6 Essential Product Team Roles [Definitions and Resources]

Author: Tomasz Bąk
15 min read
6 Essential Product Team Roles [Definitions and Resources]

A smart, committed product team is needed to develop a good, successful product. A product team has multiple roles that must understand the user's goals. The product team designs, develops, and launches the product after understanding user needs.

People usually think product teams are composed of a small number of resources tasked with designing and developing the product, but they forget that product team roles include designers and researchers who take user input, understand requirements, and share their findings with designers.

Designers create the product's intended behavior, and developers implement it. This product is later thoroughly tested before launch. Product team members test functionality and user experience separately. After this, the product can be launched.

Behind every successful product is a great product team whose members work to meet user needs and solve their problems.

What is a Product Team?

A product team involves a group of people who are assigned specific tasks to support the development of a product. The product team roles are product managers, product owners, product designers, and engineers. All these roles work together as a team to develop a successful product and are hence called a product team.

There is usually no hierarchy in the product team because each and every individual in the team has a unique skill set that is required for developing the product. A product manager is a person who is owning the product and the team is accountable to her.

Let’s understand how different groups within a product team work together.

As mentioned earlier, the product team is not only based on product designers and developers, It involves people who are responsible for product launch and its marketing.

First, the product managers and product owners collect user requirements and prioritize them based on their importance and business value. Then in presence of the development team, the time and effort estimation to build the product is performed. The development team starts designing and developing the product. The test engineers are responsible for testing the product before launching it to market.

In addition, marketing people are responsible for launching the product and keeping the users engaged with the product.

This entire process is highly iterative and its success is dependent on early and frequent user involvement.

Essential Product Team Roles

The product team involves six roles, one for each function which includes product marketing, product management, product engineering, product operations, project management, and innovation. The product team as a whole is responsible for following the right direction and achieving a common goal. The structure of the product development team will vary depending on the type of organization as well as the nature of the product in development.

The less-developed companies may lack dedicated product development teams. Instead, each department in the company works in isolation, accomplishing jobs appropriate to their stage of the product life cycle. It's also possible that communication with colleague workers in other functional areas is inconsistent. The problem with this strategy is that different teams may have different goals or priorities. This makes it tough to get everyone working on the product on the same page and agree on what customers want and how will you accomplish it.

The size of a product team depends on the nature and complexity of the product you are developing. For simple and smaller products, the team will involve less number of people, whereas, for large and complex products, a product team can be comprised of multiple small product teams where each time is working towards a common goal.

Below is a description of all six types of product roles.

Essentials Team Role

1. Customer Value Innovation

In Today’s modern digital world, the technology is rapidly progressing and the user’s needs and requirements change as the innovation continues. It is important for the product team to figure out the direction in which the customers are going. They need to understand what is required by the customers, what new technologies are getting popular in the market, and how all this innovation is attracting users worldwide.

This knowledge must be transferred among all product roles so that they become aware of the latest trends. Keeping this information in mind, they would be able to design a product that matches exactly what the user needs.

As a result, the team will be able to launch a product that is valuable for users as well as become successful in this competitive market where everyone is struggling to survive.

Remember, innovation must be first priority of the leaders in an organization. Investing sufficient resources to recognize itself as an innovative organization will help the company to grab customers’ attention and generate revenue on basis of its products and services available in the market.

If a company doesn’t invest in innovation then they would never know what revolution is coming worldwide and how the needs and requirements of people are changing with each and every new invention. As a result, it would become difficult to design a product that will satisfy users and earn their trust.

The essential roles involved in the innovation team include:

  • Strategist
  • Technology Expert
  • Product Expert

2. Product Management

Product management is the business process of planning, developing, launching, and managing a product or service. It includes the entire lifecycle of a product, from ideation to development to market launch.

Product management is all about managing and delivering the product to customers that have the ability to fulfill their needs and requirements. If customers are satisfied with the product and able to achieve their goals, then the product success for the organization.

