Why every website project needs a Product Manager or Owner

Nov 06, 2013
Aleksandar Radonjic

Product Managers (or Product Owners for Scrum Projects) may be the most important roles on your website project. You can have the greatest development team in the world, but unless you give them clear direction you will probably:

a) End up with a website which doesn’t meet your core business requirements,
b) go over budget
c) miss your target date and
d) have frustrated stakeholders 

So why does this happen? A Product Manager/Owner’s responsibilities are often split among stakeholders, meaning you have a number of stakeholders making short-sighted product/website decisions. People will always want more control and more features, so you will end up with a lot of decisions which don’t address the real business needs. This is where the Product Manager/Owner comes in; he/she should assemble and understand individual needs, but have the final say on what is required. 

I often hear “we need more control”, “we also need this feature”, but more control and more features often result in a website that is too complex and sometimes unreliable - complexity is the enemy of reliability. This is especially true when working with web content management systems and e-commerce solutions which are not suited for heavy customization. And by adding features that don’t align with your strategic goals, you are making the user experience worse, not better. Keep in mind, what customers and stakeholders think they want is not always what they really need.

So who should be your Product Manager/ Owner? You can start by asking yourself these questions. Does <insert name>:
  • Understand the marketplace, customers and internal business processes? 
    Great Product Managers understand Sales, Marketing, Customer service, Operations etc.

  • Have the authority to make day-to-day decisions? 
    A Product Manager/Owner with no authority often needs more time to make decisions (e.g. ask the boss) and is more likely to deviate from your real business requirements.  

  • Have the personality to say NO to requests with no real business value?

  • Is capable of making hard decisions (e.g. removing non-critical features to meet the launch date)?
Of course there is more to being a good Product Manager/Owner than listed here, these are just some solid starting points. In the end, most software projects are unique which makes them difficult, so you need to give yourself the best chance of being successful. Appointing a good Product Manager/Owner at the beginning of the project will go a long way in ensuring  you have a successful project/website.