As innovation becomes a source of competitive advantage for companies, new roles and titles keep emerging. There was a time when project managers were the ninjas who got things done, on time and within budget. Next came the era of product managers who balanced customer needs with larger business objectives to create the market success of products. Now, we are entering an age where it’s not just product managers – but a larger group of product people – who are responsible for innovation and corporate success.
Once relegated to fast-moving retail and technology sectors, innovation is broadening its footprint across industries. We see this in the service industry and companies selling physical products, such as Sheetz, which is using innovation and product people to reinvent convenience stores and gas stations. Or Dick’s Sporting Goods, which has teams of developers and product managers automating their supply chains, e-commerce sites, and more. Similarly, Home Depot has hundreds of product managers managing all aspects of how they engage with internal and external customers.
As technology, and applications, continue to advance, so does the need for people with the skills to help companies design, launch, and adapt products and solutions quickly and efficiently. That’s why organizations across industries are increasingly relying on “product people,” individuals who possess an expansive set of skills, from engineering and analytics to marketing and design experience.
The many faces of product people
Product people are broader than just an individual managing a product – and go well beyond the “product manager” title. You’ll find them in leadership positions, as well as in just about any area of a company responsible for getting innovation or products into the hands of customers.
What job titles do product people have?
- Product Manager
- Senior Product Manager
- Technical Product Manager
- Product Owner
- Product Lead
- Product Director
- Product Strategy Manager
- Head of Product
- Chief Product Manager (CPO)
- Innovation Manager
- Brand Manager
- Growth Manager
- Category Manager
- Experience Designer
- Product Designer
- Product Marketer
- Project Manager
Defining product people: who are they & what do product people do?
So, who are product people? In short, it might be easier to define who they aren’t: those whose review and performance are not tied to the success of the products their organization delivers.
Product people are professionals who create value for users and customers, both internal and external – value comes directly from solving a problem or addressing a need for a user. The specific jobs of leaders and executives can differ from team members – but all of this is being a product person. There’s also an organizational structure to support product leaders at the top of the tree managing specific capabilities or products.
Product people perform the following roles:
- Create and manage product roadmaps
- Create and manage the product strategy and vision
- Prioritize product release plans
- Assign and review the product's KPIs
- Manage and communicate to stakeholders changes in the product plan
- Assess business and market information and value
- Communicate information among stakeholders
- Translate business goals and Jobs-to-be-Done into product capabilities
- Provide updates and training to various stakeholders
- Discuss product strategy and direction with executives.
- Monitor and address changes, risks, and issues
- Translating business needs into product and technical requirements
- Update the product’s backlog of ideas, features, requirements, and emergent needs
- Monitor product health
Product people don’t just come up with great ideas; they ensure those ideas make it through the development process, perform well when released, and drive tangible results for their organizations.
Five words to describe product people:
That’s why today’s “product person” isn’t just a jack-of-all-trades; they also need to be an expert at getting things done. They understand how to marry different perspectives and create a cohesive user experience that solves customer needs while making financial sense.
The “product people” group adapts to new ways of thinking, new frameworks, and different aspects depending on what is being “product managed.” While companies might interpret and implement “product people” differently, this will likely evolve as product management standards continue to emerge.