Good Product Manager, Bad Product Manager

Once again, thank you Quora!!!  Someone answered the question, “What are the qualities of a good product manager?” with a link to download what could be called the holy manuscript of product management.  It was written by Ben Horowitz, of the VC firm Andreessen Horowitz and David Weiden, a partner at Khosla Ventures

It seems to be a bit outdated (potentially written a decade ago) but most of what’s preached holds true today.  What’s most out of date is the stress on importance of PRDs due to newer methodologies such as agile that some companies want some of us to practice.

The beginning of the document is pasted below. The full doc can be downloaded here

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Note: this document focuses specifically on product management in the context of a “divlet” [small division] in AOL.  Related key assumptions are that there is a corresponding “business owner” in each of the brands, and that the “products” are generally online services intended for individuals.

A Good Product Manager plays critical role in a successful product.  A successful product is the highest impact contribution that anyone can make in the PD organization.  In fact, the number one criteria for selecting a Vice President is the candidate’s track record (or lack thereof) of successful products that become profitable businesses for their company.

Being a good product manager is so hard that most product managers at most companies fail to be good – and instead are bad.  Because product management is a highly leveraged position, a bad product manager leads to many other bad consequences, generally including the wrong product being built, which generally has a significant impact on revenue, morale, and reputation – of both the product manager and their company.

There are a number of straightforward principles that product managers can follow which will dramatically increase their chance of success.  Surprisingly, only very few product managers follow these principles.  Part of the problem is that these principles often are not articulated clearly, which this document attempts to address.

A final note is that product management is a demanding and high profile job.  Individuals should make sure they’re up to the challenge.

Summary points:  

  • CEO of the product
  • Balance all important factors
  • Clear, written communication with product development
  • Clear goals and advantages
  • Focus on the sales force and customers
  • Other key skills
  • Really good product manager 

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Once again, the full doc can be downloaded here. Enjoy!

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