What is Product Management? — Complete Guide
Everybody has a rough idea about product management. But most people even from business backgrounds don’t really understand the role of a PM.
And it’s mostly because product managers are ‘generalists’.
Their responsibilities include many things. Even these responsibilities are subject to change depending on organizations and industries.
Therefore, here is a not-so-vague answer:
Product management is the process of strategically guiding a product’s growth, launch, and continuous enhancement.
While this does give an idea, it still is an abstract one. So let’s dig deeper.
What is Product Management?
In plain English, product management aims to launch a product or improve an existing one based on different feedback and data analyses. Product management ensures that a product is useful to consumers and that it adds real value to all stakeholders involved.
Product Managers build a product that solves a real problem. They make sure that it’s feasible to produce and is easy to use by the end-users. Easy enough that the user doesn’t bounce back because they can’t figure out how to make it work. And feasible enough to produce without losing too many resources of the company.
Therefore, If the product solves a problem, and is feasible to produce and outperform the competition, then product management decides to work on that product.
Product management is not always run by just one PM, rather there are different job titles and hierarchies. There are associate PMs, PMs, Senior PMs, Chief of Product, and so on. Therefore on an everyday basis, product management as a whole engages in several strategic and tactical tasks.
These responsibilities are handled by different PMs based on their roles and departments. Therefore, the following are some of the day-to-day tasks that these product professionals (product management team) perform.
1. Conducting research
Research is a must for getting insights about the market and adding valuable features. Product management also performs research to figure out the competitors and buyer personas.
2. Communicating plans
The best strategy is developed using a roadmap that is presented to the key stakeholders. This includes executives, investors, development teams and so. Therefore, there is a need to properly communicate the strategy across different teams throughout the product-building process.
3. Developing strategy
Different members collect their knowledge and research of the product and share it to make a perfect strategy. This includes goals, achievable objectives, product release plans, and so on.
4. Coordinating development
After receiving the green light for their product strategy, product management coordinates with various teams. This includes product marketing, product development, and so on.
5. Analyzing data and acting on feedback
Finally, after developing, testing, and launching the product into the market, data is collected from various sources, and feedback is recorded from the users. Now product management can determine which features work and which ones don’t. Based on this data, relevant teams work on future iterations.
What does a Product Manager do?
Now we know that product management is run by product managers and there are several duties that every PM is responsible for. However, if you are trying to get into a product management role, you must understand the role of a PM.
Product managers lead the product development through their product knowledge and strategic product decisions. Here’s a more in-depth look at what a PM does.
1. Identifying opportunities
The product manager will either develop a new product or find opportunities to improve the existing one. They do this based on market research and data analysis. The product manager is well-versed with market trends and consumer dynamics and assists when the company decides to launch new features or new products.
2. Creating product strategy
The product manager establishes the product’s long-term vision and communicates the market demand to the team. After that, a straightforward and practical roadmap for achieving the long-term goals is set out. In most cases, creating a product plan is the primary activity for any product manager. PMs also keep them updated with the changes in the industry and they keep an eye on what the future market will look like.
3. Helping with marketing strategy
Product success heavily depends on marketing. Therefore, product managers collaborate with the marketing team to build a successful marketing strategy. PMs track marketing trends, conduct market research, collect user feedback, and so on to guide the marketing team in the right direction.
4. Talking to customers
The product manager builds the product for the customers, therefore getting customer feedback helps them improve the customer experience. Based on this, PM understands the importance of their product. It also helps them to come up with a new and improved version of a product.
5. Adding new features
Stakes are high while building or adding a new feature to the product. Adding new features also constitutes a large amount of work for PMs. This means PMs spend a good amount of time and resources on building the right strategy for developing the most valuable feature. They choose the most desired features based on end-user feedback and marketing research.
6. Meeting with other teams
All these responsibilities also mean a lot of meetings. Therefore, PMs invest a significant amount of time with different teams like product marketing, sales, business development, and so on. PMs also meet with the executive team to update them on the project’s status or to request additional support. They also meet with consumers and users to learn about their challenges and ensure that the product meets their requirements.
Types of Product Management
Product management as a subject is too vast to fit into a single and generic description. Product management comes in all forms and colors. But typically, PMs are expected to work at the intersection of business, UX, and technology. As a result, if you’re just starting out, your skills will fall under one of these product management categories.
1. Tech Product Manager
Technical product managers contribute to the development, promotion, sales, and support of a product. They collaborate with the technical team to design and change products to meet the needs of customers. In the SaaS sector, for example, technical product managers assist stakeholders in better understanding the product creation process. They also explain why those features should be included or excluded from the design of a product.
2. Analytics/Data science product manager
Although data science product managers’ responsibilities are similar to those of traditional product managers. They are also responsible for presenting release plans, developing business cases for data products, and act as a link between the data science team and internal and external business stakeholders. Data science product managers don’t only concentrate on data; they perform other tasks like any other PM. They are directly connected with customers to communicate their needs to address consumer issues and determine product functionality.
