If you are a product manager and to tell someone who hasn’t worked with a product manager before what you do, the chances are they will satisfy with your answer. There is much to say about the ambiguity around the product management role as the role of the product manager and their exact responsibilities change across different industries, different companies and depending on the stage and the culture of the company. Just look at the job listings for product managers and you will find diverse definitions about the roles and their requirements.
I try to avoid to contribute to the ambiguity while talking about the role, but I also challenge myself to find a good definition for “product manager” that is concise and clear.
Without much to say, here are my three quick definitions of a product manager based on what they do in an organization. I use these definitions interchangeably depending on the context and whom I am talking to.
Definition one — product manager’s job revolves around collecting ideas and deciding what to build next.
Product Manager is someone in an organization who talks to various stakeholders; collects huge influx of ideas; defines what are the good ideas and bad ideas, why they are good ideas and bad ideas, which of those ideas are most important and best use of time; decides what things can be built next and when it is the best time to built them by looking at data and all other things going on at the moment in the industry, in metrics, with the technology and in the company.
Definition two — product manager has the ability to translate with and bridge gaps between multiple areas and different functions in the company.
Product Manager is someone in an organization who does enough upfront research and stakeholder collaboration to bridge the gaps between functional areas of tech, business and design and influence the teams who work on the product development to make the right product decision while forming a narrative and being clear why it is the right decision.
Definition three — product manager’s job is about making strategic product decisions that will support company’s vision.
Product Manager is someone in an organization who has the ability to synthesize the data and information collected from all sorts of sources available and accessible to them to make product decisions to move the company’s products closer to the company’s vision.
If you are a product manager, I would love to know if you would use any of these definitions in any context or what your definition would be. If you are not a product manager, hopefully any these definitions will make it a bit more clear to you in an organizational setting.
What might define a good product manager is their experience, qualities and skills together with a good understanding of product management function and fit in an organization. However, making a definition of a great product manager is harder. Being a great product manager is about the mindset. It is the mindset of looking at the world skeptical and having this constant curiosity with challenging thinking which not many product managers have innately.