The roles and responsibility of a product manager may differ depending on whether they work in a product company vs. an agency.
airfocus is a product company.
The product team at airfocus listens closely to customer requests, prioritizes them, and continuously works to offer enhancements and improvements directly to users and customers to solve their needs.
IDEO however is an agency. Companies hire and rely on them and their staff to assist them with designing and building products to help them reach their business goals.
For example in 1980 Apple hired IDEO to build a mouse for their new computer “Apple Lisa”.
Companies may come to agencies with a defined scope of work (which can include design and/or development) or they may come with a problem that they need the agency’s help solving.
A product manager that works within a product company will receive a chance to practice all steps of the product development process.
From identifying and prioritizing problems all the way through designing and building the solution, to launching it, assessing it post launch, and continuing to improve it based on performance, customer feedback, and business goals.
A product manager that works within an agency however will only obtain limited experience with the steps of the product development process because their role is confined to assisting their clients with strategy, and/or delivery.
They will perform customer and market research for their client along with understanding the company’s goals and objectives to answer their key questions and define what course of action they should take. Thereafter they will work with their development team to build the product and deliver it to their client.
Agencies are usually relied upon to solve a specific problem for a customer. Once the product is built it is handed to the client who is then responsible for managing the product thereafter.
Though some companies will engage with agencies to continue to evolve the product a product manager would most likely move onto their next engagement with another client.
Working within an agency gives product managers a chance to work on many solutions for various companies within various industries, allows product managers to improve their stakeholders management skills (since they work so closely with multiple clients), and improve their delivery skills in the process.
There are pros and cons to working as a product manager in a product company vs. an agency. However the experience gained in both is invaluable.
It is also not difficult for a product manager to transition from one to the other.