Product Managers are a key part of any large Tech business. They sit on the boundary between the coders and the non-coders.
They are involved in all parts of the business, they understand the strategy and vision of the CEO, the wants and needs of the customers, the current state of the market. They turn all of this into prioritised features for the developers to turn into products. Conversely they understand the complications and difficulties of the developers and explain why things can and can’t be done to non-coders.
They have to ruthlessly prioritise and define what is going into a product whilst managing a lot of expectations.
When does a company require a Product Manager?
I recently began a role in an early stage tech start-up as a product manager. The team was 7 people when I arrived and now we are already 10.
In a bootstrapped company any extra personnel are always a risk in a business that needs to keep its overheads down and profitability at a maximum. When the team are on reduced salaries any hire is always questioned and you need to know that you are going to get maximum value from every team member you bring on.
Problem — Systems Breakdown
Every business is different but typically when a company reaches the boundary of 9 people everything starts to fall apart.
Phil Libin the founder of Evernote has a law of 3. Every time a company triples in size all process fall apart and need to be reworked. Management, HR, meetings, comms etc..
In a typical Saas company at the stage of 9 this is where you need a product manager to take over the role of directing the product or products from the CEO to stop things from falling apart.
The CEO will be having too many requests on their time with a lot of non-product responsibilities sales, HR, biz-dev and probably fundraising. The more requests on their time the less attention they have for any one thing. Decisions are made quickly without proper research or thought. When mistakes are made tempers get shorter and product requests come at the team in an increasingly less organised manner. Things like user stories won’t be fully explained and the development team won’t be able to do their job properly and you basically have a big accident waiting to happen.
This is when a product manager who is able to take time to understand the developers needs and give them all the info they need to do their jobs is essential.
They can also let the CEO step away from product and serve as the visionary who provides direction to where the product goes but isn’t involved in the nitty-gritty everyday product decisions.
Listening to customer problems and fully understanding the product needs from every perspective lets them make informed decisions that people can agree with. They can also take the time to put due diligence into researching future product idea’s and requests to see what will provide most value to the organisation
Before bringing in a product manager you want to know how to get the most out of them. It is good to understand what a product manager will be doing and how to work with them to get the best results. In my next blog in this series I outline answers to 4 key questions that I was asked as a new recruit to explain my position to the team.