The bare-bones definition of product management would be ‘supporting product throughout its lifecycle, through qualitative research, development, positioning, marketing, and after-sales support’ – but product management isn’t as simple as the definition sounds. Product management is a critical business function to identify growth opportunities and build solutions that simplify customers’ lives. By fulfilling the business needs of customers or organizations, product management ensures the organizations and its customers’ needs and requirements are met. Software product management focuses on bringing value to the table by solving a specific problem, addressing a user pain point, or enabling a new feature. The technical aspects of development come together with market understanding in product management, and it helps teams (and their organizations) stay ahead of the trends.
History of product management
In its current form, project management found its roots in a P&G memo by its then-President Neil H. McElroy in 1931. The memo aimed to request additional employees that were only focused on managing the brand as a whole – from creating the products to their packaging and positioning to performance or sales numbers. They analyzed product distribution, optimized strategies for working distribution, solved issues and optimized positioning of the product, and ensured marketing targets the right audience.
Product Managers act as the bridge between the two aspects of the product – business and technical know-how required for the development – and accelerate growth. Over time, the roles grew – and by the late 80s, when the software was taking hold in the industry, Product management was analogous to marketing the product – as the physical nature of the processes made it impossible for one person to have the expertise to oversee all aspects of product development. The advent of software necessitated redefining roles: With scope for constant improvement, products could exist beyond their initial lifespan and morph into other products too.
This software-centered growth heralded a way back for project management, where the product’s value proposition and development took center stage. Other related activities are handled by marketing. The Agile Manifesto captures the fundamentals of product management nicely – it lays out twelve principles, and one of them says that having business and product development teams work together on a project can increase the chances of success.
What is product management?
In software engineering, ‘Product’ gains different meanings – it can be an app (standalone software) that enables certain functions. From operating systems to programs like spreadsheets and games, they need a product manager to be more beneficial to their customers. The product can also be a service – where another company or team maintains the customer organization’s backends and applications. The product can also be an add-on to a more extensive program (Add-ons to ERPs & project management tools like the Roadmap portal app) or a service that helps people perform some duties in an easy way (tools like Hootsuite). No matter what the ‘product’ is, Product management ensures the team working on it has an intimate understanding of their customers and is equipped to create bespoke solutions for them.
While it might be alluring to try and find a definitive product management style that works for different teams and products, there is no one way to apply product management principles. A product manager’s steps depend on the goals and challenges unique to the creation and devise a customized approach to development. As a unique mix of business, customer experience, and technological finesse, product management helps all stakeholders achieve their goals. Thanks to the product manager, bridging the communication gap between the teams involved helps businesses achieve their objectives. Customers get a product more in tune with their current needs, and the developers better understand the product they’re working on and improve their skills.
Product management strategies
A product management strategy captures the goals an organization aims to achieve with its product. This usually means that the leaders and teams charged with product development look for strategy cues internally – talking to their executives, brainstorming with their product and marketing teams, understanding the gaps in their knowledge, and finding ideas that address these gaps. The process can sometimes go on without ever considering the customer’s point of view. Such mishaps can happen with anyone or any team, so following a few strategies below can help companies develop a winning product.
Knowing customers’ needs is the first step in creating a viable product. For that to happen, though, the team should know who their actual customers are- defining the target audience and identifying problems depends on this step. More often than not, team members will have an idea of the target audience’s needs – but assuming it to be sacrosanct and going ahead with development can lead to an ineffective product. There are plenty of ways to get information from the target audience: conducting interviews, surveys, or even running polls on social media can give a clearer picture of the customers’ likes and dislikes. The demographic, geographic, and psychographic details of customers accumulated by product managers help create personalized product strategies and reflect consumer preferences well.
Knowing the product in and out can significantly help when customer needs are rightly identified. The in-depth knowledge of the product can help the team members and product managers to connect with their target audience and businesses. By offering products or services that align with the customer’s goals, product managers can identify new avenues and challenges that can occur in the future.
Knowing the product well also helps in creating strategies that succeed. The main reason is that extensive product knowledge aids in drafting a high-level product vision, which can then be expanded to include the details. Articulating a compelling vision for the product gains the approval of leaders and stakeholders to move forward.
Knowing the goals to be set helps product managers highlight the product’s unique selling point (USP). Arriving at the USPs – requires managers to process objectives that a product can achieve and arrive at a list of measurable indicators that can be used to track the product’s performance. Without this step, the development risks becoming a collection of features that team members and other stakeholders think are indispensable.
After establishing a big-picture vision for the product by identifying the goal and the next steps towards them, product managers determine a series of high-level objectives. These objectives define what the product needs to accomplish. Once the goals are written down and prioritized according to their level of importance, development teams can create specific plans for the features listed in the priority order.
Plotting a roadmap allows product managers to trace the trajectory of the product. Roadmaps also align product management strategies with product goals and objectives and reduce errors and miscommunication among the team. A well-planned roadmap also gives team members an idea of the product’s growth trajectory and helps them identify potential pitfalls or opportunities. Every initiative on the roadmap needs to be there for a reason – not because of ‘this is a nice to have feature’ reasoning. Teams can revisit the roadmap during their status update sessions and discuss the integrity of future items with the product manager.
