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27 Jan 2020 10 min to read

Software Product Manager Responsibilities in Software Development Cycle

I am sure most of you have been on a holiday with a travel agent. What made it good? Some of you will say the hotel, the weather, the views, but to me, it’s always the guide. They make sure everything goes according to plan – guides work hard to ensure you get a great experience. In software development, software product managers act as guides.

  • Today we present the responsibilities of a Software Product Manager. They are dictated by the software development lifecycle. 
  • You will learn how planning and development/execution phases look like. 
  • We describe the roles of Product Manager and Product Owner – they are often used interchangeably but their responsibilities are different.

 

What are the responsibilities of a Software Product Manager? 

The software development lifecycle dictates the responsibilities of a Software Product Manager. 

Let’s begin with the discovery phase. The Product Manager’s role is about understanding and defining what customers need to create products that meet their demands. The PM is responsible for conducting detailed market research which involves:

 

Secondary research:

  • analyzing the competitive landscape to check what products are available on the market, what customers value about them – this can be done by reading product reviews, testimonials, etc. PM’s must know what the strengths and weaknesses of the competitors are, to develop products that give more value to the customers.
  • looking into trend reports, market statistics, industry content, and any available sales data.

Primary research:

  • Getting information from current customers to figure out their pain points – it can be done through interviews or surveys  
  • Gaining insights from potential prospects

All of this information will enable the Software Product Manager to create an ideal customer profile which will dictate what the product will look like and how it will be positioned. The PM sets the vision for the product and is responsible for communicating it to the leadership to get them onboard. 

 

In the planning phase, the Software Product Manager should translate the data from the discovery phase into a list of product requirements. At this stage, the PM comes up with a product roadmap, to provide a plan for a team with timelines and actions that must be completed. They present the findings to the leadership to get their final acceptance.

The roadmap must show the current and future state of product development as well as illustrate the vision and goals – the Software Product Manager ensures that vision is translated into reality. PM’s decide which features should be prioritized, and which ones should be discarded or developed later in the future. 

They also produce product-related documentation such as Product Requirement Documents and Functional Specifications Documents. 

product-manager

The development/execution phase – this is where PM’s will spend most of their time. They will closely cooperate with the development and design teams, creating mockups, specifying the requirements for developers and tracking work progress. 

They also participate in the Daily Scrum and Sprint Planning, making sure the dev team has a clear understanding of the user stories and know exactly what must be developed.  

After the Minimum Viable Product is released, they’ll have to arrange for product testing. This involves building a feedback collection mechanism, gathering the feedback and modifying the product according to the received information. 

One of the key responsibilities of every PM is effective stakeholder communication. They must keep all stakeholders i.e. the management and other team members up to date on the strategy and product development progress so that everyone is on the same page. 

 

PM’s role doesn’t end after the product launch. They work with marketing and design teams to promote the product making sure it gets enough exposure in the market. They continuously monitor and analyze the product performance keeping in mind the key metrics including revenue, market share, margin, customer feedback. 

They’re responsible for product upgrades and improvements depending on product performance and customer feedback. They can even make the decision to give up on the product and replace it with a new one. 

 

Is the Product Manager and Product Owner the same?

While these two roles are often used interchangeably, their responsibilities differ. Think of Software Product Managers as strategists. Their primary focus revolves around the product’s vision, business objectives, and the market.

The Product Owner’s role is more tactical. They use the strategy developed by the Product Manager and convert it into specific, actionable tasks. They also work with cross-functional teams to ensure that all the listed tasks are completed on time and to the right standards. 

Think about it this way: when the PM is out and about doing market research, speaking with current and potential customers, the PO is in the office working closely with the dev team, ensuring all processes are carried out correctly and effectively. 

Note that some companies don’t have the need or resources to hold both positions. In general, big engineering teams, with 20 people or over tend to have both Product Managers and Product Owners. 

 

Conclusion

Software Product Managers are strategists and visionaries, they set the direction in which the product is supposed to go. They act as mediators or a link between the customer, the leadership team, the dev team, sales, and marketing. They have 3 main areas of responsibility:

  • Setting the strategy and long-term vision
  • Communicating the strategy to all the stakeholders
  • Overlooking the execution of the strategy. 

Their role, however, doesn’t end with the product launch. Product Managers must continuously ensure that it performs well on the market. They decide on the product improvements based on the market response and they are the ones who decide whether to discard the product and replace it with a new one. 

Bear in mind that work is organized differently in different organizations, and the responsibilities discussed above are not set in stone. Companies that work in Scrum might have Product Owners, and not have Product Managers. There will also be businesses that can allow themselves the luxury of having both a Product Manager and a Product Owner on board. 

 

Call to action

The Product Manager’s role is to guide the success of a product and lead the cross-functional team responsible for building and improving it. We are curious about your experiences and thoughts. If you want to share it, please, leave us a comment!

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