What is Product Management? - A Detailed Guide for Product Managers
Product management’s meaning varies from person to person.
And it’s primarily because product managers are ‘generalists’. Their responsibilities include many things. Even these responsibilities are subject to change depending on organizations and industries. They are the jack of all trades.
There is a short and a long definition.
Here is a commonly used short definition of product management:
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 define product management by digging a bit deeper.
What is Product Management?
Product management consists of processes that launch a product or improve an existing one based on customer feedback, market demand, and data analyses. Product management ensures that a product is useful to consumers and that it adds real value to all stakeholders involved.
And product managers (PMs) oversee that.
Product Managers build a product that solves a real problem. They make sure that it’s feasible and easy to use by the target audience.
If a product solves a problem and is feasible to produce while outperforming the competition, then product management decides to build 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. Hence, software product management as a whole engages in several strategic and tactical tasks.
Let’s take a look at some of them.
1. Conducting research
Research gets actionable insights that build a desirable product. Product management performs research to figure out the customer’s pain points, competitors, market conditions, and buyer personas. Based on this research, PMs can build a strategy.
2. Communicating plans
A roadmap is used to share the overall product strategy with the key stakeholders. This includes executives, investors, and sponsors. The roadmap properly communicates the strategy across different teams throughout the product-building process. Moreover, the stakeholders can easily share their feedback through it as well.
3. Developing an actionable strategy
Deadlines are added to various items on the roadmap based on the available resources to build an actionable strategy for product development. This includes goals, achievable objectives, product release plans, and so on.
4. Coordinating development
After receiving the green light, product management coordinates with various teams such as marketing, development, testing, etc., to hit the ground running. The cross-functional product management team works together to develop the product.
5. Analyzing data and acting on feedback
After developing, testing, and launching the product into the market, usage data and user feedback is collected. This helps determine which features work. Agile product management relies on this information to continue to enhance the product.
At the center of all the above activities, there is the product manager. Let’s take a look at what they do throughout the product management process.
What does a Product Manager do?
Product managers lead and guide product development through their product knowledge and take strategic decisions to improve the desirability of the product.
Here’s a more in-depth look at what a PM does.
1. Identifying opportunities
The product manager develops a new product or improves an existing one. They identify opportunities in the market that can be fulfilled by a product or certain new features. To do so, the product manager has to be well-versed in market trends, and consumer dynamics.
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. The right people need to know what the product does and how it can help them.
Product managers collaborate with the marketing team to build a successful marketing strategy. They also help with tracking marketing trends, conducting market research, 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. To know what the customers want, PMs spend a lot of time talking with them. This helps them minimize risks and build a desirable solution.
It also helps them to keep improving the product.
5. Adding new features
There is a lot on the line while building or improving the product. Adding new features, for example, is a lot of work for PMs. 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 market research.
6. Meeting with other teams
Everyone needs to be on the same page for effective collaboration during software production management. PMs invest a significant amount of time with different teams like product marketing, sales, business development, and so on to ensure that.
PMs meet with the executive team and upper management 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
Although we defined it earlier, 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.
Let’s take a look at the four major types of PMs.
1. Tech Product Manager
Technical product managers oversee 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 SaaS product management, for example, technical product managers assist stakeholders to understand the product creation process. They also explain why certain features should be included or excluded from the design of a product. Atlassian’s product management software Jira is one of the most important tools for a tech PM.
2. Analytics/Data science product manager
Data science product managers’ responsibilities are similar to those of traditional product managers. These product managers are quite common in IT product management teams.
They are also responsible for presenting release plans, developing business cases for data products, and bridging the gap between the data science team and business stakeholders.
3. Growth product managers
Growth product managers are hyper-focused on metrics like average revenue per user (ARPU) and activation rate. 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 those key metrics.
Although different products have different problems, these PMs, in general, 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 usually have 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. Business PMs are excellent communicators who can make others understand their ideas and the business value it holds.
All the above types of PMs have one common goal: managing the product. Let's take a closer look at the product management process.
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 ensures that everyone stays on that track.
The product management process can be broken down into seven phases.
1. Idea Management
The product team and other individuals come up with lots of proposals that could solve the customer’s pain points. But not all of them can be tried and tested due to time and resource constraints.
So one way to filter the best ones is through brainstorming or soft-testing it against the already available solutions.
