Wikipedia has a entry for product management. I have provided a snippet of the entry below:
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Product management is an organizational lifecycle function within a company dealing with the planning, forecasting, or marketing of a product or products at all stages of the product lifecycle.
The role consists of product development and product marketing, which are different (yet complementary) efforts, with the objective of maximizing sales revenues, market share, and profit margins. The product manager is often responsible for analyzing market conditions and defining features or functions of a product. The role of product management spans many activities from strategic to tactical and varies based on the organizational structure of the company. Product management can be a function separate on its own, or a member of marketing or engineering.
This is an excellent description of the responsibilities we require of product managers. The job entails business plans, forecasting, customer relationships, sales enablement, technology expertise, subject matter expertise, communications skills, and leadership abilities.
Product managers deal with very smart and opinionated folks like customers, sales teams, software development teams, industry analysts and business unit executives to name a few. They need to be able to direct and justify their product strategies to all these players. In these discussions, there is a lot “what if” scenarios that generate lots of off-the-wall ideas.
What seems to be missing in the Wikipedia article is any mention of the product manager being responsible for generating the next big idea from within this ecosystem. Certainly there is no lack of ideas on how to improve performance, add functionality, fix the ugly UI, provide more reports, make it mobile friendly, build and support it cheaper, etc. These are all important enhancements to a product to keep it competitive in the market. But where does the next big ideas for the business come? And does a product manger have any responsibilities (or time) to identify, adopt and foster them? If not, who does?
I will consider practical options for this important issue for technology led businesses in the next blog in this series.