Product Management

Explain 'Product Management' to your grandmother. Go!

You're at a family dinner. Your grandmother is asking: "What is it that you do, exactly?" Explain your role to granny, and help others demystify their job to their family too.

  • Director of Product Management at Cytora

    Hi gran. Nice perfume, is that new? No... oh.

    What's that? No gran not a project manager, a PRODUCT manager.

    What's that you ask?

    A product manager works with a team of people with different skills to guide them towards building things like apps, websites and devices — these are typical "products", but there are lots of other types.

    In the team are people who understand computers really well, artists to imagine what the product will look like, and people who understand people. The product manager (me!) helps all these people do their best work, reminds them what's an important problem and what isn't, and lays out the road ahead for them to follow.

    The result of all this is a product that:

    • works (thanks people who understand computers)
    • looks and feels great to use (thanks artists) and
    • solves a problem you care about (thanks people who understand people).

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  • The Team at JAM

    Using the principles from the tip on stakeholders, we should communicate with grandma in her own language. Let's try this out:

    A PM is like an event organiser.

    Let’s imagine the product is a wedding, and a successful launch is the day of the wedding party. A product manager is the one who has a vision: they both set up the event, and make sure it runs smoothly.

    A PM recognises all purposes of a wedding.

    • Wedding as a religious ceremony. The purpose is to get married and observe religious traditions.
    • Wedding as a party. Purpose: Celebrate with family and friends.
    • Wedding as a social status symbol. Purpose: Identify as a member of a society, and a specific social class.

    Many tasks need doing to meet these goals. From booking a church, through organising catering, to making sure uncle Richie doesn’t sit too close to the gin station. A PM realizes the event has different meanings for different people — these are called stakeholders, grandma — and they know how to satisfy everyone’s interests.

    A PM can’t accomplish all these tasks alone. They need to create a clear plan, and engage all the stakeholders. They have to be aware of all the moving parts of the event, and ensure communication runs efficiently among all people involved.

    As an event organiser the PM will also resolve problems, whether they arise before or during the event. A PM is a creative quick-thinker. The bride forgot her bouquet? Let’s use a table decoration piece.

    If a standard solution doesn’t satisfy interests of all people involved, a PM will generate more ideas. A sponge cake with cherries is too sugary for the in-laws? How about a cheesecake? How about making do with cake altogether and having another round of curry instead? Sky is the limit for a PM.

    So, grandma, a PM will not lead the bride to the altar by the hand. Matching people and tasks with the event’s vision, they make sure the final configuration is a wedding not the Burning Man.

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  • Product Manager at V&A

    Managing a product is a lot like building a family home.

    You work closely with the architect and the family to prioritise needs and solve problems. You oversee the building works and technical delivery, the cabling and piping (backend) as well as the room layout, windows, where the kitchen units and plug sockets go (front end). You also need to communicate back to the family when things go wrong or challenge come up.

    Your job is to deliver a dream home to the family on budget and/or a deadline and evolve and improve it over time as their needs change.

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  • Senior Product Manager at Made by Many

    Being a Product Manager can be a tough gig, explaining what you do can be even harder.

    The main purpose of a Product Manager is to lead a team of Developers and Product Designers to discover and deliver solutions, which satisfy both customer and business needs.

    Let’s unpick that a bit:

    Say you’re working for a news publisher, a customer need might be: ‘When I wake up, I want to know what the most important news stories are so that I can feel informed about what’s going on in the world today’.

    A business need might be to build a loyal customer base who visit our news website or apps regularly (because loyal customers are more likely to become paying customers). A solution that satisfies both of these needs might be an early morning digest email newsletter with a round-up of the most important news stories for the day.

    The journey to get to these solutions can be complex and involve speaking to customers, testing ideas, collecting data, negotiating and collaborating with key people around your business, understanding your industry, all while keeping your own team motivated and enthused!

    Did I mention that it can be a tough gig? :)

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