Some things just go together, like peanut butter and jelly on a sandwich. You can’t have one without the other.

Product development and product management are much the same way. They each have their own function, but together, they make a final product ready to be enjoyed by their target audience.

Sound tasty? Let’s dive into it.

It all starts with product management. Think of this role as the creative force that drives the process. Product managers (PMs) bring the bread that holds the peanut butter and jelly together. A relatively new position in the business world, product management didn’t really become a thing until the 1990s, when technology was advancing and a need for managing new products arose. Since then, the position has taken off, with specialized certifications, degrees, and courses becoming available. So, what does a product manager do? Read on, fellow sandwich enthusiast.

Product management controls the life cycle of a product. They handle the planning, production, and marketing. Think of them as the creator of the project road map. They design the route developers will follow. The creative force behind a project, managers become the liaison between customer-facing teams and stakeholders.

A good product manager will meet customers' needs while pursuing their business goals. Management can range from one individual to an entire team, including product design, analytics, quality control, and marketing—the more, the merrier.

To become a product manager requires specialization and higher education. This job demands effective communication, analyzations skills, and strong research capability. The path to product manager usually stems from a base in engineering and development—a long but rewarding road for those who take it. They basically baked the bread used for the PB&J.

What does the product management process involve?

Let’s start from the beginning with idea conceptualization. Research is key here. PMs don’t want to create a product already on the market. They want to find some need not being met. The more specific they can get, the better their chance of success. Niche down, as is said.

Your go-to guide to product development
We break down the product development life cycle; from coming up with the initial idea all the way through to launch. Here’s the go-to guide.

Next up is idea screening. This is the technical side of the creative equation. PMs want to analyze ideas for feasibility and toss out the weak. Once they’ve done that, it’s time for user and market research:

  • Who are PMs targeting?
  • Why are they targeting this group?
  • What are a customer’s pain points, and how will a PM's product help them?

Now is the time to think like the consumer.

After tapping into the customer and creating a product to improve their life, what’s next? Strategy development. This is the roadmap a PM’s development team is going to lean on. A PM needs to map out their execution, objectives, and product features. How they prioritize this will dictate the success of the product. No pressure. Just create. That’s the next step.

Time to bring their baby to life, and by them, I mean their development team. And once that product is ready for use, a PM gets to move on to testing and feedback. This is crucial to see how their product is received and what improvements if any, need to be made.

This leads to the last stage before release, which is product improvement. All that valuable feedback needs to be put into practice. This is the time for optimization, both product and business-wise. Check all that off? They’re ready for the big leagues.

Now you’re up to date on all things product management. But what about product development? It’s peanut butter jelly time.

Product development

Product management may be a relatively new role in the business world, but product development has existed for ages. It’s taking the idea presented by managers and seeing it through to market. Developers follow the road map, acting on research, prototyping, and following through to design and execution. They test the product rigorously and make any changes PMs may present along the way.

The technicality of product development cannot be undersold. It’s a step-by-step process that relies on UX/UI design and research. These teams tend to be bigger than management. Often there are several designers, engineers, and testers for quality assurance.

What qualities does the development team bring to the table? Strategic thinking, good communication, research, and problem-solving skills. Their goal is to build the highest quality product using the right tools . So, how do they go about this?

What does being a product developer look like?

The first thing developers do is idea generation. Does what they’re building already exist in the marketplace? How can they make their product stand out? This is the stage of brainstorming concepts, looking at product portfolios, and considering purpose and performance. Once that’s all established, product definition is considered. What are the success metrics, business analysis, and strategy that the marketing team will use?

Now comes prototyping. This can range from a rough drawing to a complex design. This stage is meant to fish out the potential of a product and do away with the drawbacks. Market research is relied upon heavily here. The better they match their prototype to customer wants, the higher their chance of business success.

The developers are off and running, about to begin the fun part: initial design. Here, they create the product mockup, which may require multiple tries to perfect. Once they feel the product is as polished as possible, it’s time for testing. Is everything working as it should? Would a customer get value out of this? Is the product ready for release? If they answer yes to these, pat themselves on the back. They’ve done hard work and are prepared for commercialization.

Finally, it’s product launch time, marketing is ready to flourish, and the product is ready for the masses. Congratulations!

Why you need both product management and development

Developers follow the road map given to them by PMs. It’s a symbiotic relationship to ensure a product efficiently comes to life. Managers bring the creative side to the equation, while developers offer the practicality and know-how to make it happen. Managers are responsible for strategy, while developers follow through with the delivery. You can’t have one without the other. Would you eat a PB&J without the jelly?

That isn’t to say there aren’t contentions between the two. You will often hear about tensions when managers opt for a change in their original road map. If developers have any bane of their developing existence, it’s probably this.

Other tensions can arise when managers throw too many expectations onto their product, and developers must come in with a dose of reality. Practicality is the name of the game, after all. It’s hard when developers can’t fulfill unrealistic expectations, no matter how sweet the idea sounds on paper. That’s why it’s necessary to have good communication between the two departments.

A solid relationship where you can bounce ideas off one another will lead to a healthy product launch. And if you’ve gotten your product to launch successfully, why not celebrate with a PB&J?

Sounds delicious.