Product management means overseeing the life cycle of a product and championing customer needs throughout the process. When organizations are working on a product, it can be easy to get lost in the details. A Product Manager (PM) helps ensure that each team’s work contributes to the big picture and serves the customer.
Key points to remember
Product management means balancing user experience, business goals, and technical feasibility.
A product manager (PM) is responsible for product management. A PM oversees the product and all stages of its life cycle, from initial product development to product decline.
Understanding the customer problem your product will solve is the most important job for a PM. The key skills a PM needs are: problem solving, good communication and strategic thinking.
What is Product Management?
Product management involves overseeing product strategy and development to balance three important elements:
In a business, a Product manager is responsible for finding this balance. While teams focus on the “how” of creating or updating a product, the PM remains focused on the “why”. They are present at every stage of the product development process to ensure that the products deliver value to the customer.
Product managers strive to balance business goals, user experience, and technology.
The focus of a product manager will change based on the needs of different teams. For example, if the development team needs help cleaning up the backlog, a product manager will step in to help refine the user stories. If things are going well on the technical side, they will focus elsewhere, for example, they might meet with the marketing team to discuss product and messaging marketing strategy.
What is product management not?
You will find some companies where product managers care about team efficiency and execution – they will work to identify optimizations in the product plan. It’s not product management.
Project managers and scrum masters are also involved in shaping the work of different teams to produce a product, but their focus is not the same as that of a product manager. Let’s see the differences:
- Product manager : Balance user experience, business and technology to solve a customer problem and create a successful product
- Project Manager: Coordinate and optimize resources to ensure the product vision is executed as efficiently as possible
- Melee Master: Lead an agile team and remove obstacles to facilitate success
Who is involved in the product management process?
A product manager collaborates with these different teams and stakeholders to balance the needs that will be addressed by the product:
Customers and users to understand the opportunities and problems to be solved
Business leaders and internal stakeholders to understand business needs
UX designers to adjust user flows and resolve user issues
Engineers and product teams to help develop products
Customer support and success teams to understand where customers are struggling
Understand the product management process
The product management process begins with understanding the problem you are trying to solve for the customer. A product manager is responsible for keeping this issue at the center of all product decisions.
A clear understanding of the customer problem that a product will solve is the most important part of product management. Product managers need a clear picture of their customer’s journey to identify where their product can help them. To do this effectively, they conduct market research and speak to customers on a regular basis. They don’t make assumptions about what customers want and ask clarifying questions.
The next step is to develop hypotheses about how to solve a problem and perform hypothesis validation. Suppose you develop a hypothesis that a new filtering feature will help your customers navigate your platform more easily. You can create a mockup of the new feature and do A/B testing with a small group of customers to see if the feature would be useful.
Then comes the time of implementation. At this stage, a product manager develops a product strategy and creates a product roadmap to align the team on the work to be done. They will guide teams to create a Minimum Viable Product or Minimum Lovable Product, ensuring that no one loses sight of the customer problem.
The product will go through various iterations with testing after each change. Product managers use user testing data (for example, engagement rate or click-through rate) to determine how users react to the new product or feature.
The work of a product manager does not stop once a new product has been developed, he is involved in all stages of the product life cycle:
- Introduction: PM helps develop and launch the product
- Growth: PM helps teams release product iterations to drive sales growth
- Maturity: PM is focused on retaining customers and maintaining product functionality
- Decline: The project manager decides to “keep, delete or restart” the product: keep the product on the market, withdraw the product from the market or release a new version of the product
Steps to create a product strategy
One of the main tasks of product managers is to create the strategy for a new product. Strategy communicates the big picture to teams, so everyone stays aligned.
Here are the steps a product manager will take to create a product strategy:
Research the customer, the market and the competition.
Create a positioning statement that:
Defines client personas – their goals, pain points and pain points.
Defines the product vision – how the product solves the customer’s problem.
Explain why the product is better or different from competitors’ products.
Set goals that describe how they will determine if the product has achieved the positioning statement.
Define KPIs that detail the metrics they will use to measure progress toward goals.
After creating a product strategy, the product manager will create a product roadmap with more detailed development milestones.
Key Competencies for Product Management
To successfully perform product management functions, you need a solid understanding of your customer, your organization’s business goals, and the technology used to create your products. Product management skills allow you to use this knowledge to guide teams in resolving customer issues.
At the heart of product development is problem solving. Product managers should collaborate with the team to find solutions for how a product can help customers in a way that makes sense to engineers and serves business goals.
Product managers need great communication skills. As a product manager, you don’t necessarily have authority because the teams don’t report directly to you. This means leading by getting people on your side with your storytelling and product vision.
Logical and strategic thinking is also important. Product managers need to understand data and use it to inform their decision making. Being driven by data rather than your opinion requires flexibility. Product managers need to have the humility to look at the data and say “I’m wrong,” instead of sticking to their opinions.
Product Management Careers
If you are interested in a product manager career path, consider that there are career paths and product management roles at different levels:
- Entry level: Associate or Junior Product Manager – they help and assist the PM.
- Average level: Product manager
- Leadership: Product Leader, Chief Product Officer, VP of Product – these are senior level roles that focus on an organization’s overall product strategy.
Other roles related to product management include product owners and technical product managers. Product Owners have a more short-term view than Product Managers. They work on smaller details of product development and translate the product manager’s vision into a backlog for the engineering team.
A technical product manager will typically have a background in software development. They should have more technical skills than a typical project manager, as they focus on the technical operation of the product and how it fits into the company’s software ecosystem.
Additional Resources for Product Managers
These resources will help you learn key product management concepts.
External product managers:
Now that you know the basics of product management, learn how to set the right metrics with ournorth star playbook.