It is the responsibility of a product manager to maintain a balance between users’ needs and the business objectives of the organization. Product management involves the setting of goals and objectives that an upcoming product will meet. At the same time, a product manager’s role defines the strategy that how this product will benefit the organization in terms of revenue. In many companies, the product manager may also be responsible for market research, forecasting, budgeting, and collaborating with the marketing department on branding.

By means of product management, the organization is enabled to create a complete roadmap on which the entire product lifecycle will be based. With the availability of this roadmap, the product team in the organization works in the right direction and achieves good results by satisfying their customers.

The essential roles involved in product management include:

  • Director of project management
  • Director of project management
  • Program manager

Product Managment

Read more: Communication Plan in Project Management

3. Product Marketing

Product marketing is a process that involves the launching of new products to the market where customers can interact with them and achieve their goals. Behind every successful product, there is a successful product marketing team who is responsible for bringing the product into the market, promoting it, and selling it to the right customers.

The product marketing team is responsible for certain tasks. In the initial stages of the product development, they should know about the market and competitors in order to help the product management team to define the product strategy. They need to understand the users in the market and their needs. They help the development team to understand the user persona that they are targeting while creating a product.

When the product is built and it is time for its launching, the product marketing team defines launch plans. What would be the delivery model of the product, whether it should be launched as a service or based on a subscription model. What do users want to achieve using this product, and what launching strategy will help the organization to satisfy its customers as well as get more sales teams and generate revenue.

The product marketing team in coordination with product management and organizational leadership defines the timelines of the product launch. For this purpose, they need to know the right time, and right market to launch the product.

When the product is launched, the product marketing team is responsible to enhance its usage among the customers. They need to promote the product to increase its usage. Product development is one phase and launching and promoting it is the next important stage that is even more important. If you don’t have the right users available in the market, a well-developed product can also easily fail.

Roles:

  • Director of product marketing
  • Senior product marketing manager
  • Solutions marketing manager
  • Portfolio marketing manager

4. Project Management

Project management is very important when working on a new project. Using effective project management, an organization can deliver its projects at the right time and within a defined budget.

Project managers use techniques provides techniques to schedule the project timeline for different milestones and deliver each milestone accordingly. The organization can track the real-time progress of the product development and be able to highlight any alarming situation before time.

Using practices of project management, the organization is able to figure out that they are going in the right direction and hence they can deliver the project on or before the decided delivery date set in the product brief. If the progress is slow then they must have to speed up their work in order to deliver the project before the deadline.

Project management also helps the organization to decide whether they have enough resources with the right skill set that can work on the development of the upcoming project. A cross-functional team can work independently and effectively to achieve the desired outcome in the required time.

Roles:

  • Chief operating officer (COO)
  • Director of program management
  • Director of project management
  • Program manager
  • Project manage

5. Engineering

Product engineering involves designing the architecture of the new product, implementing the feature set, testing the functionality, and developing a usable product for users based on their requirements.

The product engineering team involves UX designers, technical experts, developers, and QA testers. Everyone in the team is involved in the entire development lifecycle from design to development to production.

An ideal product engineering team takes care of building the right design architecture of the product so that incorporating the new functionality later in the product becomes easier. A strong yet flexible architecture helps the product team in the long term. The team develops standards and guidelines to design and implement the product and this ensures a consistent and uniform experience throughout the product.

Following the agile approach, the product engineering team uses continuous integration and a continuous delivery model so that it becomes easier to quickly capture the issues in the code and resolve them on time.

Continuous delivery allows them to get in touch with customers and make decisions based on their customer feedback. The identification of issues early in the process allows them to resolve those using fewer resources and less money.

Roles:

  • Chief technology officer (CTO)
  • Director of software development
  • Engineering manager
  • Software developer
  • User experience (UX) designer
  • User interface (UI) designer
  • Quality assurance (QA) tester

6. Operations

The Operations team is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the organization by ensuring the availability of the required workforce in the team. This involves people from the leadership team including the Chief Product Officer (CEO) and VP of Business Operations. This team works for the overall success of the organization by developing strategies for teams as well as business.

