Head of Product Job Description: What Does a Head of Product Do?

There’s so much that goes into product creation. There are numerous aspects, from the process of ideation to the product launch that contributes to the overall system of product making. With all these diverse departments with varying responsibilities, there is a need for somebody or someone to look after proper functioning and collaboration with each other. This is the ‘Head of Product’ or ‘Product Head’. The Head of Product works on product inception. Innovation, the term is generally associated with Product Heads. They act as the vital cog that keeps the product system running while ensuring its efficiency. Here is Head of Product’s job description in brief:

Research: scour the market for new product opportunities.

Ideation: brainstorming for new product ideas for the market.

Forecasting: financial return forecasting based on the product roadmap.

Staffing: responsibilities for developing the performance of product owners, designers, engineers, product marketers and more.

Conceptualization: putting ideas into recognizable design form.

Viable Product Development: transforming the concepts into the viable product, developing the final product from feedback.

These are some of the primary tasks and responsibilities and job description of a Head of Product, VP of Product or EVP of Product. Based on an organization’s size and requirements, the scope of work for Head of Product might be larger or smaller. Let’s have a look at some aspects that go into product creation or say where the Head of Product puts its head.

Product strategy and mapping

Before planning out a product, the Product Head needs to understand the market situation. He/she has to analyze the market, visualize the demands and identify the trends. Market research lets companies know what the customer needs rather than what they have in offer for the customer. Market research along with product mapping goes a long way to guarantee a product’s lifetime.

Product mapping helps in planning out specific vision or goals for the product to achieve. It even guides the direction of product through the market over its active period. It acts as a strategic guide to a product over time, i.e., starting from its introduction and growth to the maturity phase and decline in the market. The product mapping goals are straightforward. First and foremost, there is vision and strategy description. It is about what the product aims to achieve and how is it going to achieve that. A product without a goal or vision is useless. There’s no point for any business to make a product that is not going to benefit them in any way. Having product goals enables gauging progress. Then comes product strategy and its implementation. Product strategy fills out the queries about how the product is going to achieve its assigned targets. Strategy planning irons out the unknowns and shows a clear execution guide to triumph over goals. It communicates the what, when and how of the product design processes within the organization and also to external factors including customers and stakeholders. Product road mapping has had to evolve over the years. Globalization acted as a catalyst in this evolution. Thanks to globalization, companies now have larger customer groups which can sometimes even be overseas. Yesteryears product mappings were static plans. Small demand and customer spread, with a stable market, meant the projects did not invite many changes over the product development period. However, today's mapping has to deal with higher demand and customer spread in addition to an ever-fluctuating market. Hence, there are much more adjustments involved throughout the development period.

Product roadmaps vary according to the audience. Citing an example, a roadmap for customers will highlight values and benefits of use whereas roadmap for a company executive will highlight vision and business goals. Product maps are meant to educate the particular audience about how the specific product is going to be a benefactor to them. The following are some forms of roadmaps:

Roadmap for within a business organization

Product roadmaps meant for the business employees will solely focus on business growth, market penetration and positioning, and customer satisfaction. All these factors are essential for any business to thrive. A company needs to expand. Expand in the sense that businesses should always aim to have more business to do, i.e., increase trade by escalating their market presence by reaching more customers while also retaining the existing customers. Roadmaps list out the necessary actions for an organization to take for its commercial intent to be successful.

Roadmap for engineers

Roadmaps intended for engineers speak volumes of engineering aspects of a particular product. What features to add and what not to add? What are the limiting constraints? These are some of the questions that have their answers in the product roadmap. Any product information like sales figures that do not contribute to the designing, manufacturing or any other engineering regard needs abandoning. Roadmaps guide the engineers through a step-by-step process throughout which the product continuously gains its projected value for the customer.

Roadmap for sales

Sales roadmaps will go on about improving sales. So it is vital that in a sales roadmap one shares the product features and customer benefits. A product must add some value to the customer’s life for it to sell. The sales team which includes a Director of Product Management, ought to know the product’s working in and out so that they are acquainted with all the features (translating to values) it has in offer. The information will only make their job easier and them efficient.

