A product can be anything and the role and responsibilities of a product manager change across different industries. In this post, I will remove some myths on the Product Manager role and share a bird-eye view on the product development process along with some frameworks that may come useful in remembering the overall process.
Product Manager Role
Product Managers are not managers of anybody except for school interns who aspire to become product managers themselves. The PM acts as a central node in the product development process and is ultimately responsible for the success of the product. The role brings all the viewpoints together and is designed with no direct reports so that the engineering/design team can develop an open-communication relationship to express their ideas and concerns.
Many often confuse between a Project Manager and Product Manager; the Project Manager is responsible for the successful execution of the project within the agreed timeline and budget constraint while the Product Manager meets the product goal and metrics.
Product Development Process
Innovation process: The product development process can be broadly navigated in three stages: Ideation, Feasibility, and Capability. The funnel starts with the discovery of the business situation and organizational context. To begin with, it’s important to understand the business aim of any product and requires big-thinking. Six forces model and the 4-Ps marketing mix are used to benchmark various strategic opportunities and identify business areas that need the most attention. BOSSCARD is a good framework to capture initial thoughts and provide terms of reference for a new project. The description is common in project initiation documents and the framework provides all the necessary information to stakeholders without looking at lengthy, detailed initiation documents. The acronym in BOSSCARD stands for Background, Objectives / Opportunities, Scope, Sustainability, Constraints, Assumptions, Resources/Risks (based on project context), and Deliverables. The BOSSCARD is important to have a formal agreement before the kick-off as without it always almost lead to some expectation being not met. Nowadays, there is a trend to use PRFAQ — popularized by Amazon - as the first document.
Get: I call the first stage in the funnel as the Ideation stage. In this stage, we brainstorm and think about problems from the user’s perspective. I would like to emphasize the importance of focusing on problems rather than solutions at this stage. Various methods such as personas and others can follow a process to learn more about customers and articulate the use-cases. CIRCLES method developed by Lewis helps Product Managers to articulate customer’s needs and is a great framework to not only solve complex work problems but also crack PM interviews. We cleared the charter gate — gate between the Ideation and Feasibility Stage.
Validate: CIRCLES method leads us to the Feasibility stage — the next stage of our product development process. After we have an overview of solutions, it’s important to fine-tune and make them business-ready. In the feasibility stage, Product managers work closely with customers, designers, and engineers to create and iterate mock-ups. They use Goal-Signal-Metrics of each element of HEART objectively to learn whether the product is improving. The HEART framework originated at Google and the team used it to narrow down their focus on a few key metrics so they can test the progress objectively. I develop a detailed roadmap and business case to take sign-offs and resource commitment from relevant stakeholders. A best practice is to have graphic displays of information in which it reflects the entire journey of the product from vision (conceptual) to a technical point of view. In many and now most organizations, the A/B testing result or MVP is the expectation to clear the contract gate and move to the next stage. The contract gate document is the most detailed product development document and acts as a single source of truth across various teams in the organization.
Implement: Engineers work on the agreed plan and in this stage- Capability stage- the project manager takes the control of the project from the Product Manager and is responsible to make sure development runs on schedule. Various project management tools such as Agile, SCRUM are used to track the project. Marketing uses the window to create content across blogs, videos, and other promotional platforms. The legal/regulatory team makes sure the product complies with the local laws and discusses the implementation with the regional team. The stage ends with the clearing of Market Ready gate with a big launch and celebration! After the launch, PLE (Post Launch Evaluation) kicks in and we compare user data against set goals.