What is product management?

1 minute read

In May 2017, 400 product managers arrived in San Ramon, California for “Velocity”, the first ever Workday product management summit.

In the keynote address, Barbry McGann provided a definition of product management which I really like:

“A product manager’s job is to drive the vision, strategy, design and success of the product.”

Definition of product management

Two words are especially important in this message: drive and product.

“Drive” is chosen instead of other possible words like “create”. This indicates that the product manager may share the stated responsibilities with other people and teams. The product manager might drive the design of a product while the actual design work is done by a team of designers.

The “product” can be a single feature which combines with other features to make up a larger product. Take a large social media platform like Facebook. The product is the entire platform. It’s broken down into many features, each of which might have a different product manager.

Let’s look at the responsibilities of a product manager.

The product vision is the overarching goal of the product. It should help people see the future that the product intends to create. It describes how the world will look when the product has reached a certain stage.

The strategy is the plan to achieve the vision. What features does the product need to achieve various goals and in what order should they be built? How will the product be marketed to potential users? How will feedback be gathered? How can we differentiate from the competitors’ products? These are all questions which may be answered in the product strategy.

The design describes the product’s form and how the users will interact with it.

The success of the product is all the work required to make sure a product is used and available to the people who need it. This might mean chasing up potential users to encourage adoption. It might mean gathering feedback to feed back into the strategy and design.