Product Management Jargon: Top Ten Definitions for Learning the Lingo

5 min read

For anyone who is new to the world of product management, it might seem like Product Managers are speaking their own language at times. Learning product management jargon is foundational to any aspiring PM, yet it may be overwhelming to know where to begin. That is why we have compiled a list of the ten most common terms and phrases used in the product management world to get you started!

1. Product Roadmap 

A crucial blueprint for any Product Manager, a product roadmap is a plan of action for how a product will progress over a specific period. Not to be confused with the marketing roadmap (more product management jargon), the product roadmap outlines the vision and guides the goals of the product manager and development team. A product roadmap is a great tool for prioritization. When used with an agile methodology, a product roadmap can be a flexible ‘big picture’ that evolves through collaborative processes to fit changing markets and environments. You can find out more about the different kinds of product roadmaps here.

2. Agile Methodology

Agile methodology is a project framework used by product management teams to develop products via the implementation of short cycles of work. The cycles, sometimes called sprints, allow teams to focus on flexibility and adapt as they gain more understanding of your product and user. The four main values of any Agile method as outlined in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development are:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation.
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  • Responding to change over following a plan.

 By breaking work down into phases and building-in routine collaboration between PMs, owners, development teams, and shareholders, the agile framework allows for the sort of revision and adjusting that keeps projects moving efficiently. 

3. Scrum

 Scrum is one of the most popular agile methodology systems in place in product management. But Scrum and Agile are not synonymous: whereas agile acts as a philosophy with guiding principles, Scrum is a framework for getting the work done. Scrum forsakes an algorithmic approach for a heuristic one, with a focus on respect for people and self-organization when it comes to solving complex problems.

Beginning with the identifications of three main artifacts: product backlog, sprint backlog, and an increment that clearly defines what finished work looks like, Scrum makes use of a combination of key established roles and self-organization to maximize efficiency. Scrum in itself comes with a set of product management jargon to get familiar with:

Scrum Master 

The Scrum Master is the individual responsible for the establishment of the Scrum, as well as the effectiveness of the Scrum team and the outlining of the guidelines. A Scrum Master will serve the team, product owner, and organization by coaching, facilitating collaboration when needed, and refining processes within the Scrum framework. 

Product Owner

The product owner is a single individual that is accountable for maximizing the value of the product, as well as prioritizing and defining items for the product backlog that the development team works off. The product owner may represent the interests of the organization or the stakeholders, and act as a leader for the team in the setting and achieving of goals.

Developers

The development team or developers are the individuals that make up the team of professionals responsible for setting and executing sprint goals (see our next product management jargon definition), assigned product and sprint backlog, and meeting each day to collaborate and adjust their priorities as needed.

In Scrum, typically sprints last about two weeks. At the end of each sprint, product owners and shareholders may meet to review the progress of the team and give feedback for adjustment in the next sprint, triggering the cycle over again.

4. Sprint

 A sprint is a short cycle of development that is used in agile methodologies and Scrum framework to enable constant collaboration and re-evaluation of a product management team’s priorities. A sprint breaks down big-picture goals into smaller, achievable tasks. Each sprint cycle should begin with sprint goals being set, and round off with a sprint review and a spring retrospective: the cycle is all about clear communication and structured progress. The length of a sprint can vary from two weeks to a month.

5. Product Backlog

The product backlog is a master list of work to be completed, broken down into granular tasks. Maintained by the PM, the product backlog is a dynamic list that must be constantly revised and re-prioritized as the team and market change. A core artifact of any scrum, a product backlog helps keep your team focused on the tasks that are most relevant to your project.

6. User Story

 User Story is an essential tool used in any agile environment. Unlike most product requirement documents which are based on specific technical requirements, user story is a more dynamic requirements document. It identifies to PMs and teams who the target user is, what they want from the product, and why. To contextualize the user story of your product, it is important to under the following variables.

User Experience (UX)

User Experience or UX is any variable that relates to how your customer interacts with your product. A very wide umbrella term for many different areas of research and measurement, UX includes things such as perception of the value, ease of use, graphic design, field research, utility, and efficiency. To read more about how UX and product design applies to product management, check out one of our other articles on the subject here. 

User Interface (UI)

User Interface (UI) refers to a specific subset of UX that has to do with the visual dimension. It considers how the user views and connects with the product or service. Graphic and interface design are at the core of UI – such as how your product is laid out and how visually appealing and accessible it is to the user.

User Flow

User flow is an outline – usually created to be a visual representation – of all the possible experiences a user will have with your product from start to finish. User flow can be a critical variable to understand any opportunities for improvement in your UX.

7. Persona

A persona or user persona is a fictional representation of certain types of users based on observed patterns of behaviour and needs among your product users. By identifying the different types of users and categorizing them into heuristic personas, you as a PM can start to define the needs of different users and prioritize for product growth.

8. Minimum Viable Product

Minimum viable product refers to the version of a new product that allows a team to test market interest with the least amount of time and resource dedicated to development. By identifying and executing the MVP, a development team can collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort, resulting in synchronous development of customer and product in parallel with each other.

9. Mock-ups

Not to be confused with an interactive prototype, a mock-up is a static rendering created by a UX designer to represent what a product or feature will look like and how it will be used. A realistic and effective mock-up will facilitate revision and critique in those crucial early stages of visual and functional product design. It can also be the first step toward defining an MVP.

10. Unicorn 

A unicorn is a term used to describe a professional in the industry who is a hyper-specialist, possessing specialist-level expertise in multiple disciplines of the product development world. Unicorns are considered very rare: they are leaders in UX, UI, development, and management of products without the inflexibility of a Specialist who might only excel in one area. 

Fluent in PM

Now that you have a foundation of knowledge for product management jargon, we hope you can apply these terms and concepts and to your development in your product management career! RSVP to our upcoming events for more in-depth product management insights with industry experts. Or, if you’re ready to take your PM job hunt to the next level, schedule a free consultation with one of our career counsellors to find out how the Product Gym community can help you land the job.

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