Creating, marketing, and improving a digital product is a complex process that incorporates many different team members, skills, and expertise. Software engineers, designers, salespeople, and stakeholders must all work together to bring a product to life. What’s important is that all these individuals and departments work together as one cohesive whole while prioritizing the product’s quality.
That’s where a product manager comes in. As cross-functional leaders, product managers are generalists that understand the different moving parts that go into creating a digital product and make sure all of these parts work together to create the best outcome possible.
In this sense, they are champions of the product that prevent competing interests or siloed teams from undermining it. To build the best product possible, product managers must possess a comprehensive understanding of customers’ needs. That’s because it’s the product manager’s responsibility to ensure that the product meets the customer’s wants and needs.
For this reason, product managers typically immerse themselves in the data around the product’s target market and demographic. They work closely with UI/UX designers to conduct and analyze QA testing and gather feedback from users. After informing themselves about the customer’s specific needs and input by working with the UI/UX team, the product manager’s responsibility is to use this knowledge to inform other departments’ work within the organization.
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Gathering data about the customer’s preferences is of no use if it doesn’t influence the development and design teams’ work. It can often be difficult for departments to communicate effectively because team members for different departments have different skillsets and, in some cases, competing interests.
For example, a designer might feel that a particular screen layout or design pattern is more aesthetically pleasing and insist that the software engineering team implement it. However, this designer is likely not trained in the programming frameworks and languages used to build a digital product.
Therefore, he or she might not realize that the design pattern they’re insisting on might increase the workload of the software engineering team significantly. The alternative design could cause them to rely on outdated software dependencies or impact the product’s performance.
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Conversely, a software engineer might realize that a particular way of developing the product makes more sense from a technical point of view. It could streamline the development process or limit software dependencies. That engineer might not be familiar with the UI/UX skills or customer feedback data that indicate that this way of developing the product could negatively impact its useability.
In both of these cases, finding a resolution could be problematic because designers will have difficulty understanding a software engineer’s point of view and vice versa. What’s needed is an intermediary communicator who can speak both UI/UX design and software engineering languages. This intermediary is often a product manager.
As you might expect, to resolve these interdepartmental issues, product managers must be equipped with the tools to maximize their productivity as cross-functional leaders, as explored in this piece by the Washington Post.
Product managers are expert communicators that can bridge the gap of ideas between different departments. They understand the work of various departments well enough to reach compromises when disputes arise. While resolving conflicts, they never lose sight of the customer’s needs to look out for what’s best for the product continually.
In this way, a product manager bridges the gap between different departments in an organization and between the organization and its customers, as explained in this article by Digital Authority.
The structural organization in which product managers work can vary depending on the industry or company they are working for. Some companies choose to assign one product manager per product. While this is the most common organizational structure, it isn’t the only one.
Other companies choose to assign one project manager per required skill set. In this structure, multiple product managers could apply their diverse skills to the same product. This arrangement can bring a greater diversity of skills and ideas to a product, but the downside is that it can lead to disagreements between product managers working on the same product.
Finally, larger organizations might choose to organize product managers into different product management groups. In this structure, product managers work within groups that handle other products or even various aspects of the same product. Even large, reputable companies like the BBC are building communities of product managers to meet business goals.
This structure can lead to a more collaborative environment. What is essential is that all of the different groups work together to ensure that the user’s experience is smooth and frictionless when moving from one feature of the product to another. Regardless of how they appear in a more massive company structure, it’s crucial that the product manager thoroughly understand the customer and safeguard the quality of their responsibility.
In this sense, product managers need to understand the features customers are longing for and the pain points they’re struggling with. Many users are continually searching for new ways to use and understand products that are part of their daily routine, as explored by this piece from the New York Times. Product managers should be acutely aware of the problems users encounter when using digital products and what they’re looking for to alleviate those difficulties.
By understanding the end customer, product managers can develop business cases for new features for the product. A business case is a justification for a new product feature in terms of its business viability. It includes an analysis of the strategic or economic context, potential profit, estimated costs, and risk profile for the feature.
To do this work, product managers need to be informed business leaders that keep up with current digital and technological trends.
In an age where so many workers are attempting to become specialists, product managers are the generalists that fast-moving companies need to grow and thrive. Product Managers truly bridge all of the gaps between companies and customers, and having skilled professionals doing the job makes a world of difference.