Do I Need a Product Manager?

by Sean Boyce
do I need a product manager

Even if you don’t need a product manager, you want one.  Allow me to explain.  We all want our companies to be successful and being successful means having the right help.  We are all well aware at this point that trying to do everything yourself is a recipe for disaster.  As products have become more technical a demand for an individual that speaks both tech and business has grown.  It is from this demand that the product manager role was born.  Back when everyone was making widgets things were a bit simpler.  There was the business side of operations and the manufacturing side.  One was responsible for expense and the other for revenue.  The difference was our profit or how we measure the success of the business.  Today things have changed quite a bit.  Tech has dramatically impacted both sides of operations.  Tech of today is simultaneously capable of streamlining operations to reduce expenses and increasing revenue generation to improve the bottom line.  Let’s talk about some specifics.

Are you selling a digital product?

If your business is a product created with software then your ability to benefit from the services of a product manager increases significantly.  Most of the clients I meet for the first time have never heard of the phrase product manager let alone know what it means.  When our sessions begin and I start to ask my questions, I quickly realize they’ve been waiting to speak with someone about product management.  Everyone could use regular perspective regarding the features of their product and whether or not they are relevant for the target audience.  Everyone can also stand for regular planning and maintenance of their product roadmap.  Both of these are critical to the success of a digital product.  I’ve seen countless products fail because of a lack of leadership in these two areas.  

Do you have an idea for a new product or feature?

You may think the only thing you need now is a developer.  You would be wrong.  I’ve seen this initiative go south countless times as well.  First you need validation of your idea.  As expertly explained in Running Lean the first step is problem/solution fit.  Are you solving the right problem?  Are you solving the problem the right way?  The majority of the time a client inquires about my services I find out they’ve spent a ton of time and money building something for reasons they can’t adequately justify.  “We built the product, but we can’t get anyone to use it or pay for it?”  I hear a different variation of that phrase at least once a week.  Instead you should be searching for and interviewing your prospective users first.  Line up a bunch of people that are at least ready and willing to test your product before you build it.  You might just find out that no one wants to use the product.  I just saved you thousands.  Now let’s go back to the drawing board and design something people actually want.  

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Do you know tech or business, but not both?

Some of the best teams started with expert resources in business or tech, but not both.  Ultimately they became a great team because they knew who they were missing.  Building a tech product or service is complicated and has lots of moving parts.  If even one step is attempted out of sequence it can doom the whole project.  Having the right help in the most important roles makes all the difference.  A product manager’s role is to ensure the product is a success.  That ultimately means making the business successful.  The best product managers typically have expert level experience in both of these areas.  The product should drive the success of the organization and the product manager is responsible for prioritizing exactly this.  Without a keen eye on how managing the product makes the business successful you can quickly become derailed and run out of funds or time.  There is a right time for everything and managing your product is no different.  If you need someone that can speak to your tech resources and your executive leadership in their natural language then hire yourself a product manager ASAP.

If you’d like to learn more about product management or talk more about the services I offer as a product management consultant please feel free to reach out to me at sean@nxtstep.io.  Keep disrupting.

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