How to Explain Product Management (to People Who Do Not Know What Product Management Is)

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If you were to introduce yourself as a product manager at a social networking event, you would quite possibly be met with a load of blank stares…

and I speak from experience. My wife quite often jumps to my rescue with “he’s in IT” which then gets approving nods.

Other than those in the know, relatively few people have heard about product management, including those in the corporate world. One reason for this is that product managers often conduct the significant work we do in product development, behind the scenes.

Of course people are aware of innovations in many products in the marketplace – when’s the new i-phone out again? – however, what they may not be aware of is how companies manage to create products that closely match what they the consumer desires to see.

So… what is a PM? Well, in essence, a PM is an anonymous superhero who crafts visual product strategies and then introduces the new product idea to market. (I hope to use this title more often – superhero sounds a deal more impressive than he’s in IT!)

They work behind the scenes to map out and achieve a viable product management plan. They customise plans based on their company’s product line and current market conditions, and they communicate their ideas on how to develop products to all key players in their organisation. 

Product managers are successful at what they do because they organise and analyse all the data using a decision-making framework. One popular, and widely heard of, framework is called the SWOT analysis: S stands for the strength of their product idea; W stands for its weaknesses; O stands for opportunities in the marketplace for the product; and T stands for threats from regulators, competitors, or other industry players. 

When collecting user data whilst building product strategies, product managers segment the target group of users who will benefit from the innovations made to a product. They organise surveys to collect ideas on what changes a consumer would like to see in a new or improved product. Documenting the work, the last step a product manager takes to wrap up is to create comprehensive, yet easy-to-grasp, management reports.

To clarify complex ideas, they often use visuals, such as charts and tables. Their detailed reports also include the delivery metrics of how much work the development team has done over a designated timeline. 

The next time a consumer sees a new model of their favourite car, it’s because a product manager was working behind the scenes. The meticulous work of collecting, organising, and refining ideas ensured that the additional features of the new product, or the improved model of a product, matched what customers desire.


Mandar Karlekar

Mandar Karlekar

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