PM's responsibility #2: Define Product Requirements

Contrary to the popular belief, the product manager (PM) is not the one who defines the product requirements but is more in the role of an editor aggregating requests from various stakeholders and moderating discussion how to prioritize product development. The most important stakeholders when defining product requirements are C-level executives who help shape strategic direction the product should take, customers who hopefully will be buying the product, and sales and marketing people whose responsibility is to bring the product to customers. Talking with all these people consumes a lot of time, so the product manager should reserve plenty of time for meetings, calls, attending conferences and other activities for garnering feedback. And when it come to internal stakeholders, the product manager should have appropriate standing in the company or he or she won't be able to get time allotted by executives in their busy schedules.

Once the PM aggregates feedback, he or she should collate and document it into documents, reports and presentations to inform stakeholders about the feedback received and to make everybody feel that their feedback was heard and considered. As described in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team people don't need to agree with the decision in order to stand behind it, but they definitely must feel that their reservations and objections were heard and seriously considered. A detailed documentation of product requirements also prevents misunderstandings and serves as source objective truth when memories fade and diverge over time. Finally, the PM should prioritize different product requirements and organize them in a product roadmap that is presented to all stakeholders whose buy-in is required for the roadmap to be accepted as company-wide plan of action.

This is part of series of posts on product manager's responsibilities as we see them at Zemanta.