Monday, July 26, 2010

A Product Management Elevator Pitch

Tondin Banks asked this recently:

What's the elevator explanation for what YOU do as a product manager?

Every product manager I've met has problems answering this question, and the answers tend to vary depending on who you are talking to. How many times have you answered cynically:
What do I do? Well, I'm a janitor, mopping up messes created by people in order to get a polished tur...umm...product out the door. Sometimes I babysit, sometimes I whine, sometimes I threaten, sometimes I cry myself to sleep. If I'm really lucky, I find enough time to talk to customers and figure out what color polish they want.
Doesn't really portray product management (and, therefore, you) in the best light, does it? I thinking Tondin was right in asking about the elevator pitch. Remember, an elevator pitch is a 30-60 second spiel (the amount of time it takes an elevator to get from one floor to another) meant to get somebody to invest or buy. In this case, you are trying to get them to invest in you and in product management.

My job is to figure out what it will take to make customers and potential customers delighted, then make sure it happens.

While that may work for a tweet, it isn't really an elevator pitch. Remember, you are trying to sell your personal value and the value of product management here.

What do you do?
I am a product manager, but what that really means is that I produce software. Just like a producer in the entertainment business, my job is to understand what the consumer is going to buy, make sure that it gets built, and ensure it is done for a profit. I am the hub of the software development process, making sure the right people are given the right information to do their jobs, whether that is listening to customers and potential customers, teaching sales about who the buyers are, providing requirements to development and QA, or collating feedback from support. I know that I've succeeded, not by my software being successfully delivered (after all, that could be done by a project manager), but rather by customers buying, using and loving that software.
How do you describe what you do?

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