What, exactly, does a Product Manager do? Actually, the Product Manager job description varies but there is a common set of skills and responsibilities for all Product Managers. The following list of 10 guidelines about a Product Manager’s job role will give you a solid sense of how you may fit into this dynamic position.
1. Product Managers Must Understand the Problem
You must know what problem your new product is supposed to solve, and how.
No matter the market, no matter the customer, seldom does a product succeed that doesn’t address a real human need. As a PM, you must clearly and completely understand what problem your product is supposed to solve, and how it will solve it uniquely. If there are already other similar alternatives in the marketplace, why should people buy yours? What is the single, unique, compelling reason to buy your product instead of everybody else’s? Without knowing this, you cannot be a successful Product Manager.
But if you can research your product’s strengths and weaknesses, do the same for your competition, and communicate real customers’ needs to your design and production teams, you are on your way to delivering innovative, high-quality products that succeed. And that is the goal of the Product Manager: Successful product innovation and sales.
2. A Product Manager Is a Valuable Resource
Product Managers provide vision, design and production management, and user experience skills.
Product Managers thrive at the intersection of user experience, product development, and business. They love making new connections with customers, they love making new products, and they love making profits and growing brands.
One of the biggest roles of the Product Manager (PM) is to speak from the user’s standpoint. There are enough engineers, marketers, salespeople, and upper managers on the project already. Somebody needs to stand up for the customer’s needs and concerns. That’s one important part of the PM’s job. Through one-on-one interviews, surveys, product testing, social media, and anything you can think of, you need to get the customer’s viewpoint and make it a part of your product’s design process.
3. Product Management Requires Many Skills
Several personal qualities make up a good Product Manager.
Good Product Managers often come from a variety of disciplines or fields. Many times these areas and disciplines are related to the kinds of products they end up managing. There is a simple reason for this. A Product Manager has a hands-on role in the vision, research, design, development, marketing, sales, launch, support, and final wind-down of a product. In short, from concept to delivery to end-of-life, the PM is the product leader — some say the CEO — of the product.
The skillset of a good Product Manager includes:
- Logical thinking
- Strategic planning
- Productive curiosity in research
- Empathetic customer interviewing
- Insightful market analysis
- Creative problem solving
- Visionary feature planning
- Disciplined task scheduling
- Hands-on production ability
- Organized business habits
- Proactive daily communications
- Collaborative team building
That’s a lot to expect of one person. Almost nobody has everything. But a healthy sampling of these in your toolbox might make you an excellent candidate for a Product Manager position. Most of all you must be curious, organized, and communicative. You must be devoted to research, addicted to organization, and hooked on communication. These are the essence of a PM’s day.
4. The Product Manager Has Many Duties
Since the scope of the PM is broad, so is the range of responsibilities.
Here is a list of the many things a PM must do throughout their career:
- Determine customer needs — understand their problems: survey, interview, and hold product focus groups with customers
- Analyze customer data and distribute reports to relevant departments
- Specify market research requirements
- Review current product features and specifications
- Compare competition’s products to company’s offerings
- Define the vision of new products
- Recommend future products and product lines
- Prepare return-on-investment (ROI) analyses for new product proposals
- Drive the direction of new products
- Develop a Roadmap of the new product lifecycle, from concept to end-of-life
- Define product development communications policies
- Meet personally with everyone involved, including a selection of customers
- Determine product pricing using all business data and projected sales
- Plan marketing, advertising, and sales strategies with the appropriate departments
- Review and adjust inventory production schedules and levels
Define time schedules with engineering and production
- Coordinate product testing and quality assurance
- Assume a hands-on approach to any and all project tasks when necessary
- Keep all teams fully informed on project status and all relevant data
- Brief management periodically on status, budget, milestones, and business goal attainment
- Assign and schedule employees and keep track of employment results
- Manage personnel friction and problems as they arise
- After launch, keep on top of analytics and keep all others informed
- Maintain responsibility for the product through to the end-of-life cycle, as tasked
- Repeat the process, or manage multiple products in parallel
5. The Product Manager Communicates With All Relevant Teams
The Product Manager joins all the product’s teams with the customer’s needs.
