Whether you’re interested in either hiring a product manager or becoming a product manager, it’s important to take some time to understand the role and what the field of product management is all about.
The title of product manager is unique. Though often confused with a project manager, the responsibilities they have and the roles they play are different.
Product managers lead projects, like project managers, but their projects always involve developing a product to deliver to a customer base. This involves market research, project planning, cross-functional team leadership and more. Read on to learn everything you need to know before hiring, or becoming, a product manager.
What Is Product Management?
Before going into detail about the product manager, the field of product management needs defining. Within an organization, there is a way to deal with the planning, forecasting, marketing and production of a product, which is known as product management.
Within this product management life cycle, there are methods to integrate people, data, processes and business systems. As the cycle is executed, product information is gathered for the company and its extended supply chain enterprise. The discipline of product management can focus on both product development and product marketing, which are different but complementary.
Objective and Focus
The objective of product management is to maximize sales, revenue, market share and profit margins. There is also something called “elimination decisions” that’s involved in product management, which identifies what must be eliminated from a process. This includes reporting on the impact an elimination decision will have on the whole business.
The focus of product management is to drive new product development. That is, new products that are better and differentiated to create benefits and value for the customer. The customer’s reaction is the main indicator of product profitability and success in product management.
Product management varies in its function and role depending on the size of the company, and often the role of product manager is shared among more than one employee.
What Does a Product Manager Do?
Product managers are responsible for many things. For one, they lead the team to deliver an end product. That means they are the ones who come up with the strategy to do so. This is called a product roadmap.
They have a product life cycle that helps manage the delivery of the product, for which the product manager is responsible. They also are in charge of determining what the defining feature of the product will be. The product manager will often work with the project manager, as well as the customer and sales team.
Basically, the product manager is an organizational role. Beyond the responsibilities laid out above, the product manager can also lead the marketing for the product, which involves forecasting and profit analysis.
Establishes a Vision
So, the product manager comes up with a product vision and follows that up with a strategy. The idea being, again, to create benefits and value for a customer. To achieve this, the product manager will analyze market and competitive conditions to strike a clear path towards the business value of the product and make that clear to the team.
Creates a Plan for the Product Team
The product manager will also define what the product team delivers and when, creating a project timeline and schedule for implementation. That means making a release plan, which will feature actionable feedback and ideas, as well as prioritizing the product features.
The leadership of a product manager is cross-functional. They work with nearly everyone, including engineering, sales, marketing and support teams. Therefore, a product manager must have communication skills to listen and articulate to a wide spectrum of individuals in different disciplines. The product roadmap is a key tool for this purpose and keeps people aware of updates throughout the product life cycle.
The Different Roles in Product Management
Product management is a growing field. There is a demand for the seasoned product manager, but also entry points for those with less experience and skills working in the discipline. Depending on your level of experience, there is likely a fit somewhere in the profession, if you look for it.
There are various positions in product management. The associate is an entry-level rank, who reports to the product manager or group product manager. Often those who land in this position will find themselves being mentored to learn from experience and will be guided as they start their career in product management.
A product manager is a more managerial position, as stated above. They work with cross-functional teams, analyze markets and bridge the gaps in organization between different groups. The next step up is the group product manager, who leads the product team and is usually responsible for a specific group of products.
Upper Management Roles
Higher still is the director of product management. This position reports to the VP of product and is part of a larger organization. They can also report directly to the CEO or business leader, depending on the size of the organization. It is a senior management role, one that requires experience.
The vice president of product management is a position in big companies, which are more established and have a management hierarchy. They report to the C-level executive and lead a large team of product managers. Then there is the chief product office, who reports to the CEO and is responsible for all product-related activities in an organization. They tend to work on overall strategic initiatives that are aligned with a company’s goals and objectives.
Product Manager Job Description
The responsibilities of a product manager include developing products through market research. They then combine those findings with general requirements, specifications, timetables, pricing and plans to complete development and marketing strategies.
Product managers are often required to do the following:
- Know customer needs through research and market data
- Develop product lines and appraise new ideas for market viability
- Assess competition by comparing products
- Create product marketing communications objectives
- Work with the sales director to create product sales strategies
- Work with customers and sales to evaluate sales call results
- Create long- and short-term product sales forecasts and analysis for management
- Review inventory levels and production schedules for product availability
- Bring new products to market with return-on-investment analysis
- Market new products with sales, advertising and production teams
- Determine product pricing based on market research, production costs and anticipated demand
- Schedule and assign operational requirements to follow up on work results
- Manage the product team, including coaching and disciplinary actions, planning, monitoring and job appraisal
- Continue professional and technical education, attending workshops, seminars, etc.
The product manager is also expected to have knowledge in the following areas:
- Product management and product development
- People management and customer research
- Requirements analysis including pricing and planning
- Competitive analysis
- Sales planning and inventory control
- Financial planning and strategy
Product Manager Salary
In terms of compensation, the base salary for a product management position will range greatly depending on position, region and industry. In the U.S., average pay is $114,000 a year, but can increase to over $1 million for a CPO or similar executive position.
Product managers have a lot of responsibilities and work with huge volumes of data, which is why they need a management tool that can help them collect, assess and report on those findings. ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based software that has real-time dashboards and online Gantt charts to monitor, report and schedule, respectively. See how it can help your product management by taking this free 30-day trial.