can existing customers try it before they buy it etc? What the known limitations?
So, often it is the product manager / marketer that goes prospecting for beta customers and manages the beta programme(s) to their successful (hopefully!) conclusions. See the The challenge of beta programmes and Product Launch vs Release vs General Availability vs Deployment.
As a result, it is Product Management who is at the heart of technology product company, acting as its glue and the oil - and that's not contradictory!