Who is the product manager on the project and can he get out of the lead developer?
- Technoserv company blog ,
- Analysis and design of systems ,
- Development management ,
- Project Management ,
- Career in the IT industry
My name is Lyudmila, I have been working as a product manager for 7 years. Now I’ll tell you what it looks like.
The most exalted and gentle creature on the project is the architect. He always has a thought piercing the layers of centuries. But the architect is a technical specialty, and the architect cannot manage the project in the sense that he does not directly decide what the users will need. This is done by the product manager.
The product manager strongly overlaps in functionality with many other roles. Can perform the tasks of the project manager. And still do something before and after that. Here is its functionality in brief:
- It analyzes what users may need and explores the market. That is, he comes up with ideas for new projects and puts them priorities.
- Together with the technical team selects a technical solution.
- It calculates the economics of a product and determines whether it is worth doing it at all.
- Gathers a working group, sets tasks for architects and other key persons of the project.
- He monitors everything, everything, everything throughout the organization, in particular, he is responsible for interacting with partners and vendors.
- After implementation, he accompanies the product, is engaged in its development and improvement for at least a year.
- From time to time wakes up at night with burning eyes and the idea of a new product.
Product manager can be obtained from the project manager. There is more responsibility for this role, but also buzz, because you yourself invented something and created it - the sea. The coolest thing in our work is, together with a cool team, to do large-scale projects that will take off. This feeling inspires. But there are a lot of problems in the work.
Important: hereinafter we talk about the work of the product manager in the service, and not in software development. These are very different responsibilities and tasks.
How do you become product managers?
Sometimes this occurs as a spontaneous quantum phenomenon. There was a certain person who first worked as an engineer, then became a team leader, then a project manager, gained the skills of protecting the financial model and communicating with suppliers ... And here comes the idea. He carries it to the leader, the leader gives him the task of exploring the area more fully, then the calculation is done, and after a month or two our hero is engaged in the implementation of the project, which he himself came up with. Still not really understanding what he got into.
In fact, of course, in 98% of cases, you need to learn about the product. A product manager can be a project manager, team leader, engineer, rarely marketers (and the seller can almost never become a seller).
On the first project there will be a sea of rake, sweat and tears, there will be children's jambs and a misunderstanding of basic things, but in the end everything will most likely work out. Because enthusiasm. And at that moment, when it became clear that the person had brought the project to the end, in the eyes of the founders of the company and the CEO, it was of particular value.
The fact is that they do not need to be led. This is the team leader who knows how to find a job for himself, to justify its benefits for the company and to do it himself. That is, the one who moves the business forward. Naturally, he is given resources for all this.
Search for an idea
There is a company strategy, there is a market, there are all company resources (both material and in the form of knowledge and connections) - you can move mountains. With a certain mental strain. Therefore, the first thing a product technologist does is analyze the possible “where to dig” directions. Sometimes it has introductory messages like “we want to capture this market in two years”, sometimes sellers say that customers often ask something new for some task.
The first part of the work is the elaboration of an idea. This is a search for possible hypotheses, an attempt to confirm them, market analysis - and the creation of a product idea. Idea generation is a creative process. The process of turning an idea into a product for the market is a process or project where there are many participants from different departments of the company and each has its own role. The product manager himself is responsible for the product concept. An architect, lawyers, financiers, and other people are invited to prove the idea, but the product manager conducts all of this. And responsible for all this. And provides interaction between everyone.
Product thinks who needs the product, what kind of business it will be able to attract, what market share you can count on. The main idea is USP, that is, a unique selling proposition. Sometimes it happens that an idea is already taken, but on a new technical solution, and this allows you to provide much more interesting functionality and features.
Sources of product appearance are usually:
- World trends - we in the Russian Federation are behind the cloud market in the USA and Europe for about 5 years, so you need to look there. For example, in 2010, when IaaS sales in Europe were in full swing, our customers were suspicious of this phenomenon.
- Customer needs. The product specialist travels with salesmen to large customers, orders in-depth interviews on needs, communicates with specialists in the company. Some of the most experienced product experts are those who have worked in the target industry. This is a good help to meet customer expectations. Such a product knows for sure what hurts anyone and the products they create cause tears of happiness for techies from the industry.
- Engineering ideas. It happens that a company appears in the company who says that the vendor has new technology, and let's blind it with this - and it’s something cool. Or an engineer for a dispute collects some hellish thing in the form of a prototype, and then it has an unexpected commercial use. Etc. By the way, a successfully found engineering idea is still a rare opportunity for an engineer to try himself on a project if the soul lies.
- Own long-term development, changing the market, that is, the search for innovation. This is often done by research institutes, software startups or large vendors in their internal “incubators”.
It’s not enough to find an idea, it is necessary to protect it. That is, land and monetize. You must clearly understand how to sell it and to whom. Market assessment, technical marketing, and business case writing begin. It is necessary to take into account the costs of technology, design. To consider the participation of third parties - partners. Find out the prices for everything. Get grades on different parts of the project. To agree in advance, collect price lists, calculate iron and all resources.
For example, to launch TechnoDisk (our cloud-based file hosting), we deployed IT infrastructure and software, adapted a user portal based on a turnkey solution, integrated it with IS and other systems, worked out licensing agreements, agreements with suppliers, etc. All this was necessary calculate in advance.
