What the hell is a product roadmap anyway? How can OKR’s (Objectives and Key Results) help product managers achieve their goals? What are the main skills needed in product management? A lot of tricky questions, right? Lucky for you, we or rather our friends at Epignosis have all the answers for you.

Notes on the art of product management

At the recent Greek product management community meet-up “Roadmaps & Hiring Product Managers by efood & GlobalWebIndex PMs” hosted on Oct 1, by Epignosis one of our scale-ups, the Epignosis team was on hand to give some insights about the key burning issues.

But wait. The title of the event is deceiving. So, don’t worry if neither of those terms mentioned is relevant to your market. Just have a bit of patience and we’ll explain in full.  First, let us explain a few things about the event, and why it’s interesting to all founders, startuppers and startup team members.

The art of product management

The role is one of the most important things in any company. Especially in startups. Why? Because you need to be a sales-orientated, data-driven, features and functionality-focused, growth marketing-savvy, financial modeling-aware expert and evangelist. If you feel tired just reading that, then you know that product management is not for you.

Anyway, we digress. Basically anyone working as or aspiring to be a product manager in our times, needs all the help they can get. And this is one of the reasons why Epignosis, in collaboration with Endeavor, put together a Product School Athens event. In case you’ve never heard of Product School are, they are an organisation that started in Silicon Valley as the first full-time school for Product Management. They have a huge community in slack, online courses, and product managers (certified) who work in successful companies all over the world. And of course, the Athens community is a very active one.

The anatomy of product specialists

As products become ever more complex in the digital transformation, there are a number of roles around the product which are important. Here are the main ones (disclaimer: some of these terms are used interchangeably):

  • Product manager defines the road-map of the product: what features will be developed and when they will be released. In short, a product manager employs a strategy that will ensure the product follows an endless and ever-improving procedure. That’s unlike projects that need to be executed in a finite time.
  • Product owner focuses on the business side of product development, making sure that the final product will be of value for customers.
  • Project manager usually a decision maker and coordinator, this role is the connection between stakeholders and product team. They plan well ahead. And they direct general issues and resolve bottlenecks, making sure that execution will be on time and on budget.

Scratching the surface of the product management

Firstly, let’s make it clear that we won’t attempt to dissect the huge beast that is product management in this post. The idea is to look at some of the insights which came out of the event, to add to the pool of knowledge.

And so, the product road-map. It’s a term commonly used by product managers and product development teams and represents the business’ strategy. It is designed to help development teams and all members involved in related roles know what’s important. And that’s in order to be on the same page, stay focused and achieve all the milestones; and therefore business goals.

Or, in other words, as put rather more eloquently by Atlassian,

“a product road-map is a shared source of truth that outlines the vision, direction, priorities, and progress of a product over time. It’s a plan of action that aligns the organization around short- and long-term goals for the product or project, and how they will be achieved.”

Mind your OKRs (objectives and key results)

As well as a product road-map, another type of documentation we frequently use for product management is an OKR strategy. We use it for goal setting, within product development teams. And that’s exactly what the first speaker, George Nikolaropoulos, an engineering manager at GlobalWebIndex, talked about at the event. Basically the ways that help you be effective as a product manager, how to resolve roadblocks and to effectively orchestrate your teams goals  aligned actions.

More specifically, after the insightful presentation, a constructive discussion with attendees — most of them product managers in their role, as expected  fired up. The speaker answered questions such as how to set a plan of tasks that will satisfy objective goals and expectations while balancing team’s unique characteristics. For example, how you should assign demanding software tasks to experienced members and how you should calculate the respective story points. Ways on how to negotiate crucial issues with the team, without regressing on your leader role. And, of course, the burning question on whether planning with a fixed “contract” of story points or hours is more effective. And finally, how to handle conflicts of any type and make your team trust you.

What skills does a product manager need?

How long have you got? Well, the second guest speaker, Konstantinos Giamalis, Head of Product at E-food, managed to cram it all into his talk titled “Hiring Product Managers: The Reality”, in which he explained, in detail, all about product manager concepts. The key takeaway? Basically, to be successful, a product manager needs to excel in leadership, prioritization, concentration on details and communication. But that’s not enough. There’s also the small matter of A/B testing, hypothesis experimenting, storytelling and performance marketing. Ah yes, and even coding (sometimes).

A taste of things to come

All in all it was a great event. The attendees including ourselves got an enlightening taste of the ever-expanding product management arena; and how the role of a product manager, in particular, contributes to the efficiency of product development teams. Not only that, but also how companies of any size can approach the hiring process; and then gradually incorporate such roles into their teams.

For us, October kicked off with a big knowledge and experience transfer bang. And, if you read this blog regularly, you’ll know that this is something we’re big on. That’s why we’ll continue to host and support similar events, as we continue our efforts to support the local startup community and entrepreneurial ecosystem, with the aim to #ScaleUpGreece.

And that’s something Epignosis is also doing in practice, embracing relevant events, as their CEO Thanos Pappagelis commented:

“One of our greatest pleasures as we continue on our own journey of discovery is to support both Endeavor Greece and the local Product Management community. The Greek tech ecosystem is booming right now and Epignosis is determined to help it in any possible way.”

Amen to that.


Graham Wood Graham Wood

The Starttech Ventures Storyteller. Studied Journalism with Business at the University of Central Lancashire. Has worked in various product marketing management positions for the likes of Nokia, Samsung and Vodafone, as well as in several journalism and media roles since 2000.