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What is a Product Manager, and Why Should the User Community Care?

By Anon Anon posted 06-10-2015 03:05 PM


A casual observer of this community will notice that there are quite a few members that refer to themselves as “product managers.”  Sometimes the product managers refer to themselves as product owners.  From the perspective of the community, they are one in the same.


I would like to share some background on the position to help users in this community understand what they do on the development team and why interfacing with the product managers is very valuable to the members of the community.


The UIM software development organization is quite large.  The organization is broken into smaller teams, sometimes referred to as “scrums”.   The teams are led by a group of three managers; we call these managers collectively a “triad.”  A triad is made up of an engineering manager, an architect, and a product manager.  Each triad will lead one or more development teams, and they are usually embedded directly in the team, sitting with them in the same room.


The engineering manager is responsible for managing the software developers, and owns what we call the “When”.  The “When” is short for “When will the product requirements be delivered?”


The architect is responsible for the “How”.  The “How” is short for “How will the requirements be implemented in the product?”


Finally, the product managers are responsible for the “What”.  The “What” is short for “What are the requirements, and what are their priorities?”  The “What” is communicated to the development team primarily through use cases.  Use cases describe who is using the product, what that user needs to do, and why it is valuable to them.  Product managers are all about the use cases.  The use cases drive the design by the architects, and the implementation by the engineers.


Knowing all of the uses cases is one of the greatest challenges faced by product managers.  The best product managers admit this fact, and know they must interface with the users as often as practical to capture previously unrecognized uses cases.


Therefore, the community is vital to the product managers and helps them to capture use cases directly from the users themselves.  Community members, who are able to effectively communicate their use cases and influence the product managers to work those use cases into the development plan, are some of the most powerful members in the community.  Those influential members have successfully opened the most direct channel available, strait to the developers themselves.