When it comes to development, we have a tried-and-true formula that we like to follow. However, as Salsita evolves, so must our company roles. One role that we recently reimagined to better suit the needs of our business and clients, is that of the project manager.
At the beginning of 2020, to become more product-focused, we expanded the role of Project Manager into Product Manager. Some refer to product managers as the “CEO of the product,” but it goes far beyond that succinct definition.
What’s the Need?
Your team’s culture and identity are important contributing factors to the definition of the product manager’s role. This can vary from team to team and depends on multiple factors, including the product’s complexity, the team’s size, and their expertise.
On a smaller product team, the product manager must do numerous jobs to help the team operate effectively. However, as an organization expands, and brings in more specialized roles, the product manager’s priorities change. Here, they can take advantage of their negotiation and motivational skills to inspire the team, balance internal and client needs, and help to create a great product.
A pretty basic unit of measurement for value is this: Do your engineers, designers, QA, and the people pulling weight on your team have to manage communication with the client, timelines, and specifications? If you have a PM, they do not and, if you do, then theoretically the PM can handle all of that while your team just WORKS. That saves time. – Griffin Trent, Salsita PM
But what would office life be like without a product manager?
Not having a product manager means your team is left without a solid plan or an efficient way of working. Product managers help minimize distractions and enable the team to do what they’ve been trained and hired to do.
Product managers are also adept at interpreting and translating a client’s needs to the team. If you’re depending on someone else to do that, they might not have a sufficiently broad view of the entire project.
The Product Mentality
A product can be anything from something physical to a software or service that satisfies the needs of a group of users. Product managers set the overall product direction and stay with it throughout its life. It’s their responsibility to understand user needs, translate them into a product roadmap, and lead a development team to build the product to best meet those needs. Here’s a brief list of typical product manager tasks:
- Identify problems and opportunities
- Talk to real or target users to understand pain points
- Prioritize which opportunities are worth pursuing
- Create a product roadmap and defining features
- Recognize both business and user needs to identify crucial value drivers
- Prioritize development tasks
Product managers work closely with sales, marketing and other support teams to nail down the overall business goals, in terms of revenue, competitive advantage, and customer satisfaction.
When it comes down to it though, it’s about listening to users, advocating and driving the product to make their lives better in the context of that product.
A product manager is a leader who always pushes the team to keep improving the product and the way it gets done—the process. Jan Mikula, Salsita Director of Product
Product Manager vs. Project Manager
A product can be anything from something physical, to a software or service that satisfies the needs of a group of users.
A project is an individual endeavor that aims to create a product or service. It has a start and end date, as well as a defined outcome.
Project managers handle the “how” and “when,” while product managers deal with the “what” and “why.” What sets them apart is their timeline. Projects are temporary undertakings, products are not. Products evolve and adapt to the user’s needs to prove their utility and avoid being overtaken by the competition.
Product Management at Salsita Software
Our PM team boasts an impressive collective resume but, to maintain our product-focused mentality, everyone had something to learn. We take pride in our UX, so we wanted to make sure everyone knew how to conduct a proper Design Sprint. Methodologies, like Shape Up, were another area that we focused on.
The biggest takeaway we learned from this is that the journey to a successful digital product revolves around these three phases:
Discovery: This is where we answer the question: Why are we building this product? Product managers make sure the team understands who the users are, which problems need solving, who’s the competition and what’s our strategy for beating them.
To learn more, watch this presentation about Salsita’s Product Discovery and Delivery Best Practices.
Design: What is the best solution to solve the problem we identified in the discovery phase? Product managers make sure that we explore every solution, choose the best one, and make sure the solution is technically feasible.
Take a look at one aspect of our design process with this presentation on how to prototype in Figma.
Delivery: How should we implement this? Product managers make sure the team will implement and deliver the solution that was discovered in the design phase. Product managers help the team focus on what brings value and they try to keep the scope of the feature as narrow as possible in order to deliver it as soon as possible.
Read our case study about L’Atelier Paris and see what we delivered for them.
I’ve never experienced the delivery team living up to the sales team’s hype, but in Salsita’s case, they actually exceeded it. - Ricardo Moraes, CEO of L’Atelier Paris
In a follow-up article, we will go through a comprehensive list of things Salsita product managers do and real-world examples of how we bring value to client projects.
Building a product and taking it to market is a challenging process. Often it involves decision-makers and countless hours of effort and commitment. Arming your team with a product manager ensures that the work of your team and the time put into creating, planning, and developing your product will yield a strong return on investment and an outstanding and consistent customer experience.