What does a product manager do?

Product Management
February 2, 2023

In the high-paced and intense world of startups and product-led companies, it’s hard to form a cohesive team around a product idea, and this is where a product manager comes into play.

A product manager is just a very demanding client, who’s always on your side.

You see, a product manager is the single most important entity that ties all the aspects of a project together and ensures that the stakeholders of a project, customers, technology, business and the overall user experience of a product isn’t compromised. Collectively these are the pillars that are mostly involved in the success of a product.

While there is some controversy about the legitimacy of creating a product manager role, there is no disputing that a good product manager can make a significant difference to a product or business idea.

However, there are many skills that make a great product manager, but it’s important to know what the job is first, and in this article, we’ll take you through exactly that!

But first…

Who is a product manager?

When most companies are a team of business analysts, designers and developers and the idea of a product manager is a bit alien. A product manager is a new addition to the team, one whose sole function is to understand the wants and needs of their customer base and then to interact with other team members to create a product or service that will better meet these needs.

So in a nutshell, here is what a product manager truly is:-

- A product manager is a vital member of a business who makes strategic product decisions. They are the glue that holds large companies together, especially when times are tough.

- Product Managers are the ones that shape the experience a user has using a product. They’re the ones who decide the direction of a company and what can be improved.

- Also, they are someone who uses their experience, skills, and personality to make sure a product delivers value to its target audience and to make sure the company’s vision is not only maintained, but perfected.

Alright, but what’s their job?

Roles and Responsibilities of a SaaS Product Manager

Every SaaS product manager is different. As diverse the role can be for a product manager, there are a few KPIs based on which their work quality and output is judged.

For example- A product manager for a mobile app might be measured on how well the mobile app performs on both iOS and Android, acquiring new users and keeping old users, and how long it takes for bugs to be found and fixed.

Similarly, a PM for a toothbrush company might be measured on how well the toothbrush is received by dentists and whether customers are buying the product or not.

In the end, the most crucial factor is that a PM must be able to adapt to different environments and different products to drive ultimate product success.

Below listed are a few predetermined roles and responsibilities of a Product Manager at a SaaS company:-

1.Understanding & Dissecting User Needs Into Viable Solutions

When you’re a product manager, communicating with your team and getting feedback from users is very important. One of the things to keep in mind is that you’re the voice of the users. If you’re building a feature, you should have a clear understanding of what your users are looking for.

While you may be clear on what you need, a designer or developer may not have the same ideas. It’s important to communicate your ideas clearly to them so that they can fully understand what you want.

The way you communicate will vary from team to team. Some people prefer to communicate by writing, some prefer verbal communication. By taking the time to figure out the best way for you to communicate, you can make sure that things are clearly understood by the people who need to hear it.

2. Staying On Top Of Market Demand & Trends

Product Managers are in charge of developing products that represent their company well. They’re in charge of every aspect of the development of a product, including the marketing aspects as they develop the features and functionality of a product. It’s a surprisingly intense job that requires constant adaptation to the current market. There’s a lot of research involved to develop the right product. You need to know the best practices, study competitors, and make sure the product is feasible for the audience of the product. It’s an intense job that requires one to wear multiple hats day in and out.

3. Asking & (finding answers) to the Tough Questions

A high-achieving product manager would always start with what, why and how. One must have a clear vision for what you want your product to become.

- What is its purpose?
- Who is your target audience and what problem will you solve for them?
- What differentiates it from your competitors?
- What features make it so much better than your competitors’ products?
- How will you market it to your target audience?
- What will it cost and how will you make profit?

These are the questions a product manager must ask of him or herself and his or her team before their product can finally be released to the public.

The product manager acts as the middleman between the development team, marketers and the investors and stakeholders.

4. Setting a Visual Product Roadmap

Do you know why you’re inclined towards bringing a new feature to the existing product, or building a new product from scratch? If not, as a PM, it’s your responsibility to bring your team on the same page. This strategy ultimately needs to be articulated by a well thought out visual product roadmap.

A visual product roadmap is a blueprint of your product. It consists of a series of images, sketches and plans that communicate the product vision and its path to success. It’s a significant artifact for managing product development and communication.

It’s a means for aligning product development with customer needs and market requirements. It’s also the product owner’s tool for making the business case for a product and for making a decision on what to build next.

Tools like Notion, Trello and ClickUp are great to document and visualize your macro, micro and overall product goals. It also helps you stick to your north star metric so that you never lose sight of the bigger picture.

5. Coordinating & Managing Release Dates With Your Team

A PM’s responsibility doesn’t end at merely setting timelines and creating product roadmaps — it’s crucial to also ensure that your plans are executed flawlessly and on schedule.

When you’re working at a fast-paced company, it’s important to always be testing and iterating quickly. This is especially true for software as a service (SaaS) companies. As a PM, you’ll need to specify a date and time for when the product or MVP should be released.

Difference between product manager and project manager

Now that you know what a product manager does, you might be curious then who is a project manager? How are they different from product managers? Or is it just another name for a product manager?

While it can be difficult to spot the differences between a product manager and project manager, there are actually significant differences between the two.

i) Project managers focus on the schedule and budget. Product managers focus on the product, the features and the customer.

ii) Product managers, work closely with developers, designers, and project managers to produce a new product that you will then sell to the customer. The project manager works closely with designers and fellow engineers to analyze and fix bugs.

iii) A product designer makes sure that the product is meeting the customer’s needs and that the features are doing what they are supposed to. On the other hand, a project manager ensures that the project runs smoothly without any technical glitch and hiccups.

But where does the intersection lie between the twi positions?

Product managers have to decide on whether to make the product they are working on and the project manager decides whether to undertake the project at their company. They both have to work with people and manage the tasks in order to complete the product. But have you ever wondered what makes them different?

To simplify it:-

- They both have to make sure the product gets made and that it is of high quality.
- They both have to keep track of the product, from being made to being distributed.
- They both have to create products that are in demand with clients, but they do it with different methods.

Summing Things Up

In the end, a product manager is in charge of the product. This includes a product’s strategy and roadmap, but also the data collected, the product’s development, and sometimes even the marketing and profit.

When the vision of a product manager is put in front of everyone else, there is a high chance that the goals and expectations of all the parties involved in the project get aligned on the same page. A product manager has the responsibility from owning to shipping the final product out to the people to use as they intend to.

Mahima Arora
Associate Product Marketer at Zeda.io.
A marketing enthusiast, trying to influence society by means of media and drive sustainable good.
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