How often have you heard this? I have heard this a lot from developer friends. In fact, some of my relatively junior developer friends even go a step further and say that they want to become PMs because they seem to have an easy life.
Is it really true that they have an easy life? Here is an amazing image from Rohini Vibhas’ page which exactly shows how PM’s roles are perceived.
The part of interest in the image is:
I am not here to defend what PMs do. But I just wanted share some of my experience:
• I think there is a huge misconception about what is expected off a PM. Devs have a tangible deliverable and it is very easy to quantify what s/he is spending time on. However PMs deliverables are not always tangible. For example, having a 1:1 with head of the business and projecting the team’s work in limelight is a part of PM’s job. Not sure how many individual contributors know that this plays an important role in promoting their work and hence their careers.
• PM works with different stake holders. It is also highly likely you don’t know what the PM delivers with other stakeholders, say Marketing, Sales, Design, Executives & Top Management. Actually, the biggest stakeholder PM works with is customers. Understanding customers is a long, hard & never ending task. This effort shows only through the “product sense” which PM brings. This effort, which takes a significant bandwidth of PM is not otherwise visible.
• PMs are supposed to get work done by influence. So if you have seen a PM talking & evangelizing, he is probably doing his job
Having said these, there are a few hard deliverables which a PM is responsible for. Ask the following questions to your PM and he should have a straight answer? He should actually be able to provide you pointers to documents as well.
• What is on the Product Road Map? What are the top 3 initiatives for the product?
• Can you share the Product Requirement Documents for feature X?
• What are the most difficult prioritizations he has done in the last 3 months?
PM is expected to prioritize day in & day out. Prioritization is easier said than done. PMs have to defend their decisions with multiple stakeholders with often conflicting interests and limited tolerance levels. It is a tricky position to be in. Hence the image is so apt. PM usually is running around like a headless chicken.
Happy PM-ing! 🙂
Welcome to Product Thinker. I am Sundar, Sr. PM at Bing Ads. I have been doing a lot of study on Product Management in general, I thought I could use this forum to organize my thoughts, document & share my learnings and more importantly learn more along the way.
One of the questions which many people have asked me is “why do we need a Product Manager when a Dev Lead can do everything which PM does?”
One of the defence, I have heard supporting the endangered PM species is that the PM decides the “what” and Dev Leader decides the “How”. Trust me, this is the biggest BS I have ever heard. The Dev Lead brings in enormous amount of insights which PM can leverage and vice-versa. So, to say that the product directions are only decided by PM is a big flaw. If you hear such statements in Interviews / Campuses – That’s a red flag! You are clearly being over sold.
Now, Product Management is a “Role”. A Full time role. Not just a designation. Anyone who is interested and passionate about the product can wear the PM hat. But remember it is going to consume a lot of your bandwidth. Can a Dev Lead can do it! OFCOURSE!! In fact, quite a few successful product managers have background in development. A good Product Manager should know the product really really well. A Dev Lead is very likely to have that knowledge. So to answer the question, Dev Lead can handle the role very well! But his Development bandwidth is definitely going to get restricted.
So what exact is a PM Hat (It doesn’t matter who wears it)! There are many many good articles I have read about this topic. I will share quite a few links in upcoming weeks. This definition from Martin Eriksson just nails it.
Business – Product Management is above all else a business function, focused on maximising business value from a product. Product Managers should be obsessed with optimising a product to achieve the business goals while maximising return on investment.
Technology – There’s no point defining what to build if you don’t know how it will get built. This doesn’t mean a Product Manager needs to be able to sit down and code but understanding the technology stack and most importantly understanding the level of effort involved is crucial to making the right decisions. This is even more important in an Agile world where Product Managers spend more time day to day with the development team than with anyone else inside the business.
User Experience – Last but not least the Product Manager is the voice of the user inside the business and must be passionate about the user experience. Again this doesn’t mean being a pixel pusher but you do need to be out there testing the product, talking to users and getting that feedback first hand – especially in a start-up.
So, How does it feel to be a PM?
Indeed! That’s exactly how it feels! You are pulled in different directions! All the more reason to have a full role called “Product Management”.
In fact, this is the most exciting part of the role. If you are happy to manage multiple expectations, talk the language of different people, define what makes your product successful and do what it takes to deliver such a product which the USER JUST LOVES!, you will love the PM role.
So, to answer the question – Do we need a “Product Manager” by designation! No. But do we need a “Product Manager” or “Product Thinker”, BY ALL MEANS – A RESOUNDING YES!!
Nasty plug, if you are interested in Program Manager role (Thats what Microsoft calls the Product Manager role defined above) in a team which ships algo products, drop me a note!