The Detailed Guide to Software Product Management: Everything You Need to Know About Product Management in Software

Product Management in Software

Software Product Management is one of the most important activities in software development. Without Product Management, there would be no reason for anyone to tell a developer what to do. And without developers building your products, you don’t have revenue coming in – which is why Product Managers are some of the highest-paid employees at technology companies.

When I started my career as a Developer, it never even occurred to me that a product might not be built according to some kind of specification from on high – working on software from inside an ivory tower seemed pretty straightforward and obvious, but after 10 years having worked for both small startups and large enterprises, I’ve come across lots of different models for how this works in practice:

Fully Informed Teams make their own decisions while the product manager acts as the ultimate approval/denial moderator

Teams are given a lot of freedom, but at times might receive guidance that they should consider implementing X or Y instead of what they had planned

The Product Manager collaborates with developers to brainstorm ideas and then create specifications (or other artifacts) which will be passed on for further work by other teams (e.g. development)

The backlog is carefully defined through high-level requirements created in collaboration with stakeholders

So how does this all work? And what should you know if you want to become an effective Product Manager? Read on to find out – I’m going to talk about everything that’s important below, so whether you’re just starting your journey into Software Product Management or you want to advance your career further this post is for you.

If you just want to know what Software Product Management is, I’ve created a working definition below – but if that’s all you’re looking for, feel free to skip ahead – at the end of the article, I’ll talk about how this role came into existence and why it’s so important in software development today.

How does a Product Manager work?

A product manager ensures that a team builds a product that meets customer needs and maximizes the value of their investment in that product. The usual model is that a small number of people with good understanding of both business and tech come together on a cross-functional team consisting of maybe one or two developers as well as a UI/UX designer, a couple of testers and a product owner.

The Product Owner is responsible for managing the backlog – essentially representing customer needs and working with stakeholders to define clear requirements that developers can use as guidance when they need to build new features or make changes to existing ones. This can be done through meetings or via written specs, but basically these days it’s all about beautiful documentation which is continuously updated in collaboration with different teams (e.g. QA) who want to understand what they’re building before writing code – I’ve talked about how this process works in this post , so take a look if you want to learn more about creating readable User Stories.

Once requirements are defined, it becomes the responsibility of the development team to fulfill them. The Product Manager might provide input on when it is realistic to schedule the time needed to build the feature in question, but in most cases they have no direct influence over when or how this work gets done – instead, they are responsible for making sure that the right resources are available so that work can get started as soon as possible.

Once development is completed and new code is checked into source control, QA takes over with their own testing procedures that ensure software quality – there are lots of different methodologies out there promising different degrees of thoroughness , but if you’re not careful it’s very easy to underestimate their importance. Quite often, becoming familiar with these processes requires a lot of patience since they can be extremely cumbersome at times – but if you want to ship products that are reliable, it’s absolutely necessary.

After QA has done their work, the software should be ready to go live – this is where Production comes into play. After thorough testing has been completed and the Product Manager has given the green light , the deployment process goes through a series of steps before being released to customers. This can entail lots of different activities depending on what sorts of changes have been made since previous deployments, but in most cases there’s probably some sort of review or governance framework that needs to be followed – often these processes are defined by compliance requirements (e.g. PCI-DSS ) which govern how companies must handle sensitive data like credit card information, medical records etc…

Of course, this is just one possible scenario. There are thousands of companies out there with different ways of doing things – the important takeaway here is that in order for a development team to succeed, they need someone who can work closely with business people as well as developers to ensure that everyone’s efforts are aligned towards creating value.

Since Product Managers serve this role between stakeholders and teams building software, I’ve used what might seem like an unusual term to describe it. One thing you should know about me is that I’m always looking at etymology (the study of word origins) since it tells us interesting things about not only how languages evolve but also how people think through the usage of specific terms over time. For example, Product Management dates back to the late 1950s when it was originally called program management in order to differentiate from production management which mainly focused on manufacturing processes.

In any case, I’ve tried to define this role in a way that fits within my broader scheme of things:

“Product Management is a unique discipline concerned with understanding both business strategy and tech capabilities in order to identify high-value opportunities for new products or services.”

From here, it’s easy enough to break down what a Product Manager does into specific activities… but before getting into that, let’s take a step back and look at why exactly it’s important to have someone who can do this well.

To put it bluntly: one of the easiest ways for companies to go out of business is if they can’t sell their products.

It’s that simple. I’ve come across countless examples of how this breakdown in communication between otherwise talented people is what leads to failure – the Product Manager (or whatever you want to call them) has a unique perspective about what is valuable, who will use it and why; if they can’t convey this information effectively, then there’s almost no chance the development team will be able deliver on value for customers… not to mention anyone else like investors or management.

Of course, even with real-time information about everything happening within an organization, it still doesn’t mean things are going to go well – there are lots of ways a company can fail at creating a successful business! But bad decisions made early on are often indicative of bigger problems to come, which is why it’s key to have someone responsible for understanding the product who can ensure everyone remains aligned.

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