What is Product Management?

gum on a fork

For organizations that don’t already appreciate the value of product management, just trying to explain the role can be very challenging. Usually the “strategic product management” responsibilities are distributed throughout the org. Convincing them that a single person should be a product manager (and not also a marketer, project manager, or designer) is like convincing them to eat gum off a fork.

DotNet Guru has posted a simple explanation, from a development perspective of what makes a great product manager.

He lists three things (and goes into detail on each):

  1. Drive a product’s strategic roadmap.
  2. Cut features from release scope.
  3. Understand the customer’s business.

We can build on this to create an elevator pitch for what product managers do. The elevator pitch is the short soundbite you would use if you had an opportunity to “sell” an idea to a venture capitalist who is trapped on an elevator with you for a few brief seconds.

The goal of an elevator pitch is to convey enough information that the audience wants to know more.

We apply this simple approach to create an elevator pitch explaining product management.

The Elevator Pitch

A product manager works with customers to understand the problems they need to solve, and how their businesses really work. She also understands how software is made and how it can be used to change business. She identifies, values and prioritizes customer problems to be solved and validates them with the customer. She drives the vision for what the engineering team will create to solve the customer problems. She iterates to solve the inevitable conflicts between goals and engineering/project realities. She supports the marketing and sales teams in selling the product, helping for all customers, not single customers.


Someone said once that it takes longer to write short than to write long. I agree. Please comment on this post with any suggestions to improve this pitch. The criteria for changes:

  • You can not increase the word count
  • You can not use lists or diagrams – this is a (quickly) spoken pitch

2 thoughts on “What is Product Management?

  1. Hi Scott,

    I think that elevator pitch is very much to the point. Why don’t you make it in MP3 instead of per written?

    Also, there is product management outside of the software business. So, my only suggestion for now is to replace “software” by “system”.

  2. Luis, thanks for commenting, and great suggestion about ‘system’ instead of ‘software.’ I think we should just change it to ‘product’, based on your feedback.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.