Do we know what a Product Manager does?

As a consensus, we don't. From Wikipedia:
A product manager investigates, selects, and develops products for an organization, performing the activities of product management.
Quite an oxymoron, although the Wikipedia entry concedes:
The product manager title is often used in many ways to describe drastically different duties and responsibilities. Even within the high-tech industry where product management is better defined, the product manager's job description varies widely among companies. This is due to tradition and intuitive interpretations by different individuals.
The role of a  Product Manager was first invented in 1931 Proctor and Gamble by Neil H. McElroy, a Harvard graduate and President of P and G. He noticed that selling a new soap named Camay was in competition more with another brand of P and G, the Ivory soap.

He is credited with the invention of Brand Management and nominated a Brand  Manager for each brand and later for each product marketed within the brand, a product manager.

This simple invention skyrocketed McElroy career and he become the Secretary of Defense, reorganizing the armed forces under President Eisenhower.

As stated in the P and G archives:

Brand management as a business technique was one of the signal innovations in American marketing during the twentieth century. It epitomized the persistent theme of balancing centralized oversight with decentralized decision making based on who in the company had the best information about the decision at hand.

High Tech Product Management

This is a different perspective than corporate PMs, where actually the PM name was invented to begin with as part of a bureaucratic hierarchy. Like P and G, like Oracle today, or Sun Micro yesterday PMs were typical for  large or extremely large organizations, not run by entrepreneurs, but by hired top schools executives. They have generous budgets for priority products.

In contrasts to these multinationals, a high-tech startup is small enough. The" persistent theme of balancing centralized oversight with decentralized decision making based on who in the company had the best information about the decision at hand" is NOT an issue. There is no gap between centralized and decentralized decision making, Startup are flat organizations and often maintain this agility as they grow up

Most of the times, the founders themselves are the initial and most important Product Managers of a start up. The bootstrap success sits on their shoulders, and by comparison to the multinationals inventors of the Brand Management, have very small budgets

As shown in the illustration, entrepreneur's skill is to start  with borrowed or investor venture money a negative cash flow free fall, reverse it and bring it to break even (stages 1 and 2). After the break even, the hired managers can take over
From Entrepreneur-ese versus MBA-ese

The product world according to Des Traynor

Startups have a different breed of Product Managers. Last week at Product Strategy for Start-ups with Des Traynor + Unconference I saw a memorable Product Management Strategy presentation by the co-founder of intercom.io

Des is an Irishman, without the heavy accent and a Dubliner, like James Joyce.  His slide shows are entertaining and many slides are fascinating. So  to get the essence we need to deconstruct.

You must have a Vision and not dabble in the dark. Are you marketing? Then everything shifts to the personal, clicks are less important than conversions, data and numbers are key and ads are a conversation starters.

Vision = Your domain + How software looks like in your domain on today's technology everyone uses

Des is obviously referring to his own company. His vision theory come from his experience
Similar with P. and G. Brand Manager from the 30's, he wants to make people want what we make. Here is a list of wisdom sayings:
  • Customers rarely buy what the company thinks it sells
  • Customers don't buy categories
  • Customers are not demographics when they choose to buy
  • Don't confuse correlation with causation
  • so on
One does not have a customer until she gives us a check.

Des Traynor is now in a circuit giving this presentation, so I am going to stop here.

intercom user cases

Have a look at this page . Everything Des teaches, intercom.io delivers

  • Understand how your product is being used. 
  • Increase conversions by automatically reaching out to users after they sign up
  • Treat customers like humans
The last bullet seems obvious, yet reality proves otherwise. For these reasons, intercom sells what it preaches.
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