I am a Product guy who recently changed his job. During the interview process, I was asked to describe what Product Management meant to me. Over the course of my career I have developed a model to describe it. This ever evolving model has benefitted from input from a lot of smart people. Like any good thing, it has 3 parts:
Define the box
As a Product Manager you must deal with ambiguity. If you cannot do that, game over, period. Even after a high level vision is ready and the strategy to achieve the vision is available, it is not clear what the product exactly looks like. Role of a product manager is to remove ambiguity and provide clarity. I call this process defining the box. It includes understanding all relevant things (market, customer, team capabilities etc.) and being specific about the tasks that must be completed to have the highest probability of success. These tasks span departments and provide clarity on what it would take to make the product successful.
Cover the white space
Each department plays a role in filling up the ‘box’. The role of the product manager is to cover the remaining white space.
By doing so, a Product Manager:
#1: Ensures that nothing falls through the cracks. It doesn’t mean that you are responsible for doing the work though sometimes it may.
#2: Must be the communication channel between departments. Engineering may not always be in sync with marketing efforts. Marketing may have made assumptions about engineering efforts. As a product manager it is your role to make sure the departments have the right information and are in sync.
Move the box
Finally, as a product manager, you must be thinking ahead and defining what the next box would look like. Product manager must be ahead of others in thinking about the next step. Inability to define this box will result in missed opportunities.