Product Managers for the Digital World

An excerpt from the forthcoming book “Organizing and Managing Insanely Great Products” by David Fradin with RN Prasad.

The role of the product manager is expanding due to the growing importance of data in decision making, and increase in customer and design focus, and the evolution of software development methodologies like agile according to McKinsey & Company.

McKinsey says product managers “are theglue that binds the many functions that touch a product—engineering, design,customer success, sales, marketing, operations, finance, legal, and more. Theynot only own the decisions about what gets built but also influence everyaspect of how it gets built and launched.”…

“They wear many hats, using a broadknowledge base to make trade-off decisions, and bring together cross-functionalteams, ensuring alignment between diverse functions. What’s more, productmanagement is emerging as the new training ground for future tech CEOs.”

And now as companies from outside of thedigital world go through the digital transformation, they need product managersto get the product right.

McKinsey argues the product manager thinkslike a CEO.  But there is a problemthere.  Unlike Procter and Gamble’s”brand manager” whose model Hewlett Packard copied to create today’sproduct manager, the brand manager had budget authority.  They paid for the market research that isneeded and for the advertising.  So it ishard to think like a CEO when a product manager does not have control of thebudget.  That is why I argue elsewhere inthis book that the product manager should have the budget authority overmarketing and market research.

Data is becoming even more critical andenables the product manager to monitor a product’s success across engagement,retention, conversion, usage and more. 

Product management is also becoming more agilein planning for the next feature release and the long term product roadmap.

McKinsey writes that products are becomingmore complex, thus making the product management role more difficult.  Customers are looking for new features,frequent improvements, and upgrades after purchase. More product bundles arehappening, different pricing tiers, dynamic pricing, up-sell opportunities, andpricing strategies.  Plus identifying andowning key partnerships.

McKinsey says there are three types of productmanagers: technologist, generalist and business-oriented based on theirinterviews. In my experience, I agree. 


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