As companies grow from startup ideas to small businesses and beyond, they need to upgrade most roles. Bookkeepers become accountants, the salesperson turns into a sales team, and marketing evolves from a DIY effort to a myriad of different roles with names like social media specialist. These young companies also find that certain new positions are needed. Product Manager (PM) is chief amongst them. – or at least it should be.

The Goal of Hiring a Product Manager

Product managers are specialists in the needs of consumers. Sometimes referred to as the CEO of the product, these are the people who bring together market research and customer demographic information to design new products and manage the development of existing ones from conception to marketing and sales. Anyone who takes on a PM position needs to be able to conduct customer interviews as easily as they can work up a price model, write a market assessment as readily as they develop the product road map. The work is diverse and as technical as it is people-focused.

Product management may sound like project management but the two are very different in all the ways that matter most. Projects are one-time ventures. They have a definite beginning and end as well as deliverables. Products can be anything from a physical item to a service, and the role of the people who oversee these ventures do not end until the product is discontinued and fully retired.

The Difference Quality PM Makes

Many companies, especially young ones, may have many people who fulfill the duties of a PM as part of their existing roles. The accountant runs the numbers on the product while sales work up a pitch and marketing designs ads. In this case, a product manager may seem like an unnecessary expense on an already tight budget or as though it would be complicated. Plus, some people don’t like the idea of ceding authority to anyone, let alone an outsider. However, adding a quality PM to your operations has some important benefits that far outweigh any risks.

Enhanced Customer Focus

In the technology industry, customers are everything. “A great onboarding to hook (trial) customer increases the chance to create this wow moment,” writes Robin Dechant, an associate at Point Nine Capital. “What might be ‘Always Be Closing’ in Sales, might be ‘Never Stop Onboarding’ in Product Management.” Customer needs are constantly changing; having a product manager helps make sure that your company keeps up.

Integrated Branding

Good PMs also tend to lead to good branding because the company image is more integrated into the final product than if you had one team working on the technology behind it all and another focusing on marketing. This way, your company’s products can take on a more distinctive look and feel. In addition, your brand will come off as more authentic when your identity resonates in every aspect of your product and its marketing. This is true in any business, but in tech, where you may only have a handful of marquis offerings, authentic branding is essential.

Improved Time

Finally, product managers improve time to market, as well as everything else. They keep all the teams on track and unify their efforts so that every action is accomplished on a timeline. They oversee deliverables and coordinate schedules so there is never a down moment.

How Uiza Product Managers Operate

In the beginning, we had some difficulties with the idea of a project manager vs product manager. It's not because we don't know the difference, but because we hadn’t figured out how to run at the beginning.

All startups begin with the question: what should we do?

Like others before us, we tried to imagine how Uiza would be. We tried the copy from some other companies who make similar products, and we imagined all the different products and projects we might offer.

It did not take use long to realize that we should change this approach, especially after we got clear about our Vision and Mission.

What Makes a Good Product Manager?

We ultimately found that a good PM needs to inspire a shared vision, be a good communicator, and have excellent problem-solving skills.

Shared Vision

Product managers should be motivated by a vision and thinking strongly about how each effort plays into that greater ideal. The best PMs feel excited about what they are doing, and they share it very often. They focus on long-term goals instead of individudal tasks.

Good Communicator

PMs also need to be good communicators. They have to work with many people every day. From customers to co-workers, they need to remain calm and personable no matter what is going on so your clientele remains loyal and your employees work together as a team.

Problem Solving Skills

Finally, remember the importance of problem-solving skills. PMs have many problems to handle from the internal team to the external team and their customers' problems. There are problems everywhere from which they need to find a way out, over, or through.

Good PMs understand that there are underlying issues to any problem, and they focus on resolving the root causes of those issues instead of just treating the symptoms.

Conclusion

There are many ways to launch and mange a project. You can be like Steve Jobs and come up with an innovation (e.g. iPod, iPad) that leads the market, or you can research where the pain points are for your customer and develop products that solve those issues. The right project manager can help you figure out the right path and consolidate your efforts. The trick is finding the best person to oversee your product.

Credited to: Yann (yann@uiza.io)