The Ultimate Guide to Product Management

Product management is responsible for ensuring a product’s success using research, careful planning, and multidisciplinary collaboration. Product managers work with sales, marketing, development, and executive teams to plan, oversee, and actualize new products.

The job title has increased in popularity in recent years and many larger companies have multiple product managers that focus on specific goals such as growth, data analysis, and technical development. 

This article will explain the critical duties of product management and illustrate how valuable they are to a company’s success. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What is product management?
  • Product management versus project management
  • The product management process
  • The importance of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
  • Product management roadmaps
  • Essential qualities of a product manager

What is product management?

Product managers are in charge of a product’s whole lifecycle, from innovation to development to market launch and even withdrawal. They take market research and user interviews to design a valuable and marketable product.

There can be one or many product managers, depending on the size and scope of the company. People with different job titles may work together and, each takes on portions of the product management responsibilities. The job involves working with numerous other departments to get everyone on the same page regarding the product’s vision and lifecycle. 

The duties of a PM vary based on a company’s structure, industry, and culture. For example, the PM for a shoe designer will spend a lot of time with orthopedic experts, fashion designers, and brand managers. A PM for a wellness app may work more closely with tech experts examining user activity and tweaking the app’s design. 

Typical duties of a PM include:

  • Conducting market research to decide on and design a product
  • Pitching ideas to stakeholders and company leaders
  • Guiding engineers in the design process
  • Developing marketing and branding strategies
  • Analyzing data on product performance

Product management expert, Joe Gothelf, puts it nicely:

 “Over the years, the product manager role has become the nexus of many functions. Today, we are responsible for straddling business needs and customer needs.”

Day-to-day tasks of a product manager typically include:

  • Conducting research

A large part of product management is understanding your market, users, and competition. Researching product successes and failures, new relevant technology, and potential opportunities to fill needs play a huge part in the beginnings of a product’s lifecycle. 

Once a product has been released and live, PMs get constant feedback and see what can be improved or changed. It’s important that they are skilled at analyzing large chunks of data and relaying it back to decision-makers.

  • Defining product roadmaps and visions

After research and development, product managers draft the roadmap detailing the product’s timeline, milestones, and goals. The product roadmap serves as the vision and inspiration that keeps teams working towards a united goal. Product Managers present this to stakeholders for approval and then use it during the entire process to guide the team. 

  • Leading meetings with various departments

PMs communicate goals and decisions to each team member and group. They provide sales members with the tools they need to interact with customers and sell with confidence. They describe essential features to engineers/designers and explain why certain aspects must be one way or another. PMs also report new developments and strategies to upper management.

For this reason, product managers must be excellent communicators. It’s on them to keep everyone working toward the same vision. 

  • Analyzing feedback

Product managers must be in tune with users’ reactions, desires, and problems. Looking at feedback from existing products, past products, and current surveys is how you provide more innovative, smarter solutions. It’s the job of product management teams to create better solutions to customers’ problems. 

Product Management Versus Project Management 

Whereas the goal of a project manager is to plan and direct projects, the goal of a product manager is to provide the highest level of customer delight possible through the product that they manage alongside their team.

Project managers are task-oriented, focusing on progress, project resources, and maintaining schedules. They take a plan and make sure it gets finished successfully and on time. Product managers focus more on creating a product’s vision and developing a plan on how to achieve it.

The product management process 

  1. Identify problems and pain points through research
  2. Evaluate the problem
  3. Brainstorm and research potential solutions (products/features)
  4. Build a Minimum Viable Product
  5. Evaluate feedback
  6. Plan and oversee execution

 The importance of Minimum Viable Products (MVP)

A Minimum Viable Product is a basic product used to test the waters before investing your full time and energy into a final product. An MVP can be put on the market quickly for the purpose of receiving validation, testing the idea, and making sure there’s an interested customer base.

Product managers will use an MVP to test a number of factors like:

  • Is the product attracting new customers or existing ones?
  • Is the idea sparking interest?
  • Which features of the product are receiving the most praise?

Once feedback has been received, PM teams use it to improve their plans and convince stakeholders that the product will be successful. 

Product management roadmaps

A product roadmap is an all-encompassing summary that communicates the vision, direction, and progress of a product over time. It outlines when phases should be complete, when new features should be released, and gives the team a “why” and “what” to work towards. 

The roadmap also helps stakeholders understand why certain decisions have been made and see what will come next. All involved parties have access to the roadmap, so they understand the central goal.

Not only do product roadmaps keep everyone inspired, they protect teams from straying too far from the plan. New ideas pop up along the way and can quickly overshadow the original vision. With a strong roadmap, it’s clear when to adapt the plan and when to stick firmly to it.

Roadmaps may change along the way. It is a guide to maintain a cohesive vision, but it can be adapted based on new findings, technology, and UX needs. 

Essential qualities of a product manager

  • Communication and leadership
    • Listening and public speaking are big parts of the job. Not only do PM’s have to communicate plans and visions with numerous teams, they have to listen to and acknowledge feedback from happy and dissatisfied customers. 
  • Business knowledge
    • It’s no small task to take part in researching, planning, and executing a new product. PM’s need to be up to date on market trends, economic developments, and general business outcomes.  
  • Prioritization
    • When working with so many different teams, it’s hard to manage one’s time. Being able to prioritize tasks and delegate the less important ones is essential to success if you don’t want to feel like you’re drowning in work.  
  • Ability to motivate and mobilize others
    • Storytelling is how PM’s inspire stakeholders, engineers, executives, marketers, and sales teams to band together with a common goal. Teams work more cohesively if they have a strong reason for their actions. A motivational product manager can communicate visions in a way that keeps everyone inspired.

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