What is Product Management?

In today’s software-driven economy, companies require talented employees who work at the intersection of business, design and technology. By leveraging top talent that understand how great products are made, companies can build products that people love.

One important function that stands at the nexus of business, design technology is product management. In fact, the role of the product manager is reportedly one of the most coveted job title among MBA graduates, according to a Wall Street Journal report in 2016.

Though product management evolved significantly in the decades since its inception, it is important to note its true historic origin as well as its influence within the business world. By understanding the context in which product people thrive and their impact, business leaders with the drive to impact their organizations will more effectively recognize opportunities to innovate. They will also be prepared to change strategy, where necessary, to gain the help required to succeed. This may mean hiring a remote product team to work directly with designers and technologists within their business to increase the speed and efficiency by which their company brings products to market.

Historical Context: From Where Did this Role Come From?

As with many business functions today, product management grew out of necessity. It began in 1931 out of a need for what Neil McCoy called “Brand Men”. At the time McCoy, who worked for Procter and Gamble, recognized the need for additional staffers able to take full responsibility for products including sales, marketing and operations.

As software began playing a larger role in businesses, the product management function morphed into an even more dynamic role. No longer was it steeped in the idea of Brand Men or brand management. Technology companies adopted the function and made it their own. Consider this idea regarding the transformation of brand men to the tech middlemen (or women) who worked as product managers in the 1980s. According to product manager & CEO Jason Yen in his article “What People Don’t Tell You About Product Management”:

On a parallel track, up in Washington, Microsoft also played an important role in the conception of the modern product manager role. What Microsoft found in the 1980s building Excel for the Mac was that the project was a significant technical challenge. That challenge: building a spreadsheet tool that leveraged new GUI elements on an operating system they weren’t familiar with and didn’t control. That challenge led the engineering team into the weeds. It was all they could handle to get the details right, and that pulled their attention away from bigger-picture issues.”

Thus product managers were leveraged to help technology companies manage complex product issues. They were neither managers of marketing, engineering or sales but worked alongside these teams to ensure the product development and launch was a success.

How Product Managers Add Value to Businesses

In essence, product managers solve problems and coordinate efforts across multiple teams to ensure products launch on time and exceed expectations. Product management entails problem solving, and the ability to determine what makes a great product and execute the necessary strategy. Depending on the organization, the role may be quite technical, requiring deep understanding of the underlying technology.

Product managers solve problems and coordinate efforts across multiple teams to ensure products launch on time and exceed expectations.

Product experts, like leaders in any function, are not cut from one mold. They are each unique with their own specialties based on their backgrounds or focus. Moreover, each organization has unique challenges that might require a specific kind of product manager. Catherine Ulrich’s article The 6 Kinds of Product Managers” gives a good description of just how varied the role may be depending on the needs of a business.

But even more important is recognizing a manager’s specific focus, is an organization’s ability to act wisely when leaders within that said business recognize they need product expertise.

Whether a company is struggling with creating a new product or simply developing new solutions for existing products, talent doesn’t always come easily. What does an organization do when it struggles to access quality product talent based on limited knowledge or strained resources? In essence, how do leaders within an enterprise guarantee they can access product expertise regardless or organization size or experience?

Why Hire a Product Team?

In some cases, a company may lack the resources or necessary skill set to drive a successful product launch. This is especially true when a product has major flaws or limitations that the company is struggling to resolve.

When a timely turnaround is essential, why not hire a product team?

At Operatic we help companies solve tough problems by applying lean approaches to product management. Our world class team of technologists and innovators have a history of getting things done, no matter how complex the problem! More important, we consider every job a partnership, ensuring our clients receive the help they need every step of the way.

Read more about our services here or email us at hello@operatic.com to learn more.

Travis Hardman

I founded Operatic to help visionaries bring new ideas to market. We work with everyone from small startups to multinational corporations, developing and refining early-stage products, turning nascent ideas into thriving businesses. We provide support in business modeling, lean product development, computational design, and software development.

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