What is product management ?

Krishna Kumar K
3 min readAug 22, 2023

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Product management function was always nebulous. You really had to explain what you were doing even to friends and family.

I have worked at organisations with different levels of maturity for the PM role. In addition to maturity of the role, the style also changed based on the stage of the product in its lifecycle (global mature product vs pre-PMF) and the type of product (b2b, consumer). In certain cases, it is the responsibility of PM-s to define and educate the rest of the Org, on how they are planning to add value. So we need to get to the essence of it.

I asked ChatGPT “What is product management ?” and it gave a very lengthy answer. The summary line said something like the below

“…product management is about bridging the gap between customer needs and business goals by creating and managing products that fulfil those needs while aligning with the company’s strategic objectives. Effective product management requires a mix of analytical, strategic, communication, and leadership skills.”

Not bad. Explains the how of product management —

  • Fulfil customer needs while aligning with the company’s strategic objectives or business goals

However it raises few questions..

  • If we had a foolproof method of identifying user needs (which is hard), should we solve all of them ?
  • Should we solve the most pressing need felt by the largest number of users ?
  • What if solving these problems does not achieve our business goals ?

A better model that I’ve found is from Teresa Torres’s Continuous Discovery Habits . It is called Opportunity-Solution-Tree

  • She generalised ‘needs’ to ‘opportunities’ — that refers to needs, pain points and desires. For example a desire to be entertained (by Instagram) might not be a pain point
  • She encourages identifying smaller ‘opportunities’ that makes up bigger ones
  • She also encourages trying our different solutions using experiments. Experimentation has been the standard practise for a while now, especially for internet products where setting up experiments is easy.
Source: https://www.producttalk.org/

The book is a good read.

Again, what is product management ?

The definition I like is based on accountability. I think the product manager is responsible for the ‘desired outcome’ of the initiative. When the outcome is achieved, they share the credit with the team. But when it is not, they are accountable.

Since this is the case, they have to work with the team and make the right bets once the desired outcome is finalised. They need to

  • Identify relevant opportunities (user needs, pain points, desires)
  • Prioritise experiments to validate solution hypotheses
  • Iterate and move towards achieving the desired outcome

For product teams, PM-s are force multipliers.

Read more..

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Krishna Kumar K

Product Guy. (Worked at Indeed, Microsoft ...). I write about product management, startups, analytics and machine learning. Occasionally I digress...