We see and hear so often the need for more software developers that it can drown out the presence of the other roles equally important in delivering a software product.
Needless to say, there are many roles in a tech product business beyond developers, so in this blog we'll explore the role of a product manager - a role we believe is absolutely critical in the development of any tech product.
Ultimately, the product manager is responsible for understanding the business viability and the value to the business of any product idea.
Since the establishment of the product manager role a degree of confusion has crept in, with it sometimes (mistakenly) seen as just another description of a project manager. This isn't true, and we've explored the differences between the two roles in a previous blog that you can read here.
Broadly speaking, a product manager is an expert at combining balance, guidance, and communication to ensure a product's viability and value.
Commercial and organisational drivers need to be balanced against the needs of end user(s)of the product itself. Therefore, a product manager needs to understand the wider business and how the various functions impact the product, and vice versa. This is due to the fact that just because a product meets all the requirements of the business doesn't mean that users will actually use it!
Guidance and communication is also required, as the product manager becomes the advocate for the wider business functions within the product trio. The product manager needs to clearly articulate the user needs and objectives to the development team. This approach is intended to ensure the right thing is built the right way.
For many founders, their background will mean they may be subject matter experts in their own right, but not in processes and methods designed for tech product development. This lack of experience can lead to the simplified perception that by purely giving a set of directives or requirements to a developer will result in a successful product.
Developing a software product is in fact incredibly complex work. Across an organisation, regardless of the size, there are multiple moving parts that have the potential to affect the success (or failure) of a tech product. This is just one reason as to why we see the role of a product manager as vital.
The nature of the product manager role means they have the ability to understand, interpret, and consider the various moving pieces and how these could impact the development of a tech product.
As identified above, the product manager will be part of the product trio (we explore this concept in more detail here). The product trio have all decision-making power over the product (i.e. what to build and when). They are held accountable only for business results that their product can directly impact. Each role has specific areas of focus and equal responsibility for the product. The product manager will focus on business viability and value - ensuring the product produces business results.
A very wide range of people! In a tech product company it can be argued that the product manager has the most holistic view of the business aside from the CEO.
Balancing the moving parts and priorities of the business and users means a product manager will be working with pretty much anyone in the business, and across all functions. Again, this is to ensure the product is actually viable.
The product manager is part of the product trio. Within this group they will be a source of knowledge. Their interactions with other parts of the business and users will give them insights into what the product needs to achieve, and what problems it needs to solve.
A key aspect of their role will be putting the problem to the other members of the product trio, setting the goal, and asking for them to solve it. The product manager will not specifying exactly how to solve it though, as this needs to be a decision made amongst the trio – and ultimately with scope for the wider team to make execution decisions themselves.
Outside the business the product manager will be talking, and listening to people. Product managers will want to interact with a very broad spectrum of people. This is to ensure a balanced view of the product is obtained. Product managers will also be wanting to identify and understand what people will buy - and where a need exists in the market that could be solved through the use of their specific product.These are core concepts that establish the value of the product.
These various interactions will then be funnelled back to the product trio and the wider business to investigate, explore, develop and test to ensure they meet the needs of both the business and users.
In a startup the margin for error is much slimmer than that of a more established business, if you build the wrong thing (or the thing wrong), you may not get a second chance.
At EndGame, we work with founders to grow their software ideas into sustainable businesses. We're invested in the success of the business, and see the role of the product manager as a critical aspect of this success. There are key advantages in engaging a product manager through EndGame, as opposed to a founder trying todo it themselves, or even hiring one within their own business.
We believe engaging an EndGame product manager significantly de-risks the start up in a number of ways:
An EndGame product manager has proven experience working with tech start ups.This is experience has been honed through working on a variety of other products, across multiple industries. It's experience that knows how to get to a solution more efficiently. This is a stark contrast to a founder trying to doit without the knowledge of how the tech product development process works.
Within the EndGame environment multiple processes are in place that inform and guide us to build the right thing the right way. Based on industry best-practice they ensure the software products can meet the needs (and are valued) by users, whilst ensuring that the various needs of other functions within the business are considered.
Like building a tech product, building a culture is also tough and time consuming work. If done right, it can bring amazing results, and conversely, if done wrong, can seriously hamper businesses. EndGame invests heavily in creating a culture that encourages the delivery of great work. Founders get the benefit of this culture in the form of an engaged team working on their products.
Within the wider EndGame team, there are senior practitioners across a variety of disciplines. The benefit with this situation is an additional layer of support for founders and the respective product manager. EndGame's product managers are not operating in silos by themselves.
The reality of this type of engagement is that a founder is getting much more than an individual product manager when they go through EndGame. Beyond the individual, our founders gain access to all the systems, processes and experience that would take years to build up in a start up environment - all at the expense of getting the actual product live.
Through the use of a product manager, a whole business idea can be de-risked. We're passionate about the role our product managers play, and the benefits theybring to founders of tech products.
If you'd like to know more about what a product manager does, or how they could benefit your business, don't hesitate to get in touch!