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What is a product lead?

Definition: A product lead is a person responsible for the strategy, direction, and success of a product within a company.

They work with a cross-functional team of engineers, designers, and other stakeholders to define the product's strategy, roadmap, and goals and to ensure that the product is developed on schedule and meets the desires of its end user.

A product lead has a background in product management and a deep understanding of their market and the target end users.

Responsibilities of a product lead

The responsibilities of a product lead vary depending on the size and structure of the organization and the product they are working on

Their responsibilities include:

  • Creating a product strategy based on their market and competitor analysis through testing various products in their niche and customer research.
  • Analyzing user feature requests through meetings with customers, social media, and feature request boards which can be community-based, letting users collaborate on feature requests with the product leads input.
  • Managing the development process by making sure the development team understands the feature, its details, and how it helps the end-user. They communicate with different teams working on the same project and manage resources between them.
  • Feature prioritization through creating a list of features that the team will follow to optimize the use of resources and keep a steady stream of features without long breaks.
  • Optimizing user experience based on user feedback and use cases, making sure that the product exceeds their expectations.

When does a company need a product lead?

There are five points when a company should consider hiring a product lead.

  • The development team doesn’t clearly understand the product vision.
  • A concrete development roadmap and feature release timeline need to be created.
  • There are marketing opportunities to be identified and incorporated into the product.
  • Features development needs to be prioritized based on user request analysis.
  • The project scope exceeds a certain number of development teams

How do you become a product lead?

A product lead requires technical expertise, business awareness, and leadership skills.

It’s important to have a foundation in a relevant field one wishes to pursue the role of product lead (marketing, software, projects). This is achieved through formal education or work experience where a person would rise up the hierarchy from product development through management to the product lead role.

Besides technical skills, a product lead must have leadership and communication skills, as they will work with different teams and stakeholders. This can be learned through years of working in different development teams and roles and participating in leadership training programs.

A product lead must also be informed about the latest industry trends and incorporate them into their product strategy.

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Article FAQs

Product lead vs. product manager
A product lead is responsible for the strategy and direction of a product, while a product manager oversees the execution of the product development process.
Is a product lead higher than a manager?
Yes, because a product lead has a higher level of authority and more strategic responsibilities, while a product manager focuses on the hands-on tasks that contribute to the strategy.
What level of the hierarchy is the product lead?
A product lead is a senior role near the top of the hierarchy. The roles above it are the head of product and chief product office (CPO). This depends on the size of the company. In a small company, they can be higher up the hierarchy, reporting directly to the CEO, or in early startups, they can be the CEO.
What is a product lead in Agile?
In agile, a product lead is responsible for defining feature requirements and prioritizing which features the team should work on. They define the product roadmap and work with the team on defining user stories. They work with the development team and other stakeholders and serve as a point of contact between them.

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