Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the Darden School of Business, University of Virginia's online course, Digital Product Management. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 4 secondsSo, you want to be a product manager, or maybe you already are a product manager, and you want to do the job even better. In this video, we're going to talk about what the job really is, the job of product manager, and what we're really going to look at is how we create focus around it. A focus that's A, testable, and B, something you can translate into the interdisciplinary areas that the product manager needs to interface with. Because that's what this job is really about - creating focus, translating it into something that's actionable for a lot of different collaborators. This is a relatively classical view of what the job is. It's at the intersection of user experience, technology, and business.

Skip to 0 minutes and 46 secondsI'm going to typecast a little, but, let's talk a little bit about kind of, what that means. Here's a kid's toy. It's battery operated, and should we ship it with batteries, or should we leave it to the customer to buy those batteries? The user experience person will probably say, well, the out-of-the-box experience is really important, and if we ship it without batteries that experience is going to be crummy. The engineering person will probably say, well, I can help you make sure the batteries don't drain while it's in storage, and I can help identify batteries that have a long shelf life. With enough time and money, I can even make a battery that has a really long shelf life.

Skip to 1 minute and 21 secondsBut, you've got to figure out what's really important and investible for the company. And the business person will probably say, well, we can kind of sell this at a certain price, so we'll make a lot more money if we can ship it without batteries. What's the answer to that? I don't know, but that's part of your job as a product manager, to help get those perspectives, and drive to the right answer to that question. Here's another view of what this intersection is. This is the H2D pattern. If you move in startup circles, you live in Silicon Valley, you've probably seen this.

Skip to 1 minute and 53 secondsThis is actually my favorite view because this work from the people at IDO really focuses on this dimension of desirability. Are we creating something that's appealing, desirable to the customer? Because if we don't do that, this is really independent variable. It doesn't matter feasibility or viability, if we don't create this here. And this is how we get this happy intersection, by starting with desirability and then translating it through these other two dimensions. I think that's the most actionable view of this. How do we create this desirability? Well, we go to the customer, and we create a testable focus around who that customer is,

Skip to 2 minutes and 32 secondsand what's really important to them. And then, we work to translate that focus into something that's actionable across these different areas. If you don't do that, what you'll probably find is there's not enough focus to do the job well, and you'll feel like you're too busy all the time, and you're going to be busy. Hey, everybody's busy, but if you're too busy and you feel like things are out of control, I should be spending more time with the customer and more time with engineering, it probably means that you need to back up and really look at that focus again, so that you know what's really important, and what can be dispensed with.

Skip to 3 minutes and 6 secondsBecause there's always going to be important things kind of yammering at you that you're going to have to ignore. That's the reality of this job. And the successful product manager is able to drive these things together into a successful focus that is workable across these three dimensions. Let's talk about a few cautions, things that may mean, if you start seeing them for yourself, that product management isn't the right job for you. And the interesting thing about the product management, the marketplace for product managers, is that, when I talk to executives, they say, how do I find more product management talent.

Skip to 3 minutes and 40 secondsAnd when I talk to young people, like the students at Darden, they're interested in how to get a job, often as a product manager. I think that there isn't a single track that always reliably produces great product managers, and I think the reason is, it has a lot to do with your personal disposition and your personal interests. If you are not that interested in how the product gets made, product manager probably isn't the right job for you. And the reason is, engineering development is probably one of your biggest cost centers if you are a product-focused company.

Skip to 4 minutes and 12 secondsOn the flip side, if you're super interested in how the product gets made, then maybe a job in engineering or some area more adjacent solely to engineering, the feasibility dimension, is a better fit. If you start engaging with the user and their behaviors, and that just really fascinates you, and everything else feels kind of like a job that you don't really want to do, maybe a job as user experience designer is the right thing for you. And if you just want a simple view of what's my To-Do List, what's my definition of success, then maybe product management isn't the right job for you.

Skip to 4 minutes and 47 secondsBut, if you've seen these things that we've talked about here and you say, that really stimulates me, I'm curious about that. If you're curious about how all these things come together, if you're comfortable taking ambiguity and formulating it into a testable focus, then product management probably is the right job for you, and I think you're really going to enjoy it. Over the rest of the course we're going to talk about specific things you can do to do that job really well.

You, the product manager

In this video, Alex describes product management as taking ambiguity and formulating it into a testable focus. After listening to how one can apply these ideas in a company, do you think the role of product manager is right for you?

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Digital Product Management

Darden School of Business, University of Virginia