This team takes care of organization sales and revenue to ensure that the company is going in the right direction. They are responsible for managing required human resources as well as necessary equipment that allows teams to work efficiently and deliver outcomes.

The Operations team performs the high-level planning for the next few years of the organization and is well aware of any upcoming problems that can impact the business operations. They are continuously observing the organization’s performance in terms of KPI and metrics and have developed an early alarming system in case of an unexpected and unlikely situation.

Roles:

  • Chief executive officer (CEO)
  • VP of business unit manager
  • Director of business operations
  • Business analyst
  • Business consultant

How to organize team roles?

There is not a specific guideline available regarding the product team size that can fit all types of products. You need to select a team that best matches your product line and requirements. The idea is to organize your cross functional product team in a way that can produce the best outcome for your organization.

To devise a team for your next product, first find the answers to the following question:

  • Who are your target customers? What do they want to achieve using your product?
  • What are your business goals? Are your business goals matching your product’s objectives?
  • What type of product are you going to develop?
  • Depending on the product type, what resources are required to make the product team?

External product vs. Internal product

These are two different models for organizing the product team: Internal Product and External product. Both models differ in the number of people who are connecting with the customer and the product team.

In the External Product team, the most commonly used model where the Product Manager is the Product Owner. In this model, a single product person is responsible for understanding customers and sharing that understanding with the product team. This model works for small startups where the scope of the product is not too complex.

In order to handle complex products, a few organizations use a first model (Product Manager is the Product Owner) where multiple instances work for the product teams. In other organizations, this model is being changed to one in which the Product Manager and Product Owner work together or where Product Manager works with Business Analyst.

In both of these models, the responsibilities are split up. There is a full-time role of a product manager who is focusing on customer understanding whereas another role is defined with the name of the product owner who can share the customer understanding with the product team. The organizations need to clearly implement a model within product teams so that the teams can understand the roles and can go to the right person to get the answers to their questions.

​​There are 2 roles in external products. When the organization has to figure out the customer needs and requirements then they set a role of product management. Whereas the second role is product ownership. It is filled when there is an exchange of information between team members on the basis of mutual understanding then the product owner role is assigned.

If we talk about the Internal Product team, similar types of models are being used to organize product teams with a little difference in responsibilities.

Product Manager is the Product Owner

This model is similar to external product teams where a single person is responsible for building customer relationships as well as sharing the details of this relationship and requirements with the product team. The product teams can adapt this model depending on the product and team they have.

Model 1

Product Manager and Product Owner

Model introduces a role that acts as a product owner, however, this role does not have the responsibility for the decision making. This role works closely with the product team.

Model 2

Product Manager and Business Analyst

This model for the Internal product team has the decision-making responsibility, and most of the time this role is part of the product team as a product owner or business analyst.

Model 3

Product Manager, Product Owner, and Business Analyst

In this model works in a way where the role who works between the business and product team does not have the responsibility of decision making, nor it can work closely with the product team. In this case, to make effective communication between customer and product teams, an additional business person works with the business role as well as the product team. This role can is called business analyst.

Model 4

Adapting team structure to Agile

Depending on the requirements, it is better to organize the team in an agile way. The team structure should be flexible enough that it can be adjusted based on needs.

For example, a product team can have a strategist role who is responsible to define the product strategy and build a shared vision among the team. However, in an agile environment, you can see that a product manager also has a similar set of responsibilities. So these two roles become overlapping.

It means depending on the product type and its needs, you need to adjust your team. You can decide whether to define a strategist role separately or your product manager would be enough to perform this role. Similarly, if you are focusing more on the marketing of your product, it is better to hire a full-time marketing person for your organization.

Conclusion

In order to develop a good and successful product, there must be an intelligent and committed product team working on that product. A product team involves multiple roles who are responsible to work on the product lifecycle and deliver a successful product to customers. It is important to devise your product roles that best suit your requirements and match the nature of the product you are going to deliver.

Related posts