Companies have to introduce new products every now and then to stay competitive. The development of new products and managing the lifecycle of the products demand dedicated resources that can incubate new products and manage the product lifecycle. This is the realm of product management that encompasses the roles of product development and product marketing. Whereas product development is internal, product marketing is customer focussed and faces the marketplace. While some organizations have separate teams to concentrate on product development and product marketing, in others there is a single team or person to manage both the phases. The important thing to understand is that the complexity of the product being launched and the size of the organization determine whether there would be separate teams or one team.
The responsibilities of the product manager span the entire gamut of product development and product marketing ranging from analysing market conditions to defining features or functions of a product and including launching the product in the marketplace and following through the entire lifecycle.
Of course, among these responsibilities the ones that are most critical for product management are those concerned with driving new product development. More often than not the latter set of activities is handled by the marketing team and hence the product manager is responsible for incubating new products and helping them to make the transition from ideas to usable products.
The product management function is cross functional in nature and bridges many departments. For instance, the product manager has to liaise with the engineering department and the research and design department and at the same time coordinate with the sales and marketing function. The product manager also has to ensure that the financials of the product being launched are sound and that the expected revenues from the product are realized. Specifically, the product manager may have to translate the requirements of the new product given to him or her by the sales and marketing team into the technical specifications that the engineering and research and design departments need. The converse can also happen wherein the product manager is asked to convey the ideas for a new product to the sales and marketing team for the feasibility and market potential.
Often, product management is divided into inbound (product development) and outbound (product marketing) functions. As discussed earlier, the division into these categories depends on the type of product and the nature of the organization. Inbound product management deals with absorbing information about the potential product like analysing market research data and discussion of market trends and market sensing or market intuition. Outbound product management on the other hand concentrates on the way in which the product is marketed and involves distributing information and targeting the product at consumer segments. In other words, inbound product management is the pull phase wherein information is absorbed and outbound product management is the push phase wherein information is channelized externally.
Product management has become a key function in the organizational structure and occupies a place of prominence in the organizational hierarchy. The reasons for this are not hard to find since the business landscape in the present times needs astute and agile product management. Indeed, the success or otherwise of the products being launched can make or mar the prospects of the company as a whole. It is for this reason that product managers need to be especially shrewd and smart.
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