Then the project is protected, then there are detailed specs, but within the budget, which was justified by a step earlier. Further approval for the purchase is given.
In preparing a business case, the most difficult thing is to predict revenues.
To do this, the market is evaluated: you can either set a realistic goal like “we want 10% of the Russian market”, or extrapolate current sales data, make an assessment based on peers in the west. Great analytical work from a series of questions at the interviews “How many heels are in Yekaterinburg”. Naturally, there are some assumptions, but they are minimized by different tools.
For example, based on our cloud (IaaS), there are many PaaS and SaaS services. A mini-project may look like this: there is a need for object storage with full support for the Amazon S3 API - how many clients will be transferred? They made an assessment, invited them, and began to use it.
With a completely new service, the hardest thing. Often you have to go through hundreds of clients with research agencies. It is important to check the forecast and fall into the expectations of the customer, maybe even make a test with the customer. And the very appearance of a product on the market changes the forecast for its consumption, but this is a different story.
This is the work of the project manager (it’s good when the product manager has a separate project, this makes life much easier) and the architect . My reference colleagues painted everything very well. In fact, we draw a plan, put together a working group and an arbeiten. We are acting.
While architects, programmers and contractors carry out their tasks, the product technician sets tariffs, prepares a set of product documentation - a sales kit and marketing materials for the product (including content for the site). Can, together with a marketer, draw up a product promotion plan.
Next, testing is started before acceptance.
After the acceptance, the product specialist conducts training for sellers and explains everything to everyone. What an idea, who needs it, why it’s cool, how to sell it.
Further, the product manager supports and advises everyone: he can participate in sales, goes to conferences and client events to talk about the product there.
Product manager goes to sales. The first time it understands what and how. Gets feedback: how is it sold, what to fix, how the product meets the real world. You can’t just take and ship the product for free swimming.
When a product is delivered, the product manager continues to support it. Often you need the development and refinement, processing of packaging services. This usually ends with the fact that the product is encapsulated in something large or simply ends its lifespan.
The project ends with acceptance, then the development of the service, maybe a new project or maintaining a backlog. That is, as the product develops after acceptance, the product manager spends less time on it, and more and more on something else, new. A product manager can run several products, for example, several in maintenance and development, one at launch - a new one.
First, you must always be aware of everything that happens on the market. That is, follow new trends. Most often, this is a sea of garbage, and survive well if 10% of new
technologies. But you need to know everything in order not to miss something important.
Sometimes the idea of a new cool product comes during the implementation of something rather mundane. Here sometimes you have to sacrifice and give it to another product specialist after protection in front of the product committee. It’s a pity, but if you don’t do it at all, it will be bad.
Very often, a discussion between a product engineer and a development engineer is heated up in a discussion of a product idea. The fact is that the developer may have his own vision of the product, and he knows how to do it better. This is often expressed in perfectionism, but technical perfectionism is not always for sale. It is solved by a very detailed explanation of why and what kind of product the market needs. And you need to start with the minimum package, and then, as you develop, engage in hanging features.
Sometimes there are epic battles of architects, each of which has its own plan for the implementation of something, and you need to defend a specific technology. It is difficult to understand, but not the most beautiful, but the most functional and rational solution wins.
It is rare that engineers, on the contrary, lack knowledge or experience in a particular field and then they try to remove pieces from the product where they feel unsure. Or a special case - what seems incredibly complicated to an engineer can be quite earthly. Complexity does not always translate into money, so sometimes you need to think a lot and get a beautiful implementation. I had a project where the engineers told me that this was impossible, and then a few days later they came and said that they had figured out how to implement it.
Sometimes you need the iron will of the head of the company. The most serious battles are in the field of information security. Moreover, both ours and customers - for example, in the history of cloud technologies, the IS services of customers are external with distrust. There is a funny thing: “And who is the vendor? Ivanov? He beat our CSO at school, we won’t work. ” There are things like “don’t use wireless networks”, “don’t work with vendors on M”, and so on.
How is the product specialist evaluated?
- By the timing of the launch of the service. If you do not withdraw on time, the company will incur direct or indirect losses.
- For income. After launching the product, the product manager monitors sales and solves issues. If the planned income is not achieved, he finds out why this happens, through whose fault (sellers may have their own plan or sellers themselves may not sell, or the promotion of the product itself is poorly delivered). If, nevertheless, the problem is in the product, a plan of improvements is drawn up.
- For pricing: tariffs, product margin.
- For the formation of SLA metrics (the service is responsible for compliance).
- Well, for the quality of new product ideas. More precisely, the ideas themselves do not need anyone - for the quality of first miscalculations and protection, and then implementation.
A couple more things
When your product works, it is not a victory. Winning is when your product generates predictable income. For example, for me the Technoserv cloud is a huge story where, on the one hand, I calculated everything from start to finish and was able to achieve real financial results, and on the other, I understand how much more needs to be done!
Where can I go from the product manager? As a division head, product portfolio director, business development director, consultant, go into sales or open your own business. But this requires very good management and communication skills, which begin to be relevant, starting with the role of project manager.
Текст подготовлен Людмилой Лепехиной, продакт-менеджером Техносерв Cloud .