Product Management 101
Let’s start from the beginning, product management is the process of creating and bringing a product to the market. Talking this way, it seems very simple and straight to the point, right? But product management can be more complex than you think. The type of activities you might have may also depend on the type of product you’ll be working on.
Product management activities will include identifying customer needs to develop a product to meet those needs and then promoting and selling this product. It involves working with different teams such as product design, engineering, user research, marketing, sales and partnership teams to ensure the product is successful.
If we could summarize this complex role, we’d say that product management is about making sure the right product is built and sold to the right people.
I’m creating a series with straight-forward articles about the world of Product Management. I also wrote about program management if you’re interested in reading about it as well.
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What does a product manager do?
A product manager (PM) is responsible for various areas including the strategy, roadmap and feature definition of a product or product line. The PM should work cross-functionally all the time to ensure the success of the product.
Some specific responsibilities of a Product Manager may include:
- Identify customer needs
- Identify market opportunities
- Develop a product vision
- Develop a product roadmap
- Defining and prioritizing product features
- Collaborating with cross-functional teams specially product design, user research and engineering to bring the product to life
- Work with marketing to develop go-to-market strategies and launch plans
- Analyze customer feedback and market data that will guide adjustments to the product
- Manage the product life cycle, including end-of-life decisions
- Act as the internal and external advocate for the product with different teams and stakeholders
Main responsibilities of a product manager
Product managers are responsible for many different things, especially ensuring the product they are managing meets customer needs, if the product is able to be built by the engineering team and can be sold and also supported by the company.
- Product Strategy: Develop and maintain a clear product vision and strategy aligned with the company goals.
- Market Research: Conduct market research and stay up-to-date on industry trends, as long as customer needs and competitive landscape.
- Product Roadmap: Create and maintain a product roadmap that outlines the product development and launch plans.
- Feature Definition: Define and prioritize product features based on customer needs and market opportunities.
- Cross-functional Collaboration: Work closely with engineering, design, user research, marketing, sales, program management and other teams to bring the product to market and ensure its success.
- Go-to-Market (GTM) Strategy: In collaboration with the marketing team, develop and execute go-to-market strategies and launch plans.
- Metrics and Analytics: Use data and metrics to track the product performance and make adjustments as needed.
- Customer Feedback: Gather and incorporate customer feedback into the product development process working very closely with cross-functional teams especially the user research team.
- Budget and Resource Management: Manage the product budget and resources to ensure the product is developed and launched on time and within budget.
- Product Lifecycle Management: Oversee the entire product lifecycle, including end-of-life decisions.
Important to note that product manager roles may vary based on the size of the company and the specific product they are managing.
How do we get into product management?
There are a few different ways to get into product management, depending on your background and experience. Some common paths include:
- Related field: Many product managers start their careers in a related field such as user research, engineering, design, marketing, or sales. Gaining experience in one of these areas can provide valuable skills and knowledge that can be applied to product management.
- Getting an MBA: An MBA can be a great way to gain the business and leadership skills needed for product management. Many MBA programs offer courses and electives specifically focused on product management.
- Intern or entry-level roles: Some companies offer internships or entry-level roles in product management, which can provide an opportunity to gain experience and work your way up to a full-time product management role. Look for Associate Product Manager (APM) roles as well.
- Joining a startup: Joining a startup can provide an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in product management and have a direct impact on the success of the company since you might need to perform many different roles. It’s an accelerated way to learn about product management.
- Networking: Networking with people in product management roles can be a great way to learn more about the field and get your foot in the door.
- Taking a training program: There are many product management training programs and certifications, both online and offline, which can provide a great introduction to the field and help you to build a strong foundation and knowledge needed for product management.
- Gain experience: The most important thing is to gain experience and develop the skills that are important for product management, such as customer research, problem-solving, communication, and strategic thinking.
Where are the product manager opportunities out there?
Product management opportunities can be found in a wide variety of industries and companies, both large and small. Some common places to find product management roles include:
- Tech companies: Many technology companies have product management roles. These companies are often at the forefront of innovation and are constantly developing new products and features.
- Startups: Startups often have smaller teams and more flexible structures, and can provide an opportunity to gain hands-on experience and have a direct impact on the success of the company.
- Ecommerce companies: Ecommerce companies typically have a wide variety of products and features, and PMs play a key role in developing and launching new products and features, as well as optimizing existing ones.
- Consulting firms: Some consulting firms specialize in product management and work with clients across different industries to help them develop and launch new products.
- Large enterprises: Many large enterprises have product management roles. These companies often have established product lines and well-defined processes for product development and launch.
- Non-profit organizations: Product management roles can also be found in non-profit organizations, particularly those that have a focus on technology or innovation.
Opportunities for product management can be found in nearly every industry and in a variety of different types of companies. It’s important to consider not only the company and industry, but also the specific product or product line you will be working on, as well as the company culture and values.
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