A few developers working hard can get a lot done, but it takes a well-rounded team with different skills and roles to build and grow a successful software product and company.
But all too often, we find that our teams or team members are working in silos, not fully understanding what others are doing (or why).
With this “What Matters” series, I’ll be digging into the various members of your team to help you understand and work better with them all.
This week we’re covering product managers. To get a feel for what the product manager does, you can think of them as the CEO of the product. It’s their job to answer the major questions about the product, like what your major differentiators are or why people will buy it, and they own the strategy, ideation, and features for the product.
Product management shouldn’t be confused with project management, although the two can overlap (and depending on the size of the team, one person might be filling both roles). The roles of project manager and product manager differ in a few ways:
- The product manager is focused on product goals and is responsible for creating the product strategy (including things like considering what problems the product solves and the features and benefits of the product)
- The project manager is typically less concerned with product goals and more concerned with project goals (like which team member is doing what, how the resources of the project are being managed, and whether deadlines are being met)
Now that we’ve got all that cleared up, what does matter most to product managers? Let’s find out…
Product Managers Want Answers
Catherine Shyu, product manager at FullContact, says she wants people to understand she’s asking questions for a reason. Sometimes, team members get annoyed with seemingly-endless questions, but it’s her job to get enough information to make informed decisions about the product and the direction it should take.
When product managers are investigating options for a product or a planned feature, hearing “that’ll take a long time” is not enough. They have to follow up with enough questions to be able to do all of the following:
- unpack what aspects will be difficult and why
- understand whether there is any way to shorten the projected timeline or exclude the “hairier” elements
- be available to problem-solve and make quick calls if/when development gets stuck
Good product management involves a lot of exploration to figure out what to do next and how to tackle problems if/when the team gets stuck.
Product Managers Want You to Read the Specs
Another large part of a product manager’s job is writing Product Requirement Documents (known as PRDs or “specs”). These documents detail who a feature or product is for and how it should work. Depending on the product, spec docs can grow so long that they seem like too much for the average software engineer to read and act upon. When the engineer doesn’t read the spec, they can end up slowing down the project, either by asking a lot of questions that hold Go to the full article.