A POV Of A Product Manager

Anyone who’s ever worked in software development is aware of the common notion that developers aren’t too keen on product managers. This article discusses what product managers really do, how they help their teams from doing unnecessary tasks that waste their time, and debunks the myths about product managers.

What are product managers?

There is a common misconception that a project manager is a person who sits between business, technology, and UX/UI.

A product manager manages and owns the product, product development, the whole competitive landscape, the customers, the business goals of the company they work in, UX, UI, and technology. Today, countless different titles are associated with product management, and here are only a few of them:

  • Product owner
  • Product evangelist
  • Chief product officer
  • Technical product manager
  • Business analyst
  • Enterprise product manager
  • Product marketing manager
  • Product evangelist
  • Growth product manager
  • Junior product manager
  • Associate product manager
  • VP of product
  • Senior product manager

Many believe that if you are to be a good product manager, your tasks are:

  • Writing detailed specifications
  • Instructing developers on what to do
  • Obsessing over velocity, metrics, deadlines
  • Creating prototypes
  • Pushing the role of Scrum PO to its perfection

In reality, what a product manager should really be doing is:

  • Collaborating closely with everyone — engineering, design, marketing, C-level management, G&A
  • Focusing entirely on understanding the market, how business works, customers and their problems. A sufficient amount of resources should be allocated to the first phase of understanding the users, competitive landscape and the market’s needs.
  • Influencing everyone, including working towards the shared goal.
  • Identifying solutions and being creative with solutions
  • Leading by example and simplicity
  • Shielding developers from accumulating requirements. They protect the team’s time and bandwidth from attending meetings and getting caught up in things that don’t concern them. Their job is to filter what’s relevant to the respective teams involved to prevent unnecessary information overload and give them space and time to do their hard work. They filter what’s relevant to the respective teams to avoid excessive information overload.
  • Conduct market research to determine if there is actually a need for a particular product or feature. There are cases when a CEO or primary decision maker has an idea they want to develop, and they invest a lot of money and time into creating something that no one ever uses.

Each company defines the product management role and determines how they want to do things. If someone tells you a person is a product manager, you shouldn’t assume what this is at title value because you never really know the underlying responsibilities for that particular role in that respective company.

Common mistakes in product management

And why developers tend not to be so keen on product managers.

  1. Firstly, there’s the idea that Agile will solve all your problems. The fact is that there is no specific framework you will implement that can resolve every issue. Frameworks are there to help, but the sole implementation of a certain framework will not do anything and may do more harm than good.
  2. If you believe that adding features will make your product more competitive — Sorry, it won’t. Anyone who has ever used almost any app can admit that the more features it has, the more tedious it is. Consumers strive for simplicity and ease. One of YLD’s product managers shares, “I had a product in my old company, and throughout the years of the CEO acting as a product manager, the product became so complex that only one person within the whole company actually knew the whole product and how to configure it. No one wanted to buy it. People just became intimidated by seeing the product; they got scared and ran away”.
  3. Putting the client above the team is another mistake product managers tend to make; this could make all the difference in how harmonious a project can go. It’s essential to prioritize your team’s welfare because you will have nothing if you don’t have a happy team. It often happens that the client is made a priority, the team is unhappy, no one is listening to their requirements, and in the end, the team quits, delivery is late, costs go up, and the client is unhappy.
  4. The best outcome isn’t harnessed when product managers focus solely on what customers want but rather on what they need. There is often resistance from the client’s side, but it is the product manager’s job to mitigate it.
  5. Also, Scrum-ready clients are rare, and product managers who insist on working Scrum when clients aren’t ready are making a big mistake. Many clients think they are scrum-ready. Implementing Scrum doesn’t mean expecting a two-week sprint, a review and a demo. It’s hard for clients or internal stakeholders to accept that when implementing Scrum, there is no guarantee that they will actually know when a specific feature will be developed and when something will be completed. It is all a guessing game. There are metrics that can help, sometimes you get it right, but there are no guarantees. Implementing Scrum is going to help you get feedback from the market faster. The purpose of it is not to give a client exact delivery dates and costs of a product.
  6. Finally, one of product managers’ biggest mistakes is creating a roadmap and making it appear like a delivery plan with challenging deadlines. Putting hard deadlines arguably sets the team up for failure. Issues like angry clients, stakeholders or the team itself come about, which is a demoralizing experience for everyone. A roadmap is just a collection of ideas put on a provisional timeline. It is not a delivery plan that should be presented to the client after each sprint with sentences like ‘’we are a bit behind’’ or ‘’we are on track’’.

How to make peace with developers

A product manager should always be impeccably clear with their thought process and how they communicate. They are there to help developers, give them everything they need to do their work well, and consider how they want to do it while keeping in mind that every team is different. Again, it’s all about psychology and listening to what the team is saying. As a product manager, you are there to implement what they want and what works for them rather than what you want or are comfortable doing.

Your team may want to change things and do things differently, so you’re there to listen and help through. No ego should be involved.

Everyone on your team, whether a developer, QA Engineer or designer, should always know they and their work is appreciated. It is a common mistake for Product managers to focus on work and work items and not on people. It is easy to manage the backlog. Managing and keeping the team happy is where the hard work lies.

Developers continuously receive more and more action items and delivery dates which can overwhelm the workload. Product managers should empower their teams by trusting that they know how to manage their work. Trust that they know when a delivery date is coming, and they’ll put in the effort needed for things to work out smoothly.

Another word to the wise is ensuring that the teams understand the client’s needs and business requirements. It often happens that business information is hidden from development teams. If they don’t have all of the information, nothing but frustration and confusion can only come out of that dynamic.

Ultimately, if something isn’t delivered on time, despite any frustration or stress, respect and understanding should always be present — don’t berate or act disrespectfully towards the team that had a late delivery. The product manager’s job is to explain to the client why there’s been a delay and talk with the team to identify anything that could’ve been done differently to make things better moving forward rather than causing unnecessary stress by trying to find the ones to blame.

How can YLD help?

If you’re seeking an opportunity to work with the latest technology alongside a collaborative team of product managers, great engineers, designers, and data scientists working on impressive projects, feel free to contact us at YLD at talent@yld.io for open jobs or hello@yld.io to discuss the prospect of a potential project.

A POV Of A Product Manager was originally published in YLD Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Written by YLDOctober 13th, 2022

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