Why do we need a Product Manager? Are Product Managers overrated in today’s context?
UX folks typically focus on ways to make products or services that are EASIER TO USE – for instance – through better workflows, consistent images or analogies, stepwise value analysis, follow-them-home studies, etc.
If that were the ONLY ingredients in successful products, then we wouldn’t need product managers.
And perhaps we wouldn’t need engineers.
To get a better understanding of the difference between UX and Product Manager, check out this article.
Product managers should be thinking about the much broader problem:
Are we solving a problem that large numbers of customers will pay to solve?
Have we found a market segment, i.e. a large group of customers with similar enough needs, buying patterns, price sensitivity, channel preference, etc that this product makes economic sense?
How should we position this product, what are its essential benefits (and features) for our target audience? Why will customers buy/use it?
Sales/marketing model, preferred channels and service/support model? How will customers discover, try, buy, support and buy again?
How should we package and price this product? How does it relate to other things we sell, and things our partners/channels sell?
What ROI can we demonstrate (or claim) so that our customer champions can justify spending money with us?
Of the hundreds/thousands of enhancement requests coming from customers and sales teams and analysts and executives and UX teams and engineering teams and support organizations… which do we assign highest priority/value to, and how will we justify spending precision dev/UX time addressing?
Will these boost revenue? How do we compete and win over time? (Do we automatically do everything that the UX team suggests, or must we balance that with new features, tech debt reduction, support cases, performance improvements and building of entirely new products? Product managers are typically responsible for this level of decision-making.)
What are competitors doing, and what do we expect next from them? How do we position ourselves in actual sales situations?
Marketing folks have talked for decades about the Four P’s: price, product, promotion, and place (distribution). We often replace or expand this list, but it’s still useful as a reminder that “whole products” include so much more than just the bits and workflows that they contain.
UX folks (who I love, and who do things I am not equipped to do, and who have talents I can only begin to understand) tend to focus on the aspects of product that are of direct interest to individual end users. That leaves a huge portion of the market problem uncovered.
That said, if anyone — regardless of title or training — covers the entire product problem above, then they are welcome to claim as many job descriptions as they like.
So summing up, great UX/UI is a necessary (but not sufficient) part of building great products.
Likewise, great engineering is a necessary (but not sufficient) part of building great products.
Great product managers cover a portion of the product/market problem that’s distinct from core UX or engineering.
We need each other, rather than being substitutes for each other.
Related: Ultimate Guide to Marketing in 2019
In some cases, the product is more than just the user experience.
The product is more than just the user experience. Granted, it is a very very important aspect as, ultimately, the product serves the user.
But the product must also consider the business goals. It must consider the technical implementation. It must consider the viewpoints and visions of the stakeholders (executive team, investors, upper management, etc.)
The UX Team (designers, researchers, engineers) is extremely important, otherwise, we lack the beautiful, seamless insight into the experience we must provide our users.
But who will help bring everything together? The product manager helps drive implementation and helps bring these cross-functional teams together.
“Product Manager” wears many different hats such as
- defining product requirements that follow business objectives
- conduct user research/market research to perform product-market fit
- communicate to internal stakeholders such as sales, business development, technology, marketing, social media
- co-ordinate product launches (and sometimes product development as well); verify the product launches and monitor post release activities
- define and evaluate against the product metrics
- work with technology teams & UX teams & customer service
Read this next: What do I need to do to manage a UX team effectively?