3. Growth product managers
Growth product managers are hyper-focused on metrics. They work with an already established product that needs to be optimized for growth. So rather than focusing on a specific set of product features, growth product managers are more concerned with metrics. They are instructed to work across multiple product functionalities in order to optimize their key metrics. Although different products have different problems, in most cases, these PMs try to fix the growth problems. For example, some businesses are unable to generate demand at a low cost, while others are unable to meet supply once demand has been generated.
4. Business product managers
As the name suggests, these professionals usually come from a business background. Their key skills are in the business side of the company, and they have usually no special knowledge of the technology that goes into the product. Many professionals learn about business fundamentals by working with new or fast-growing startups which need complex tasks across several industries. They are excellent communicators who can make others understand their ideas.
Steps of Product Management
There is no universal method of creating a product. It entails a lot of research and resources, as well as a lot of chaos. Product management steps in as a savior, bringing order to the chaos.
Most organizations follow the same basic stages of product management. It’s a long road, with stakeholder involvement and contributions from multiple departments along the way. However, product management makes the process smooth.
Here are seven main stages/process of product management
1. Idea Management
The product team and other individuals come up with lots of great ideas. But not all ideas can be tried and tested due to time and resource constraints. So one way to filter the best ones is through brainstorming or testing it against the already present market. But many times, even that doesn’t work. In that case, the idea is saved for future use.
The product management acts as an idea vault. It generates, collects, develops, validates, and stores the ideas in case they are applicable again in the future. Other peoples’ ideas, such as those created by internal stakeholders, customers, board members, and investors, are also kept up to date by product management.
Once the idea is filtered and selected, it’s time to get to more details. This will become essential in the process of product management. The product specifications are rather short and not-so-technical documents that answer three basic but important questions. What is the aim of the product being built, what are the objectives, and how is performance measured?
Teams address all these questions together with feedback from a variety of stakeholders to consider all perspectives and ensure that everyone is on the same page moving forward. The details that go into the specifications depend on the organization or individual. This can range from waterfall environments to Agile workplaces.
A product roadmap is an ultimate guide that shows the steps that must be taken to achieve the product vision within the specified time frame. This graphic document shows stakeholders where the product is right now, where it’s going, and how it’ll get there. The roadmaps are the most up-to-date documents on product strategy since they are regularly updated to represent factors such as market shifts, consumer expectations and desire shifts, and meeting milestones.
The first step in creating a product roadmap is defining the product’s strategy. Which is based on the product management’s vision for the product. The information is then gathered by the product management from two main sources: customer support and product users.
This is a continuous mechanism that determines which features of a product should be designed and which should be abandoned entirely based on their importance. Priorities are prominently displayed on roadmaps and are updated regularly in response to market changes. Prioritization must strike a balance between the most pressing concerns raised by stakeholders and other features that are considered to be critical to the product’s medium to long-term strategy.
When it comes to building products, the fact is that priorities change, resources are reallocated, and funding is limited. Product management makes sure that they are working on the most important tasks. Product management prioritizes features ruthlessly before they run out of resources.
This is the stage where the product is passed to the development teams so the engineers can start building it and delivering the product. Naturally, this is where the product management has covered most of their duties so they hand over the product to the project managers and engineers. Now the project managers work further while product managers serve as advisors.
When it comes to delivery, the methods vary based on previous choices during specifications. If it’s a waterfall model, then the organization will have bulk releases that are few and far between, and will only ship the product after all testing has been completed. Agile companies will have smaller updates, with sprints completing chunks of work and only iterative changes.
6. Analytics and experimentation
Once the product is launched into the market, sometimes as a beta version, analysis helps determine if the features or modifications that were implemented are beneficial to the users. Good analysis for product management is quantitative, comparable, and actionable.
While experimentation is a continuous process of putting hypotheses to the test in order to improve the product. It’s a scientific method in product management to understand the user activities — how they use it and how the product can be improved.
7. Customer feedback
This is the final stage where product management gathers insights from customers to find out if the product was solving the problem. It is crucial for product management as it helps them to understand the pain point of users so that they can deliver a helpful solution.
There are multiple sources to gather feedback. These are customer interviews, general interactions, usability testing, service requests, and other forms of feedback.
Job titles in Product Management
There is much confusion over the job titles in product management. Here is a complete list of job roles according to seniority, and hierarchy.
1. Associate Product Manager
The associate product manager is the most entry-level title in product management. It also has a distinct meaning in the context of an associate product manager (APM) program. In larger companies like Google and Facebook, this is a typical rotational apprenticeship program. They are mainly recent graduates who can advance their careers through a combination of training and hands-on experience with real projects, ultimately becoming full-time employees.
2. Junior Product Manager
Junior product managers are also new but they have some hands-on rantings in the industry. They work with a product development team on their own, possibly on a smaller product or region, and are mentored by a more senior product manager. JPM comes from many backgrounds but Engineering, design, and business are the most common ones.
