Product Management has been a functional role for more than a decade now and Product led companies like LinkedIn, Google and Facebook are well recognized for their success stories.

Off late though I have witnessed debates like “Sales sells and engineers create; why do we need the middleman – the Product Manager?”

Perhaps the confusion is understandable, specially for folks who are yet to experience the difference a strong Product Manager can create…because with or without a PM, a product does get created. And it does solve some problem for some customers. We all are also super creative people and have plenty of million dollar ideas popping up every day. So then why do we need Product Managers?

Very humbly here are my confessions and perceptions of the value add of a Product Manager….

a) Customer Centricity: A strong PM brings your desired customer’s voice in the decision making room and with that the discipline to solve the desired problems in the right sequence for the desired customers;  all that while keeping a close eye on everything else cause customer preferences change. Without this discipline we end up with a product that some customers may buy at some point, but driving consistent growth with a “”Spray and Pray” model seldom works.

b) Drive Impact with a line of sight to Key Metrics. This may be revenue or leading indicators that fit the longer term strategy for the business. For example # of users, # interactions per day, Average order size etc. As new ideas emerge the road map has to be updated but only with these north star guidelines in mind. While sales needs to focus on this year’s revenue; the product manager builds solutions that drive future revenues…

c) Maneuver Complexity – Strategy is primarily prioritization done right specially since a business has to make multiple decisions every single day. Complexity may be because of technology, competitive arena, go to market issues, pricing, economic factors, internal team skills or other factors; but a thought through plan to navigate and manage the complexity can be the pivotal difference between growth and decline for a business. A strong PM is the glue that connects these dots for you.

A PM doesn’t always have to be the most creative or the sharpest brain in the room. But they always have to be able to listen to the signals around them, and be able to calmly analyze and connect the desperate dots to filter out that one thing that matters the most. Creation after all is a humbling experience and a fascinating journey….

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