As the tech and digital world emerged in the 1990s especially, the equivalent role of brand manager morphed into that of the product manager, becoming more and more specialised, and best defined as ‘those responsible for understanding, polishing and delivering the user experience’.
A product manager sits at the intersection of the business, technology and users.
Any organisation can sometimes confuse its own needs and those of its stakeholders with the needs of the users and audience. Product managers are the advocates for that audience. An organisation knows itself, stakeholders have institutional input: the product managers are the voice of the user, constantly testing the quality of their experience - which might be whether the beans taste good, or whether the app is genuinely personalised. The nature of a user experience depends, of course, on the nature of the product.
And that’s part of a constant process. In the evolution of any product or service, it’s right that those who actually consume a company’s products or who use its services are the ones who dominate the product manager’s thoughts: listen to what they say, incorporate their feedback. Get the personas right; test early and often with ‘real users’; get those feedback loops working. Build around the customer needs. It’s a constant and iterative dialogue with users and stakeholders. That’s crucial, it builds empathy and understanding, as the product manager listens to consumer challenges.
As time goes by, any company expects to change what it delivers - the refinements of new products fall out of continuing (and evolving) user needs. The product manager’s job is to listen, understand, and break down the user requirements and prioritise the issues of process, design or product that we can address.
It’s the translation that’s the skillful part for the product Manager. Somebody, somewhere in this whole process has to make decisions and interpret the data. Not every decision can be handed over to the democracy of the user. Sometimes, it’s about leadership - users provide problems, product managers provide solutions - listening to what’s wanted; working out what’s needed; delivering what’s required and maximising what’s possible.
Somewhere, an early product manager saw somebody struggling with a cow and thought of a process, perhaps with buckets, three-legged stools and jugs of creamy milk - and built a new industry.
At Galway Business School you can learn to deliver innovation through a Certificate in Innovation and New Enterprise Development programme as part of the Springboard scheme. Or browse all of the Springboard business courses we have available.