3. Product Manager
It is one of the most popular job titles in the product management industry. They have a wide range of responsibilities, skills, and experience. In general, this is someone who works independently, manages a product development team, and is in charge of a product or consumer journey. Product managers can have a different level of expertise depending on the organization.
4. Senior Product Manager
A senior product manager has responsibilities like a product manager but has a senior title for a few reasons. The senior product manager has recolonization as they have contributed in the past and they also mentor junior product managers. The Senior Product Manager works directly with the product and is also responsible for line management.
5. Lead Product Manager
Product lead or lead product manager is a recent role added into product management. They are in a very senior position and work on a critical product in the organization. A lead product manager’s role is equivalent to a senior product manager or a VP. The difference is that they are not in charge of other product managers; instead, they are outstanding product managers who prefer to remain hands-on and delegate people management to others.
6. Product Director/Group Product manager
This is the point at which the position begins to change. A PM in this role moves away from dealing directly with engineering and design teams and instead takes the lead in ensuring that all product managers are on the same page. People management and soft skills such as communication become critical at this stage. A product director or group product manager manages people rather than directly managing the product.
7. VP Product/Head of Product
This role is similar to that of a product director, but it is more common in organizations with more products and management levels. In most startups, this is the most senior role. This position is also about managing other PMs and in many organizations, they will also be in charge of the team’s budget.
8. Chief Product Officer (CPO)
A chief product officer is the most senior position in any company’s product management. A CPO supervises multiple teams of product managers and represents the product in the C-suite or management team. The CPO manages initiatives throughout the product lifecycle, from customer discovery and user research to development and delivery. They are responsible for overall product strategy and they report directly to the CEO.
Product management skillset
Below are the most important skills you should have to be an effective product manager:
- Communication skills
- Prioritization skills
- Management skills
- Organization skills
- Technical knowledge
- An eye for good design
More reading about product management skills here.
Responsibilities of Product Management
Product management bridges the gap between business, product development, marketing, and sales. It plays a key role in product life cycle management and developing product strategy. It is also responsible for a variety of other tasks, from ideation to discontinuation. Here are the most important ones.
Product management is in charge of gathering new ideas to improve existing products or to introduce entirely new concepts. These ideas are further evaluated based on market research.
Product management is always keeping an eye on the market and insights of competitors. Through this monitoring, they can learn about the changing needs of their customers. Product management understands the competition and its offerings in order to create products that are worth selling.
3. Preparation of VOC plan
During the early development cycle, product managers are in charge of preparing data collection for the Voice of Customer (VOC). The strategy would detail how consumers will be approached in terms of communicating, arranging investigations, interviewing methods, market analysis, focus groups, and the resources needed.
4. Customer needs and requirements development
Product managers would need to build an understanding of consumer needs based on all of the information collected, as well as the risks associated with not completely understanding the needs. The demand potential and costs are then evaluated. Finally, based on the customer’s needs and specifications, a detailed requirement set is created.
5. Value proposition and product positioning
To optimize the value proposition, product specifications must be balanced with cost. To optimize product value, techniques such as conjoint analysis or alternate value assessment methodologies are used. To place the product in the market, the overall strategy, product line plans, consumer demands, and competitive analysis are used.
6. Roadmaps and forecasting
A product roadmap is a visual representation of the truth that outlines the vision, direction, priorities, and progress and is updated constantly. Now product managers use a rational approach based on market data and predictions to forecast customer demands. The method is refined by comparing the forecast with real numbers to improve the forecasting model.
7. Product Portfolio
A product portfolio is the collection of products and services offered by a company. The product manager collaborates with management to prepare the product portfolio, which is focused on supporting research.
8. Communicate plans and strategy to management and teams
Product managers present the plan to management for approval before moving forward. Other teams are also brought together so that everyone understands the strategy and can collaborate effectively.
9. Get customer feedback
Product managers collect customer feedback using mock-ups and prototypes. This helps the PM to improve the product and update the project further.
10. Promotion and distribution
The product manager collaborates with advertising, marketing, and public relations departments to develop the product’s promotional messages. After that, they work with their distribution networks to increase productivity or, if necessary, create new channels.
11. Establish pricing
The market, as well as competition and internal costs, are carefully analyzed in order to develop product pricing that maximizes profit.
12. Product launch
The product manager coordinates with the product marketing team to plan product launches. The product is further promoted on social media channels and other platforms.
13. Manage product lifecycle
After the market launch, product managers are constantly learning about the product’s performance. Based on this, product management decides how to improve existing opinions, update regularly, and even reposition when necessary.
More than eighty-five percent of new products fail in the marketplace because they are not well prepared for it. Product failure is often the result of neglecting one aspect of product development while concentrating excessively on the other. This is where product management comes to the rescue. A proper product team reduces the chances of financial losses and increases the possibility of product success.
Product management is a fast-paced role that involves creating a product from the ground up, from concept to testing to release. You should have outstanding people management skills, empathy, and the ability to see the big picture if you wish to make a career out of product management.
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