Who Does a Product Manager Work With?
The role of a product manager is multi-faceted and product managers often work with many different groups of people in a company. Of course, the extent to which product managers work with other groups depends on individual companies, taking into account factors such as the size of the or the company's focus.
In this post, I hope to provide an overview of the groups I've personally worked with in my projects, based on the UX-Technology-Business organizational framework. I'm a PM at a large e-commerce company, so you'll see a much more nuanced breakdown of groups compared to smaller companies, as well as e-commerce-specific groups such as site merchandising.
It's well established that PMs work closely with Software Engineers who write code based on feature requirements, so I don't need to go into too much detail here. I've also worked with Systems Analysts (SA), who have technical backgrounds but focus more on designing the best way to implement new features. They can be responsible for more technical stories and collaborating with Software Engineers.
If Systems Analysts design the best way to implement code, then Web Architects have an even broader goal of making sure the new implementation fits well within the site's existing technology stack. For one of my projects, the Web Architect worked with the Systems Analyst to figure out the best way to implement a third-party map API for our new store locator page. The Web Architect also works with the Systems Analyst to document any changes and additions to the architecture or technology used by a particular project team.
And last but not least, the Quality Assurance Engineers (QA) have one of the most under-appreciated roles in our company. They test code to verify that it meets the requirements, either by using automated tests or manually going through the feature flow. At my company, the PM works with the QA Engineers in clarifying requirements and making sure testing covers all scenarios for the product or feature.
A lot of product professionals in the PMHQ community go about it the same way.
The User Experience team in my company includes User Experience/User Interface Designers, User Experience Researchers, and Creative Designers. The UX/UI Designers work with the PM to come up with wireframes of the feature or page, laying outplacement of the buttons, images, etc. They are responsible for understanding the target users’ challenges when using a particular product and then designing an elegant solution that helps users solve those challenges.
UX Researchers typically organize user studies, customer interviews, and A/B testing, providing valuable insight that affects the final UI of the feature. I've sat in on quite a few customer listening labs run by UX Researchers in which actual customers who have agreed to come in for the study interact with an existing or new product feature and provide direct feedback. The UX Researcher then works with the PM to come up with optimized designs that improve the user experience.
Creative Designers are responsible for taking wireframes and transforming them into the final customer-facing design. In my company, the Creative Designers refer to the wireframes created by the UX Designers to deliver the final look and feel of the product or feature - what the customer will see and interact with.
Since e-commerce is heavily marketing-driven, our company has a large marketing presence that works with the PM to make sure that new features align with marketing initiatives and goals. For example, I've worked with the Marketing Managers to change a landing page design so that it would funnel more traffic to important pages.
Site Merchandisers are the virtual equivalent of store merchandisers and are responsible for product placement, images, and information on the site. Since they work most closely with the actual merchandise, oftentimes they provide great insight on website improvements or new features that the PM can include in future projects.
Many sales-oriented companies also have a Sales team that may partner with the PM to provide helpful feedback from customers that can improve the site or feature user experience. It's important to remember that as a PM you're responsible for working with all stakeholders for your project, not just the Technology and UX people in your immediate team. Managing stakeholders on the business side will help you deliver your product without any unnecessary blockers or missed requirements.
Like I mentioned before, the groups PMs work with greatly vary from company to company. A bootstrapped startup may have a Technology person who does all the work that Software Engineers, Systems Analysts, Web Architects, and QA Engineers do at a larger company. A Fortune 500 may split up its UX team into ten different roles. The important thing to remember is that as a PM, you're expected to work closely with pretty much every group in the company, which requires a unique set of skills.
Curious who other product managers work with at their companies? Meet, learn from, and chat with other product managers around the world in our Product Manager HQ Community.