Having already highlighted many of the mistakes companies make when assigning someone to be the product manager (PM) in a previous post. It’s time to take the opposite side of the discussion and look at what the PM role should look like. What skills are needed and how do they interact with the development team?
The PM should be the CEO of the project. The same way the CEO has to decide what direction to send the entire company, the PM should do that for their project. They need to know the environment, understand how changes to the product will impact the users and how it will impact the company. In the same way a CEO has to sell his or her vision to the rest of the board of directors, investors, and the rest of the company the PM needs to be able to sell other departments, users, and the development team on their vision.
Prioritization is another major role the PM has. This article has the best description of product prioritization I’ve read:
The question isn’t what is the best list of ideas you can come up with for the business – the question is what are the next three things the team is going to execute on and nail.
The key to this way of thinking is that the thing that is ultimately most valuable to the company or product may not be the next thing you can execute on. A PM needs to realize that and set the priority according to what can be done right now and understand how that ultimately gets the team to the finish line.
Ultimately the PM role is very important to the execution of the project and requires a multitude of skills that may be hard to find in a single person. The product manager is the conduit between the development team and the rest of the company. By setting priorities and selling the team on one product vision, the right PM can be the missing link to unlocking the potential of your development team.