Many of us have been there – we’re the only product manager on our small team and we’re pulled in all directions. We want to be a good product leader, but sometimes it feels like everything is slipping through our fingers.
In some cases, being the only product manager means that you wear many different hats: you probably have your hands in the design, development, testing and marketing of your product. But even when you’re not wearing each of those hats yourself, communicating with each discipline can be a full-time job for many types of PMs.
In this article, we’ll compare software and hardware product management to help separate their unique roles. And we’ll point out some quick tips on what you should prioritize when running both types of products.
Defining Product Management
Before we can compare software vs. hardware product management, let’s start by defining the role in the first place: What is product management? According to Google, “Product managers are responsible for guiding a team from an idea to a final product.”
In general, software product managers are in charge of the overall vision and roadmap for their products. As they guide their team, PMs consider business goals, customer needs, technical constraints, UX design trends, market competition and more. Generally speaking, Product Managers at all stages need to be close with each area—developers, designers and marketers—to be able to communicate effectively with one another. The role varies in size depending on the company or team in question: Some companies have dedicated product managers who work closely with individual teams while others may have cross-functional groups where the same person manages multiple teams or departments (Google Ventures has such a model ). Hardware product managers face many of the same challenges as their software counterparts, but with the added complications of
What follows is an exercise in simplification—it’s a broad overview that can’t possibly cover everything there is to know about being a product manager. Think of it as a primer to help you market yourself and your abilities as a product manager. As you work to build out your team for your next venture or consider hiring a PM at your company, keep these points in mind.
Pre-launch: The early days
Your first task as a new product manager will be gaining an understanding of what has been built so far by whom and how those efforts have been received by users. In the world of physical products, this means meeting with engineers across departments from mechanical engineering to quality assurance; in the digital world, you’ll be learning about the code base and past marketing efforts.
More than just reporting on your findings, if you do this well, it will set the stage for how you approach future projects and initiatives.
“As a product manager, it’s important to understand what has been built so far so that you can work with your team to prioritize upcoming features.“
If there is one thing that makes or breaks most new product managers early on, it is their first big presentation. Whether distributing wireframes of an upcoming feature at your weekly engineering standup or hosting stakeholders for a demo of your vision for the future of the product, everyone starts somewhere. In the past, I have been to countless meetings where a PM has taken us on a tour of something they built or showed off their wireframes and prototypes. And while it may seem innocuous for one-time use, if you do this well, it will set the stage for how you approach future projects and initiatives.
This presentation makes product managers look like rock stars. The reason that your first major presentation as a product manager is so important is because it sets the tone for how everyone else will view your work from here on out. In short: If you nail it, as a PM, people think you’re amazing, but if you don’t…well, let’s just say there are no second chances. As a result, you really need to plan this presentation out.
That means you need to go beyond the typical slide deck. As product managers, we are inherently visual people so it’s important that your first major presentation is not only informative but also visually appealing. Your slides should capture your team’s personality and provide an unvarnished look at the current state of the product, not just some pretty pictures.
Here is what my co-founder, Emmett Walsh, recommends for how you can create a killer product presentation:
1) Keep it simple. We don’t want 10 different fonts or colors splashed across our screens when giving our presentations. When speaking in front of others, less is more. It’s hard for most folks to remember more than three big ideas during a presentation anyway.
2) Use the “Four Point” rule. Instead of creating slides filled with long blocks of text, break up your information into four main talking points. Think in terms of the ” Four Point Approach “. You can fit all sorts of different data into this framework, so you’ll never run out of things to say when presenting!
3) Avoid rambling. When giving a presentation it’s common for presenters to get carried away and talk about tangents that are interesting but not essential. These stories could confuse or bore your audience so always tie back every point you make to one or more main points covered under The Four Point Approach. Anything else should be cut.