What Is PLM? Product Lifecycle Management Career Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn about PLM systems, tools, and careers in this quick guide.

[Featured Image] A woman leads a meeting with a product lifecycle team meet to discuss the development of a product as it goes through the product lifecycle stages.

What is PLM?

PLM, or product lifecycle management, is the process of managing of a product as it moves through the four stages of the product lifecycle (introduction, growth, maturity, and decline).

In practice, product lifecycle management aims to support products in unique ways that correspond to their current lifecycle phase. Job functions involved in PLM include design, development, manufacturing, pricing, and marketing. 

Fundamentals of PLM

PLM plays a role in helping developers (sometimes manufacturers) create the next version of products in ways that are more efficient and cost-effective. Product managers typically use strategy to manage this process. Fundamentals of PLM include:

  • Secure management of documents and product information

  • Maintaining a central repository of product information throughout its lifecycle

  • Managing business processes used to manage, share, and use the information

This may involve project management, workflow management, the use of software tools, and change management systems.

What is the product lifecycle?

There are four common stages for the product lifecycle:

1. Introduction stage. Product launches are where the lifecycle begins. 

2. Growth stage. Successful, quality products move into the growth stage, where profit margins increase due to higher consumer demand. 

3. Maturity stage. Often the most profitable stage in the lifecycle, the maturity stage is marked by an increase in competition and a decrease in marketing and production costs. 

4. Decline stage. This final stage occurs when a product loses significant market share. 

Read more: What Is Product Lifecycle? 4 Stages + How to Manage Them.


How does PLM work?

One of the benefits of project lifecycle management is that it helps to determine if a product is worth pursuing and if it will be marketable and profitable. A PLM plan can help to increase productivity and reduce the time it takes to get a product to market.

Careful planning can also help eliminate waste and minimize company risks. It also allows companies to understand when a product has reached the end of its lifecycle and when it’s time to focus on new innovations.

Product lifecycle manager skills and responsibilities

Product management involves taking on varied responsibilities. As a product manager, you may also need to assume the role of a PLM analyst or product owner, and have the following concepts and skills under your belt:

  • Product strategy. This is the foundation of all product management activities, including planning, product data management, development, and marketing.

  • User experience design. As a product manager, you must understand user experience design principles and methods.

  • Agile PLM software. You’ll need to understand Agile software product development concepts, methodologies, and tools. Product visualization software is an example that can help solidify initial concepts, while collaborative product development tools streamline business processes across departments or functions.

  • Business analysis. You ensure that under-development products are commercially viable. Business analysis skills may help you create a compelling business case, share data along the product value chain, and identify critical requirements.  

  • Leadership. The ability to inspire a team to execute product strategy is critical to your success as a product manager. Product leaders must be able to rally all necessary employees around a single vision and motivate them to take it from concept to reality.  

  • Communication skills. You'll need to communicate with everyone involved in your product development process and be able to talk and explain your product. This means presenting information clearly and succinctly.

  • Collaboration: As a product manager, you’re not solely responsible for the success or failure of the product, but you will be making critical decisions for it. It takes many people to bring a product to life, from manufacturing to quality assurance, to packaging. Collaboration is key to a successful outcome.

  • Engineering expertise: As a product manager, it's essential to understand how the technology that powers your product works because it can help you make better decisions. Having a fundamental understanding of mechanical design and simulation can be highly beneficial. 

Salary of a product lifecycle manager

According to Glassdoor, the average base salary for a product lifecycle manager in the US is $100,773 annually [1]. Product lifecycle managers also reported an average additional pay of $21,186 for a total salary of $131,866. Your salary may be influenced by factors like experience level, industry type, company, and location.

How to become a product lifecycle manager

While there’s no one specific career path to becoming a product (lifestyle) manager, you must have experience, knowledge, qualifications, or certifications in the product management and development field. Use the steps below to visualize a potential PLM career path. 

1. Consider earning a relevant degree.

According to Zippia, 72 percent of product managers have a bachelor's degree, 17 percent have a master's degree, and 7 percent have an associate degree [2]. Relevant academic programs for aspiring product managers to pursue include business management, marketing, electrical engineering, and computer science.

For example, future product managers may enroll to earn a Master of Science in Management from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign online:

2. Develop key skills.

Sales and analytical skills are crucial for product lifecycle management careers. Transferable skills from any former employment unrelated to PLM may also be relevant and useful. For example, communication, problem-solving, and leadership are essential to the role. 

If you don’t have experience in product lifecycle development, taking online courses or earning career credentials can help enhance your resume. Even those with experience can benefit from continued professional development, given the technical nature of PLM. 

3. Consider getting certified.

Two certification programs are available from the Project Management Institute (PMI):

  • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM): Offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the requirements for certification include a high school diploma and an associate degree. To sit for the exam, you need to complete 23 hours of project management education.

  • Project Management Professional (PMP): To qualify for the exam, you need a four-year degree, 36 months of experience leading projects, and 35 hours of project management education or training. As an alternative, a candidate can possess a high school diploma and an associate degree along with six months of experience leading projects and 35 hours of project management education or hold CAPM certification.

Read more: CAPM vs. PMP: Which Is Best for You?

Careers in PLM

Do you like solving problems while leading a team? Are you interested in working through and understanding product development and business strategy? If so, a career in product lifecycle management is a great option to consider. 

PLM professionals are often referred to as product managers or product lifecycle managers. However, specific job titles may vary depending on the industry in question. For example, a PLM professional who focuses on software products and has experience in software development may hold the title of PLM engineer. Large organizations with complex corporate systems may hire for roles like global principle solution architect or PLM coordinator

Take the next step toward PLM

You can learn project management skills from an industry leader in technology with Google's Project Management Professional Certificate. It's 100% online and self-paced. After completion, you can directly apply for jobs at Google, Best Buy, and more. If you're considering earning the CAPM, this certificate qualifies you for over 100 hours of project management education.

Article sources


Glassdoor. "How much does a product lifecycle manager make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/product-lifecycle-manager-salary-SRCH_KO0,25.htm." Accessed August 30, 2023.

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