Roadmap for customers and prospects

Roadmaps for customers and prospects will vary because while other roadmaps focus on the business side of things, these roadmaps concentrate on the consumer side, i.e., the values and gains offered. It ought to focus solely on benefits, how owning the product is going to reward them. The pitch should be straightforward, but appealing and easy to understand. The roadmap should not make the customers go into a thought loop. It should aim at slight persuasion supported by the product's values. One thing to avoid in roadmaps is product launch dates. One might have a date planned, but things might not turn out well witnessing a push of the launch date. That is not going to bode well. Product mapping is a great tool but when used correctly. Something key in mapping is communication. It needs to be clear and concise to avoid any misalignment from the path to the goal. Also, one needs to incorporate external controlling factors like essential milestones. Milestones served as goals within goals. Milestones are short-term goals to achieve the final objective. Relevant product information along with right communication is what makes a good product mapping.

Key Performance Indicator (Objective and Key Results)

Key Performance Indicator (KPI), also known as Objective and Key Results is a measure of business achievements based on the proposed plan which could be a high-term or low-term plan. While mapping is about the path, KPI is about the progress. High-term KPIs focus on overall business performance while low-term KPIs focus on individual components like process and employees. KPI is the difference between setting goals and working to achieve them. Business goals need alignment with indicators for accurate performance comparison. A product plan only comes to fruition with proper auditing. With a correlation of relevant targets and indicators, KPIs could be a useful tool for refining performance.

Although simple, KPIs are hard to implement in the sense that misalignment of goals and indicators will generate inapt information. Here is where the product mission helps to understand what to gauge and what not to. Additionally, one can measure relevancy using the SMART criteria (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-frame) which will filter out any bogus KPIs. Next, KPIs need defining based on specific business outcomes and measurable factors. Using SMARTER criteria (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-frame, Evaluate and Re-evaluate) lets us know about the errors. KPIs are relevant as long as they get appropriately utilized via proper communications. Before setting up a KPI, set up goals that are difficult but not impossible. Once set, KPIs should not change. These are set up during strategy planning to avoid misguidance and assure alignment of resources to goals.

Marketing and Go-To-Market (GTM) plan

Marketing is about creating awareness, values, and relations to capture customers while marketing strategy is about ways to create value and achieve profits. The plan to execute marketing strategy is known as the marketing plan. All go hand-in-hand. This system works for existing markets but not when a business wants to enter a new market. As already discussed, it is a considerable risk entering any market without research. In such cases, a Go-To-Market (GTM) plan is what the business needs. GTM plans are for an introduction to a new market. GTM strategy work specifically to test an unknown market, providing apt data for a suitable product roadmap. Go-To-Market is different from marketing in the sense that more effort goes into the research because of ambiguity. Nevertheless, it results for an in-depth understanding of the marketing opportunities which the existing business might miss out. Hence, GTM plans are much more focused.

A GTM template has two phases.

Discovery, data gathering and analysis
GTM strategy

Initial phase mostly deals with knowing, identify and testing the marketing opportunities. First is the product definition, i.e., determining the market problems and ratifying the proposed product feature that will solve it. Then comes other factors like identifying market; knowing the customers, their size. Gauging trends and competition is another aspect of getting to know the market. Last but not least, how to reach the customers, i.e., the distributing options for the market.

Now after getting acquainted with the market, one can move on to the strategy phase. This phase should include plans about how to enter the market. Weighing the product values offered against the competition. What will be the product’s position in the market? Will it be an entry-level or luxury product? How will the sales go and what about the after-sale support for the product? All these questions will need answers. Apart from these, there are some other factors. Pricing will play an essential role in how the product performs in the market. Then there’s service support too. No one is going to buy a product if there is no proper after sales and service support. Also, one needs to put the word out about the new product launched or to be launched. Promotion and advertisements are going to help with that. The product path requires a clear definition for achieving success and generating revenue while having objectives will be a safety net against wandering off-course.

Based upon the organization size and requirements, the Product Head position within the organization changes. Small setups have Product Heads residing under CEOs while larger businesses could have different structures. Head of Product has their hand into many things. Products start and end with them. Brainstorming and generating ideas does not finish their job. They have to supervise through the development process, collaborate with departments, recruit staff, evaluating products and market, and resolve problems that come in the way.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.


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