Reviewing product usage statistics reveals how users interact with the product and highlights areas of high performance and concern. Conducting this review on a regular frequency allows for the applicability of the product vision and strategy. Also known as data analytics, this process helps product managers evaluate product performance based on key indicators.
How to succeed in product management
Apart from the technical know-how and the ability to handle a team, being a product manager requires a few skills that anyone can develop – storytelling, marketing, and empathy.
Storytelling allows product managers to repackage their insights from customer interviews and market research and help their teams understand the customer needs.
Marketing improves product management’s focus on the customer and allows product management teams to integrate customer-specific messages into the product. Marketing is also about understanding and studying the competition, which gives product managers knowledge of the business landscape and an ability to differentiate their products.
Empathy for the developers, customers, and even the organization’s leaders – is essential for products (and product managers) to succeed. Empathetic product managers know where the issues are springing up and have a way to deal with them while reducing their impact.
Their skills help project managers conduct interviews and user testing, understand and prioritize feature requests, plan roadmaps, assess and mentor team members, help business people understand the tech part and tech developers accept the business part, define success metrics and track them, and so on. They engage the customers efficiently to get their input, understand all sides of the product, and answer doubts that team members or leaders may have, which require storytelling, empathy, understanding, and many other core competencies. The best project managers hone these skills throughout their careers by contributing to the success or failure of the products they manage and making regular tweaks to their approach based on customer feedback (that they asked for, in some cases).
The Amoeboids advantage for product managers
Amoeboids was established with a vision to create tools that simplify the lives of employees (and product managers). We strive to give every individual the same advantage. The products we’ve built eliminate operational inefficiencies from organizations and improve their margins. Our team members try to lessen the burden of controls and audits, increase accuracy, and deploy automated processes and tools to save time, money, and effort. Our products help teams automate repetitive tasks and focus on the real needs of the product (and the team). Our products are used in 80+ countries over the last 8 years! With more than 3500 instances of Amoeboids apps running, it is clear that customers can manage their entire workflow on Atlassian and excel at it too. Here are some of our apps that can be of assistance to product managers:
Roadmap Portal helps teams to collaborate with customers to build a compelling public or private product roadmap from the service project. It offers centralized customer feedback and requests in your existing Jira Service Management set up. And allows teams to create roadmaps that add actual value for customers. The portal can be organized and configured how teams want it, with no limits on its structure. Easy feedback layout improves feedback rates and hastens product improvement. Product managers can use Roadmap portal to create and publish roadmaps within minutes and set up automation natively.
Typeform Integration makes raising issues or requests an interactive and straight forward task –Customers get a delightful & interactive experience instead of dry old school forms. The app saves support team’s time by guiding users to relevant resources before they create support tickets. With this app, ticket creation can be personalized, too, with user attributes used to create a bespoke form instead of a templated one. Product managers can also use Typeform Integration for surveys and feedback and have all the details in their Jira instance.
Embedder helps product managers take Confluence content or help documentation wherever the customers are. This is accomplished without coding, and Embedder gives the ability to generate unique code snippets for Confluence space admins, who can use the ability to insert the info in any of the web pages across the internet. This insertion creates a small & non-intrusive web widget that displays the necessary information from the Confluence space. Not only can this help customers find answers to issues faster, but it also gives product managers a sneak peek into what customers are searching for in the documentation.
Screenjar provides an easy way to attach screen recordings to Jira issues & JSM tickets without any installations of applications or browser extensions. Giving customers the option to record their case rather than explain it by text makes their life easier and reduces the back and forth between support and customers. Screenjar also facilitates better collaboration with the product team, and product managers can communicate issues to the dev team much better with a video that shares the customer’s perspective. The tool’s simplicity also increases customer and product teams’ responses, understanding, and satisfaction levels.
Enriched Profiles empowers product managers to engage customers with personalized conversations & be customer-centric. One can get demographic and professional data for JSM ticket reporters & their organizations with enriched profiles. This app enables the team to understand the customers better, close tickets faster, and increase customer satisfaction. A deeper understanding of customers gathered from enriched profiles helps strike meaningful conversations quickly and understand how responses can be tailored to serve them better.
Automated Release Notes opens up a new channel for communication between product teams and customers. By taking the repetition out of generating release notes, ARN helps product managers focus on the content and create a valuable set of product update records. Release notes, when written well, increase customer engagement with products & processes. Take away the tedious, manual stuff and automate them for efficiency.
Fighting complexity has been the primary goal of product managers all this while and will continue to be so in 2022. Product management roles are getting more specialized, with the practice evolving to meet customers’ needs. Data-driven decision-making has gained considerable traction and will still be among the top skills desired in product managers. Gaining empathy for customers can communicate identified needs to the product team and make them understand their importance. Project managers should collaborate with marketing, design, and management to get buy-ins and interact with development teams. Translating business and technology to respective teams in a way they can comprehend becomes critical for product managers’ future success, and technology will be at the core of this transition.