Introduction to Product Management

Product Management is a discipline that requires a broad and encompassing skillset. In my free course, I describe exactly what is needed to be a product manager after having been a PM for more than 10+ years and leading product teams at startups and at Google in Ads, Machine Learning Frameworks and infrastructure.

Product managers are fundamentally responsible for the success of a product. They have to operate with a high degree of autonomy, and utilize a large range of skills in order to be successful. It is not purely engineering, nor it is purely management or design - it's an intersection of all of these areas that make product managers successful at their craft. Product managers must ensure that not only is there a vision, strategy and roadmap for their product - a process we refer to ask the VSR cycle (Vision, Strategy, Roadmap Cycle) - they must also drive the execution and prioritization process 

Product Managers are now a modern component of all leading technology companies around the world. Their primary function is to always represent the user and simply build what users want. There are multitudes of different PMs and in our Product Management Foundations course we go through the differences between all of them. There is a lot of misinformation around the differing types of product managers on the internet and their role, but in my opinion, fundamentally there are just four key types - design, business, growth and infrastructure PMs. Each has a unique role and skillset and they typically cover the four major types of technology products - consumer, enterprise, developer and hardware.

In my career, I haven’t seen any combination of technology products or product managers that really fall outside of this combinatorial realm as far as it pertains to technology products. One of the seminal papers on product management was originally written by Ben Horowitz and David Weiden called - Good product manager, bad product manager - and this was written 10+ years ago. While the industry has radically shifted, and a lot of the product management role has also evolved - many of the core tenements are still described within that paper. You should add that to your list of required reading.

Responsibilities

Products managers are responsible for the product - that might sound like a trite way of putting it - but it's the hard reality. In my opinion, - as we discuss in our free Introduction to Product Management course - there are 3 hard pillars that product managers need to master: Users, Storytelling and Team. 

Everything you do as a PM will revolve around these core pillars.

Your job is fundamentally to speak with users, tell their story, detail how your product is solving their problem and work to hire and build an amazing team of people to create and grow it. As you can appreciate, there is an incredible amount of work in the subcomponents of making each of these pillars work and then all move together.

Typically, the responsibilities of a PM start from the very top - crafting a vision, strategy and roadmap for their product. We talk about this heavily as the “VSR Cycle” in the Product Management Foundations Course - which illustrates the cycling need of flowing these elements into each other. Here is a starter list of the very basic stereotypical descriptions of Product Managers face every day:

Users

  • Who are they?
  • Who is the real cohort target user?
  • What problem do they have?
  • What's unique about the way you are intending to solve their problem?
  • What's the core unique insight you have, that others don't?
  • How are you measuring success for your users?
  • How many users couldn't live without your product?

Storytelling

  • Who is the audience?
  • What are you trying to communicate?
  • What are you trying to achieve?
  • How relatable is it?
  • What emotional trigger point are you hitting?
  • How are you joining it to your product?
  • How are you making the story human?

Team

  • Do you have the right people?
  • Are those people in the right positions?
  • Do your team know what they are building and for whom?
  • Can you team tell someone else your vision and strategy ?
  • Have you created the right culture?

What do PMs tasks generally look like?

We discuss this a lot more in the free course and walk through some practical examples of how to build upon these concepts more heavily. Of course, the types of tasks that product managers are performing are surrounding these core pillars:

  • Building a vision, strategy and roadmap
  • Speaking with users, being the user
  • Meeting with engineering and design teams
  • Rapidly prototyping and validating ideas
  • Defining key metrics and what success means
  • Defining product requirements and features
  • Building and prioritizing product roadmaps
  • Defining releases and launch approaches
  • Meeting with sales, finance, marketing, product, legal, business development, communications and more
  • Assessing competitive strengths and weaknesses
  • Selling internally to executives and leaders
  • Getting launch approvals in place
  • Launching and iterating all over again

Obviously, there are many tools for doing this and I will cover some of the best techniques in a later post - starting with the very basics of Google Sheets and then discussing some of the best tools that improve productivity.

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