What are product managers? Expert Rugved Bidkar shares fascinating insider insights into this key role.

Titles are often thrown around – and can lose their meaning. What is a product manager? Well, it’s a strategic role within a company that involves overseeing the development, production, marketing, and distribution of a product or a suite of products.

“Product managers serve as the pivotal link between diverse teams such as engineering, marketing, sales, and customer support,” says Rugved Bidkar, a distinguished product manager at Juniper Networks Inc., a multinational corporation renowned for its networking solutions. “We are responsible for guiding a product’s lifecycle from conception to launch, while ensuring its alignment with market needs and business objectives.”

That may seem like a lot of responsibility to shoulder. And it is. Businesses are in constant competition with each other, and they rely on innovation and strategy to thrive. Product management is central to this objective. This critical function bridges the gap between technology, market needs, and business objectives.

Studies show that a significant majority of product management roles demand a minimum of five years’ experience – this is a requirement in about 69% of job postings. This study also revealed that 81% of mid-sized to large companies (with over 2,500 employees) employ a project manager, and 42% of project managers are very active with software updates, releasing as many as 2 updates per week.

So this tells us that project managers are becoming more prevalent, they’re very active, and while many larger companies employ them, it’s a tough job to get into, as experience is often a requirement.

So – aside from actively updating software on a nearly constant basis – what do project managers do? This role is multidimensional, encompassing a broad range of responsibilities from product development and marketing strategy to overseeing cross-functional teams and championing customer experience.

“Product management isn’t just about developing a product,” Bidkar emphasizes. “It’s about understanding the market, driving strategy, aligning with customer needs, and ultimately guiding a product’s lifecycle.”

He says that one of the most important things a product manager does is create a vision for the future of a product or a service. “We have to be able to anticipate market trends, understand customer pain points, and identify opportunities,” says Bidkar. “Our role is as much about foresight as it is about innovation.”

At Juniper Networks, Bidkar has been integral in building and enhancing artificial intelligence-driven enterprise networking and cloud hardware and software products. His work has had profound impacts on various sectors including healthcare, education, retail, and government institutions. These responsibilities have allowed Bidkar to appreciate the critical role product management plays in an organization’s success.

One key aspect Bidkar highlights is the importance of a product manager’s role in fostering collaboration. “A product manager orchestrates collaboration between different teams – engineering, marketing, sales, and customer support,” he explains. “Each team plays a vital role, but it’s the product manager’s job to align everyone to the product’s vision and goals.”

Bidkar also stresses the necessity for product managers to foster interoperability between different systems and vendors. This is particularly important in his field of mission-critical computing where high-speed, efficient, and secure networks are crucial. His experiences in testing and showcasing interoperability between computer networking vendors underscore the product manager’s role in driving innovation and bridging the digital divide.

In addition, Bidkar points out that a crucial part of a product manager’s role lies in balancing various interests and constraints. “You’re at the intersection of diverse stakeholders – customers, business executives, engineers, marketers, and more,” he says. “Striking the right balance between these often competing interests is challenging but essential.”

Another significant responsibility is the product manager’s role in staying abreast with regulatory changes. In a sector like network solutions where government compliances are crucial for secure computer networking, a product manager must ensure the products are compliant with all relevant regulations. Bidkar’s work with the US Government on TAA, FIPS, and MACSec compliant products exemplifies this facet of product management.

Product managers also play a crucial role in marketing and launching products. Bidkar’s experience in launching successful high-speed networking datacenter products at Juniper Networks has demonstrated the pivotal role a product manager plays in go-to-market strategies and influencing product success.

A major part of the recognition of Bidkar’s work lies in his products’ impact, from enabling early disease detection via AI applications, to improving patient outcomes in healthcare, to supporting critical infrastructure like battlefield medical systems and logistics management. As Bidkar notes, “Product management isn’t just about the product; it’s about the value the product brings to its users. Our role is to ensure that our products truly make a difference.”

The multifaceted and crucial role of product management is strategic, collaborative, and central to the product’s success. It involves a deep understanding of the market, technology, regulatory landscape, and most importantly, the customer.

As organizations continue to navigate a complex and evolving market landscape, the role of product managers like Rugved Bidkar becomes even more significant. This unique position serves to bolster innovation and drive strategic solutions, playing a big part in the success of their organizations.

“I believe that product management is a critical driving force in any reputable organization,” says Bidkar. “The role requires leadership, strategy, and the ability to bring people together to create products that make a difference. That’s what makes it both challenging and rewarding.”

Learn more: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rugvedbidkar and follow his articles at https://medium.com/@rugvedbidkar