Key product discovery roles: Product manager

9 min read
July 10, 2023

A well-executed product discovery process is crucial to successful product development.

That’s why it’s important to assemble the right team to lead the discovery process.

We’ve already spoken about the 4 key product discovery roles we employ here at DECODE.

We’ve also discussed the solution architect and UX/UI designer roles in greater detail.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the role of a product manager in product discovery.

Let’s dive in!

What is a product manager?

The product manager is the person you’ll likely spend the most time talking to during your product discovery process.

So, what exactly is a product manager?

In simple terms, a product manager’s job is to strike a balance between user needs, business needs and the technology to create the best possible product. 

Product manager role diagram

In product discovery, another aspect of their role is to ensure all stakeholders are on the same page about the direction of the discovery process.

They also make sure user needs are being met.

Meeting your users’ needs is key to a successful product discovery process.

Our product manager’s job is to ensure that user needs are centered during the discovery process to create a truly user-centric product.

In a typical cloud software product, 80% of features end up being never or very rarely used by the end user.

To make sure that doesn’t happen with your product, our product manager will conduct thorough market research and identify user pain points.

They also make sure your discovery process achieves the goals set during the kickoff meeting within the agreed timeframe.

What does a product manager do during product discovery?

Now that we’ve discussed the role of a product manager and their importance to product discovery, let’s go into greater detail about what they do during the discovery process.

The product manager’s main responsibilities during our product discovery process are:

  • Conducting market research and competitive analysis
  • Identifying and solving user pain points
  • Coordinating between the client and team members
  • Managing the overall product vision
  • Keeping the discovery process on track and on time

Let’s discuss each in greater detail.

Conducts market research 

Thorough market research is an essential first step to any product discovery process.

Researching your target market will help you validate your idea, achieve product-market fit and correctly position your product.

During product discovery, our product manager will ensure that all 3 of those elements are fulfilled.

Without knowing your target market, the chances of your product succeeding fall dramatically.

The same goes for competitive analysis, as knowing your competition will allow you to exploit any gaps in the market.

The second-most common reason startups fail, only behind running out of funds, is having no market need for their product.

Market research and competitive analysis during product discovery minimize the chances of that happening to your product.

Market research process

As pictured above, on a more theoretical level the steps in the market research process are:

  • Problem definition
  • Approach formulation
  • Research design selection
  • Data collection
  • Data processing
  • Analysis and reporting

So, what exactly do you get by doing market research?

By the time our product manager finishes the market research you’ll have learned:

  • Your target market’s size and growth dynamics
  • Who exactly is your target audience within your target market
  • Whether or not you’ve achieved product-market fit
  • Your user’s pain points and frustrations
  • How your competitors have positioned themselves in the market

With this you’ll have validated your idea, confirming whether or not you should continue with discovery and development.

Identifies and solves user pain points

The reason why you should do product discovery is to create a product that can meet your users’ needs.

It’s also one of the main benefits of the discovery process.

To do that, first you have to identify and solve your users’ pain points.

That’s where our product manager comes in.

This is one of their key tasks during our product discovery process.

So, what exactly are pain points?

Pain points are specific problems that your users experience at any stage of their journey.

Another way of looking at them is as unmet needs waiting to be fulfilled.

Types of pain points

source: Yesware

As pictured above, pain points are most commonly divided into 4 categories:

  • Productivity pain points
  • Financial pain points
  • Process pain points
  • Support pain points

Productivity pain points refer to problems with your product that waste your users’ time with processes that take too long to complete, hampering their productivity.

Possibly the most common user pain points you’ll encounter are financial pain points.

Users won’t use your product if your prices are too high or your pricing is unclear when compared to the benefits your product provides them.

product discovery

Learn more about our discovery process →

App development starts with product discovery…

Process pain points occur when users experience friction when using your product i.e. when they have to take unnecessary extra steps to achieve their goals.

Finally, support pain points happen when your users can’t get the help they need e.g. due to inefficient customer service or being unable to easily find an answer to their questions.

As mentioned previously, user pain points crop up at every stage of your users’ journey and every level of the customer experience:

  • Interaction-level pain points
  • Journey-level pain points
  • Relationship-level pain points

During product discovery, you’ll be able to identify and solve pain points on the interaction and journey levels.

