What does a product manager do?
Dmitry Tsyplakov: Five to eight years ago, no one understood the difference between a product manager and a marketer or a project manager. Now I explain it this way: a product manager is responsible for three metrics on the IT side – the happiness of the user, the business, and the team. This is a person who has no one to report to, but tries to steer the three conflicting parties in the right direction.
The product manager uses analytics, product research and approaches. He knows what CJM, GTD, Agile methodology, and unit economics are. You could say that a product manager is a mini-CEO within the product and its IT component. Such a specialist can work in construction or any offline business, but most often product managers are needed in the IT sphere.
A product manager must have an incredible desire to influence the product and receive feedback. It’s the ability to be a leader and a real boss in the way of adversity, when development resources and money are lacking, when users aren’t happy. This is the kind of uncomfortable story you need to make decisions in. These have to be informed decisions based on data and dry statistics
What is the role of the PM in the company?
D.T.: The product manager plays a critical role in the structure of a company. The recent popularity of the profession of product manager is due to the fact that the concept of product creation has changed. Previously, companies preferred to develop in a completely isolated mode, consumers learned about a new product only when it appeared on the market. The approach I stick to is when company comes out with a minimal viable product (MVP), evaluates in real terms the potential demand for it, and develops it based on feedback from users.
This approach requires constant and professional attention to the product by the company. This is what determined the emergence of a specialist whose activity and area of responsibility is entirely devoted to the product.
Should PM have a technical background?
D.T.: I personally don’t have to have a Tech degree but as a PM I define the ideology of the product development process. The work is well-organized when developers understand what they are doing and why, and the product manager considers their limitations. A product manager should be able to negotiate, persuade, motivate the team, while understanding the work process.
What qualities should a beginner PM have in order to create new products and bring them to market?
D.T.: In my opinion, the 3 main skills of a product manager for successful work. I would highlight: strategic thinking, planning, building communications. Let me elaborate on this point.
- Strategic thinking. The product manager is responsible for the creation of the product, its release to the market and the duration of its life cycle. Therefore he needs to constantly analyze product performance, user needs and think about how to improve the product. Even before creating a product, the manager must understand its place in the niche. In order for the product to live on the market for a long time and bring profit, it has to be superior to the competition. During the testing and implementation phases, it is important for the manager to gather feedback and promptly refine the product.
- Planning. Usually they set a certain timeframe for the launch of the product and set a deadline. In order to have time to finish and think everything over, the product must be able to plan, distribute work in the team and control its fulfillment.
- Building communication. Effective communication is the key to successful and problem-free work on the project. Different situations can arise in the team, and it is necessary to be able to find a way out of them. It is good if the product manager has a degree in psychology or is interested in psychology. This will help them find a common language with the team, management, contractors, and colleagues from other departments.
How would you advise newbies to expand their expertise?
D.T.: Practical experience is the best way to become a true professional. Besides that, I recommend joining different professional communities. I am a member of the Product Coalition community for product managers. It’s the largest networking platform for PMs. Membership helps me expand my network and share experiences with colleagues. It’s important for a professional to be surrounded by passionate about product people, to exchange insights about product strategies and product delivery.
What projects did you run as a product manager and what are you doing now?
D.T.: My career journey started at the age of 18 when I founded a game studio. Our team first in Russia had received a license from Sony to develop the software and a year later first users saw the Dino Games. Then I launched the Futbalito app — youth football aggregator with data, statistics and analytics for business participants. On a side with a sports application I received an order to make community platform for networking in the modelling business, which quickly became popular in Europe, owing to a partnership with Fashion TV and the top influencers. Managing products in different business areas is always a challenge. Operating with new audiences, promotion channels, and various product roadmaps taught me how to quickly adapt to changes and organize a team for productive cooperation. At the moment i’m launching a real estate project in California.
Dmitry Tsyplakov, Serial Entrepreneur/Digital Product Manager/ PropTech/ Blockchain.