So you want to be a Product Manager, hmm? Being a Product Manager requires a host of skills, from diplomacy to writing to market research and beyond.
One skill that is often overlooked is that of Godfather. As the guy who is responsible for knowing the market and customers and defining the product scope, a Product Manager needs to have a certain conviction about the product.
He (or she) will be faced with many challenges, from Sales to company execs and particularly from development. Sales wants the next greatest feature. Company execs will want something sexy that looks good in the product portfolio. Development typically want the technical solution they’re most comfortable with. Add in the reseller channel and Tech Support and Marketing and everybody has an idea of what they think the Next Great Product needs to be.
The Product Manager has to have the courage of his convictions. He has to know the market cold and know what product will succeed in the market. He has to navigate the corporate waters and hold true to course, and more importantly, hold the product true to course.
He must have a vision of the product and its place in the market. He has to consistently campaign and push for that product in the face of well-meaning intention that will change it, alter it or turn it into something else. He must hold the line so that the product that comes out of development is the product that will succeed in the marketplace.
In some cases, the market will shift and the product vision may need to change mid-stream. But this is a rare circumstance and if a Product Manager has the homework to back up the change, it becomes obvious to all.
Much harder is holding the line on bringing the conceived product to market. “If we design it this way, it’ll be easier and cheaper.” “XYZ Corporation wants this new feature. That contract alone will double our sales revenue for this product.” “If we make the UI this way, we can cut development time by 30%.”
All of these are very compelling arguments. On the surface, everyone would say, “Sure, lets double revenue, cut dev time and budget by 30% and make the product easier to code.” But what if the new product is projected to 8X revenue? Is that worth forgoing the feature for XYZ Corporation, more complicated code and re-plan for the 30% development time that is so tempting to cut out?
That’s where the Product Manager has to know his market cold. He has to be a high-stakes poker player and know what the winning hand is. He has to be all-knowing about the market and customers and what the product needs to do to achieve viral growth. That’s where a little bit of Product Manager magic comes into play. Having a proven track record helps, but more than that, a dash of courage and a lot of market knowledge followed by the drive to execute that product is what it takes.
We all have the concept of a Godfather. All seeing, all knowing, makes life or death decisions. In business, that life or death decision is based on the product and how well it’s marketed. A good Product Manager needs to know exactly what that product needs to be and then drives the organization towards that product release. And if he’s really good, he’ll do it with such aplomb that the folks in the company are on board and actively supporting those decisions.