Our product manager will use the information gathered during user research to identify any pain points that have cropped up and propose solutions to solve them.

Of course, because product discovery is an inherently collaborative process, all stakeholders and team members will work together to propose solutions, too.

Coordinates between the client and team members

For product discovery to be successful, all stakeholders have to be on the same page and understand what every person involved is doing.

In our product discovery process, it’s vital that our clients know at all times what the discovery team is doing and vice versa.

What we strive for is a discovery process that’s collaborative and transparent to a fault.

One of our product manager’s most important duties is to facilitate collaboration, coordination and transparency between our clients and our discovery team.

They also facilitate intra-team communication and collaboration, too.

So, how do they do it?

The 3 Cs

The key is employing the 3 Cs:

  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Coordination

Communication, collaboration, and coordination are essential to the success of every product discovery process.

They’re especially important as our discovery team is cross-functional by design.

Cross-functional teams are made up of people with different functions and skills working together to achieve a common goal.

It’s vital that everyone in a cross-functional team understands what that common goal is.

Functional vs cross-functional teams

Our product discovery team brings together product managers, engineers and designers to create a cross-functional team that excels in product discovery.

Our product manager ensures that there’s clear communication between team members and between the team and our clients at every stage of the product discovery process.

This helps us avoid misunderstandings and maximizes our discovery team’s efficiency.

Manages the product vision during discovery

Every product should be guided by a predefined product vision.

One of our product manager’s duties during product discovery is to ensure that the discovery process follows your product’s vision.

So, what exactly is a product vision? And why is it important?

A product vision is a statement that describes the future state of your product.

In other words, your product vision is the ultimate goal you want to achieve with your product.

It serves as a beacon guiding your product’s development from conception to launch and beyond.

For example, LinkedIn’s product vision is “to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce”.

Your product vision statement should be succinct and communicate what you want to achieve with your product to all stakeholders.

Product vision

source: Christian Strunk

One of the main benefits of creating a product vision is that it gives direction to everyone involved during development.

Your product vision will also help you in crafting your product strategy.

Once you have your strategy ready, you’ll be able to develop a product roadmap and a product backlog before ultimately delivering your product.

Essentially, your product vision is the foundation from which you develop your product strategy, roadmap, and backlog.

It’ll help you align all of those elements together for the duration of your product’s development.

Our product manager will make sure that your product vision is implemented to the fullest extent possible during product discovery.

They’ll communicate it to the rest of the discovery team so they can use it to inform their work, creating a product that moves you closer to your goals.

Keeps the discovery process on track and on time

One of the most important traits every successful organization has is being able to keep their projects on track and on time.

The same goes for product discovery.

Our product manager’s most important task during discovery is keeping the team on track and ensuring that the discovery process finishes on time.

Every product discovery process should have a roadmap laying out the tasks to be completed during discovery.

It’s the product manager’s responsibility to monitor the progress of the discovery team by comparing it to the original roadmap.

The 3 key benefits of tracking the discovery team’s progress are:

  • Staying on budget
  • Staying on schedule
  • Maximizing resources

What makes tracking everyone’s progress and keeping the discovery process on track easier is setting SMART goals, as pictured below:

SMART goals

SMART goals help everyone involved more easily understand their responsibilities during the discovery process, minimizing confusion about the tasks they need to complete.

Our product manager uses a variety of tools to check the team’s progress and keep the discovery process on track, such as:

  • Slack
  • Google Docs
  • Google Meet
  • Jira
  • Figma

These tools not only allow them to track everyone’s progress but also foster collaboration and transparency, two key values we foster at DECODE.

All in all, our product manager makes the discovery process more efficient and that is crucial for your product’s success.


A product manager is one of the key product discovery roles we employ here at DECODE.

So, what does a product manager do during product discovery?

To reiterate, their main responsibilities are:

  • Conducting market research
  • Identifying and solving user pain points
  • Coordinating between the client and team members
  • Managing the product vision during discovery
  • Keeping the discovery process on track and on time

If you want to learn more about product discovery, check out our process or read our other articles on product discovery.

Written by

Ivan Kardum

Lead product manager

Related articles