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 taken into consideration.
These ideas are generated after talking with customers. The challenge is collating all the responses from customers from different sources is time-consuming. Zeda.io solves this by bringing them all to one place.
Once the idea is filtered and selected, it’s time to get to more details. 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?
- How is performance measured?
Teams address all these questions together with feedback from stakeholders. The scope of the details of the specifications depends on the company.
You can create visual user flows to see whether an idea is really viable. Zeda.io lets you create user flows and share them with your team for easier collaboration.
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 upcoming milestones.
Here is how the product management tool Zeda.io can help you do it.
The first step in creating a product roadmap is defining the product’s strategy which is based on the PM’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 project management function in which features of a product should be designed and which should be abandoned. Customer requirements are the primary basis of prioritization. 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 critical to the product’s medium to long-term strategy.
One of the most commonly used product prioritization management frameworks is RICE prioritization. It will enable you to tangibly weigh the importance of each action item by putting a number in front of it.
Another crucial 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 by prioritizing features ruthlessly.
This is where the product is built and shipped to the customers. 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 new features or modifications are beneficial to the users. Good analysis for product management is quantitative, comparable, and actionable.
This is where product usage tracking solutions such as Mixpanel and Pendo can come in quite handy.
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.
A challenge you might encounter here is deciding which customer feedback to work on first. Here, you can have your team members vote on the received suggestions to make the right decision.
Phew! That was a long list of responsibilities.
The scope of those responsibilities depends on your job description in your organization. Let’s take a look at the different roles in product management.
Job titles in Product Management
There are many 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 experience 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 this list. 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 have different levels of expertise depending on the organization which was explained earlier.
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 higher recognition 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 new title on the block.
They are in senior positions and work on critical products 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 management 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.
In various instances above, we mentioned some skills of the product managers that help them keep everything together. Let’s take a look at the most important skills of a product manager.
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
The above product management skills help teams perform their tasks and responsibilities effectively. Speaking of responsibilities, let’s take a look at what rests on product management’s shoulders.
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. Product managers are the ones who drives the process of product management. It is also responsible for a variety of other tasks, from ideation to discontinuation. Here are the most important functions of product management.
Product management is in charge of coming up with and gathering new ideas to improve existing products or to introduce new features. These ideas are further evaluated based on market research.
Product management always keeps an eye on the market and 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
Value proposition is the list of benefits your customer will get after using your product. Product positioning determines how your product will be perceived by your target audience.
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 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 the product throughout its lifecycle
This is one of the most important reasons why product management is crucial.
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.
Product management’s definition can range from one sentence to, well, this entire post. Either way, it is mandatory for a product’s business success. It consists of various processes that build and develop a product over time to retain or enhance its desirability.
To make this process a success, different types of product managers have to become the jack of all trades. As a PM, you have to understand all the product management’s descriptions and types to generate the most value for your customers and company.
For that, you need the right tool. A tool that enables you to manage all the processes of product management.
Zeda.io is a super app for PMs and product teams. You can build, manage, and optimize various product management workflows from here while bringing data from other apps in your tech stack via integrations.
It is your all-in-one HQ for product management.
The best part is, it takes minutes to get started.
- What is a product management introduction?
Product management is a process that builds and manages a product throughout its lifecycle.
- What does product management mean?
Product management is a crucial process that ensures the desirability of a product for maximum business value.
- What is the concept of product management?
Product management is a strategic function of a product-based company that directs the product in every phase of development and iteration.
- What are the 3 major areas of product management?
Discovery planning, and development are the three major areas of product management.
- What are the main components of product management?
Idea management, specification determination, road mapping, prioritization, delivery, analytics, and feedback are the seven crucial components of product management.
- What is the role of product management?
Product management oversees the process that retains or enhances the desirability of a product in its target market.
- What are the key aims of product management?
Identifying customer needs, allocation of resources, developing a desirable solution, and maintaining a product are the key aims of product management.
- What is an example of product management?
The best example is when a PM collects customer feedback and creates features to meet their needs.
- What are the different types of products?
Products can be broadly classified into three categories: consumer, industrial, and service.
- Is product management a skill?
Product management is an umbrella skill that consists of a diverse set of skills like resource management, prioritization, communication, etc.
- How product management helps companies?
Product management maximizes profit by building the most desirable product in the market with the least investment.
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