There are several teams involved in the creative design and successful deployment of a new product. They must all be brought into the loop from the very beginning of the process and kept up-to-date throughout the lifecycle of the product. They must all stay in sync and on task.
- Engineering, IT
- Customer Service
- Quality Assurance
- Customers and Users
6. There is Not Just One Kind of Product Manager
Every product requires a different product management strategy.
While mostly associated with technology products these days, the role of Product Manager has been around for a long time. There are various levels of seniority available, providing a clear career path.
- Junior Product Manager: Definition varies widely throughout the various industries, as does pay. Assists in the hand-on management of the product. Reports to the Senior Product Manager. Acts as a buffer between the Senior Product Manager and the rest of the team. 1-4 years of experience required.
- Associate Product Manager: Assists and reports to the Senior Product Manager. Generally has wide creative latitude and a certain degree of decision making authority. 3-5 years professional experience usually required. There is a great deal of overlap between an Associate Product Manager and a Junior Product Manager, sometimes just the title is different.
- Senior Product Manager: Head product manager. Considered the CEO of the product. Often makes a six-figure salary. Takes responsibility for the entire project. Extensive successful experience required.
If you want to find out if this career is worthwhile (in terms of money), read our salary guide, and discover how much a product manager makes.
7. All Industries Need Product Managers
Any company that produces a product has to manage that production.
Realistically, any industry that produces a product needs Product Managers. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Not all industries have a history of using PMs, though. Technology, as stated above, is a teeming source of PM jobs. IT Product Managers, Website Product Managers, Technical Product Managers, the list goes on and on.
The entertainment industry has become a hotbed of product management jobs. As the decades-long demise of the Hollywood studio system continues and the grip of cable television disintegrates, more independent news, streaming video, music, and social media production requires vast numbers of individual projects to manage. Each needs a Product Manager.
Healthcare, banking, finance, and the growing Internet of Things (IoT) are more examples of industries that are producing product after product into the marketplace. Jobs are plentiful, if you are ready.
8. Product Management Has a Future
There is no chance that companies will stop developing products for sale.
If you’re looking for a future in Product Management, creativity will still be required in 2020 and beyond. So will people management, complex problem solving, and critical thinking, according to a World Economic Forum report. These are all defining parts of a Product Manager’s day. Investing in your product management skills now will help you build a stable, rewarding, and long-lasting career.
9. Product Managers Don’t Always Do It All Themselves
Not every Product Manager is a lone wolf. Often there are teams of PMs.
Every company has a unique way of doing business. Not every company gives a PM the autonomy that other firms give. Many times the role of Product Manager is divided between multiple people. For example, there may be a Product Marketing Manager, a Product Development Manager, and a Product Launch Manager, all on the same project. These must coordinate and keep each other informed of their unique research, goals, and all other product information, in addition to maintaining a unified front to the other departments, the management, and the customer base.
Sometimes decision-making power is not granted to the Product Management team. This decision makes it necessary to give presentations more often to upper management, and to justify the PM’s positions more thoroughly than if they had the authority to go ahead without seeking permission. This requirement is neither bad nor good, it is simply a business control decision based on the structure of the company. It can slow down production, but the upper management knows this, so it is not an issue the PM needs to worry about.
10. The Product Manager Develops the Product Roadmap
The vision, features, and feature definitions are laid down by the PM.
How your product goes from concept to profitable release, then all the way to end-of-life, is described in detail by the product Roadmap. The PM is responsible for developing this roadmap.
The Roadmap tells not only the story of design and production but details how the product and the process will maximize bottom-line business value for the company. It’s not enough to innovate.
The product must be profitable, too, if that is the business goal of the product. If you are a Product Brand Manager and the purpose of the product is to raise brand awareness, then the product must be measurably successful in that category. This achievement determines your success or failure as a Product Manager.
Some believe that Project Manager is the most exciting job on the planet.
What excites you in a job? Is it constant action, never-ending learning, continuous interaction with customers, engineers, marketers, salespersons, management and everyone else involved in new product development? How about shepherding an innovative new product from concept to delivery and beyond? Then the Product Manager Job Description is what you are looking for, and you’ve found it here.
What do you think?
Is the Project Manager job description for you? Do you have the qualities it takes? Did this post move you to take action towards a Project Manager Job?