The ‘CEO’ of your product should also be your customer expert and strategy owner. But every successful software business must give them the right tools to lead on product innovation and growth
Your product roadmap should be your cornerstone for growth; a short, inspiring representation of your plans for future product capabilities and improvements. But it can’t exist without a crucial member of your business who’s responsible for it: your product manager.
A great product manager is not just the custodian of a production document. They’re also empowered to own every aspect of the product life cycle, be the customer expert, and most importantly, the CEO of what you’re selling. If you’ve got the right person for the job, your growth and customer success just got that much easier.
But what makes a B2B software company product manager go from good to great? And how can you enable yours to be their best?
In this blog we explore what your product manager should be leading on, what responsibilities you should give them, and how they can help fuel your growth.
From pinpointing prospects to shaping your product
Your product manager doesn’t just own every aspect of your product life cycle, they also shape your product to deliver the best value to customers. This means getting inside the heads of both end users and decision makers to understand what they need and what their challengers are — in detail.
Rather than simply keeping on top of a mass of data, a great product manager also has their finger on the pulse of industry trends, client pain points, and updating your internal tools to deal with them. They’re the person who sets the vision for your product, as well as the company’s vision if it’s focused on just one product. They’re your bridge to collaborate with different departments, while remaining the spokesperson for your customers. They should understand why your products are attractive to prospects and what sort of hesitations customers may have (so your organisation can solve them).
They will also work closely with the development team on user experience for new features and ensure your products are aligned with wider business priorities — all so they can push the goal of steady innovation and growth.
Creating a business leader
That’s one long job description. But how do you enable your product manager to actually lead on these goals? The most important step is to make them the ‘CEO’ of your product.
This means owning everything to do with your product from the get-go. You should position their role in the organisation as the customer expert and guardian of customer-centricity, allowing them to prioritise deliveries, set the product vision, establish a set of metrics appropriate for your product, be responsible for the short- and long-term product roadmap, and giving them profit and loss (PNL) responsibilities, as well as ownership of pricing.
It’s also essential that they focus on high-level objectives as well as detailed features. Your product manager should have clear visions and goals that can be related back to business objectives, while given the space to experiment with innovation.
One of their goals should undoubtedly be quality of your product over quantity of new features. Your product manager is there to make sure the organisation is always headed in the right direction when it comes to what your customers are buying — and if they can deliver this in their role, leadership is the inevitable result.
Behind every great product manager
As your business matures, you can bring big benefits by splitting the roles of product manager and product owner to create a wider team.
While a product manager has a highly strategic role and is accountable for the whole product life cycle, the product owner can have a much narrower focus and work more closely with the development team.
This means your product owner can get into the detail with developers around the requirements for what needs to be built, as well as define the product backlog and prioritise work that needs doing.
While ultimately the question of creating successful products lies with your product manager, your product owner can help define the answers — and build a more strategic and successful leader, and organisation, as a result.