Some of my entrepreneur friends claim that they are product managers. After all, they identified a need, did market research and built the product. But once VCs are involved, the founder has to manage them, so who manages the product?
At large companies product management exists, but more often than not customer needs are compromised for reasons beyond the product manager’s control.
My claim is that every company needs product management, regardless of its size. All companies need someone who will assess market needs, talk to customers, drive the strategy and define the product. The difference is in the execution.
· Voice of the customer – Product managers should be the customers’ advocates. This is often achieved by visiting and interviewing one’s customers. Traveling and meeting face to face may be limited due to lack of funds at a small company, whereas a larger company may not face the same problem.
· Vision & strategy – VCs often limit the expansion of the small company if it is not aligned with their view. Large companies often have a vision, but are too slow to execute.
· Best practices – Small companies tend to do “true” product management, while large companies tend to stick with “this is the way we’ve done it before”.
So whether you are in a small company or a large company, the bottom line is make product management work. If you have limited travel funds, be creative—use online video tools to communicate with your customers. When vision is limited, bring data to support your findings and make a convincing argument. Finally, being a product manager takes effort, good communication skills, and above all, diligence. Remember, having a good product requires not only vision, but also a great product manager to drive it.