What Is Product Management: Definition, Types, And Responsibilities

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Determine whether the product management career field is for you. Discover the basics of what product management is and the best product manager certifications to consider in this guide.

[Feature Image] A product Manager is developing a product with their team.

Product management encompasses a wide range of responsibilities that support a product’s start to finish in its life cycle. Product managers use data and investigative analysis to determine what customers want and ensure that the teams build and market relevant products to their targeted audience.

This role will require creativity, curiosity, and leadership, and it’s a  fulfilling career enjoyed by more than 41,000 Americans [1]. Strong problem-solving abilities, adaptability, and the desire to create solutions are among the qualities that could make you a successful product manager. In this article, learn more about product management, the requirements to enter the field, and how to get started.

What is product management?

Product management is the process of developing, doing market releases, and managing a product or service. A product manager is responsible for the success or failure of the product. As a product manager, you'll work with cross-functional teams to ensure that a product meets the customer’s needs and can be supplied to them while generating a profit.

Product management responsibilities

Product management is a multi-faceted role that encompasses everything from product development and strategy to marketing and sales. As a product manager, it’ll be your job to ensure a product meets its target market's needs and that it’s positioned correctly in the marketplace. The product manager is also responsible for developing go-to-market strategies, managing budgets, and overseeing all aspects of the product lifecycle. 

Here are some responsibilities of a product manager: 

  • Conducting research and investigative analysis: Conducting research is one of the most important responsibilities of a product manager. Research helps you understand users’ needs, the competition, and the market. This understanding is essential to developing a successful strategy for the product.

  • Developing strategy: Once you have researched, you’ll create a product strategy. You will align the strategy with the overall goals and brand of the company.

  • Communicating plans: A product manager must communicate their plans to others in the organization. You’ll clearly articulate your vision for the product and you must also be able to gain buy-in from stakeholders.

  • Coordinating development: A product manager is responsible for coordinating all product development aspects. This includes working with engineers to ensure that features are being developed according to specifications, working with designers to create a user-friendly interface, and working with marketing to ensure that the product is being promoted effectively.

  • Acting on feedback and data analysis: A key responsibility of a product manager is to act on feedback and data analysis. It’s important that you constantly seek feedback from users and other stakeholders about the product. You’ll analyze data about how users are using the product and make changes accordingly.

  • Creating and maintaining a product road map: A product road map is a document that outlines the plans for a product over the course of its entire life, from ideation to removal from the market. It’s important that you create and maintain a road map so that everyone in the organization understands the current and future plans for the product.

Product management roles

As a product manager, you need to take on different roles throughout the product lifecycle. In some companies, different product managers exist for different product life phases. In many companies, the product manager works with their product through its entire life cycle, from ideation and research through to product retirement. 

Here are some hats you may need to wear in product management roles.

*All salary data is sourced from Glassdoor as of January 2023

Technology product manager

Average annual base salary (US): $116,837

Tech product managers are responsible for the technical aspects of the product and ensuring that the product meets customer needs. As a tech product manager, you’ll work closely with engineers to ensure that the product is developed correctly and meets customer expectations.

Designer product manager

Average annual base salary (US): $119,621 

If you become a designer product manager, you’ll supervise the overall look and feel of the product. You will work closely with designers to create a consistent design and user experience across all products. As the products expand, you’ll typically change or improve their attributes or capabilities.

Business product manager 

Average annual base salary (US): $105,867

In the role of business product manager, you’ll take responsibility for the business side of a product. You will work closely with sales, marketing, and finance to make sure that the product is profitable and meets customer needs. You’ll also determine whether a product is worth pursuing or not. 

Data product manager

Average annual base salary (US): $102,668

As a data product manager, you’ll manage product-related data, including customer data, analytics, and business intelligence. You will work closely with the engineering and data teams to ensure that data is accurate and accessible. Typically the product will be data-driven and you’ll improve the functionality and overall development process. 

Growth product manager

Average annual base salary (US): $96,777

In this role, you’ll be responsible for the strategy and execution of initiatives to grow a product’s user base. This includes working with marketing, sales, UX designers, and engineers to develop and execute go-to-market plans and manage product messaging and positioning. You’ll also play a major role in driving product adoption through customer engagement programs.

What is the product management process?

The product management process is the set of activities and protocols that helps guide you as you conceptualize, build, and launch your product to the market. It includes the following steps:

1. Identify a high-value customer pain point. 

The first step in the product management process is identifying a high-value customer pain point. This involves understanding the needs of your target market and determining which problems are most important to them. Once you have identified a problem that is causing significant pain for your target customers, you can begin quantifying the opportunity.

2. Quantify the opportunity.

The next step is quantifying the opportunity. This involves estimating the market size for your solution and assessing the potential revenue that could be generated. This step is important for setting realistic expectations for your product and ensuring that it is viable from a financial perspective.

3. Research potential solutions.

Once you have quantified the opportunity, the next step is researching potential solutions. This involves exploring different ways to solve your identified problem and assessing its feasibility. You’ll need to consider technical and non-technical solutions during this research stage.

4. Define a minimum viable product.

After researching potential solutions, the next step is to define a minimum viable product (MVP). This involves specifying the essential features that your product must have to be successful. The MVP will address the pain point of your target market and be achievable within the resources available to you.

5. Create a feedback loop.

A feedback loop is an important part of the product management process as it allows you to gather user feedback and make necessary changes to improve your product. Feedback loops should be created early on in the development process so that you can gather input from users throughout different stages of development.

6. Set the strategy.

Once you have defined your MVP, the next step is setting the product’s market release strategy. This involves deciding on pricing, distribution, marketing, and other factors that will impact how successful your product will be. Setting a clear strategy from the outset will help ensure that your product meets its targets when it launches.

7. Drive execution.

The final step in the product launch process is driving execution. This involves ensuring that all aspects of development are on track and that your team is working towards delivering a high-quality product. Monitoring progress against milestones and making necessary adjustments through iterations in the product life cycle is also important.

The product process then moves through sales and marketing, with a constant feedback loop helping you to evolve the products and strategies. Many product managers use an Agile approach to the product lifecycle.

Agile product management

Agile product management is a process that helps develop and release products more effectively. It’s based on the Agile Manifesto, which promotes values and principles that emphasize collaboration, customer focus, and iterative development.

Organizations can use Agile to improve their product development process in several ways. For example, it can help you better understand customer needs and prioritize features accordingly. Additionally, you can use the methodology to help your product teams work together more effectively and efficiently, resulting in faster development cycles and higher-quality products.

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Product management tools

Product management tools are essential for any organization that wants to ensure that its products are well-designed, well-made, and meet the needs of its customers. You’ll find various available product management tools, each with its own purpose. Consider your organization’s specific needs, and use them to determine which tools to use. A few product management tools to consider include: 

  • Airfocus

  • Clubhouse

  • Craft.io

  • Dragonboat

  • Monday.com

  • Productboard

  • ProdPad

  • ProductPlan

  • Roadmunk 

  • Jira

What are the skills needed in product management? 

As a product manager, you’re responsible for a product's strategy, roadmap, and features. To be successful, you need to have a balance of business, technical, and workplace skills.

    

  • Analytical skills: The ability to analyze data and draw conclusions is critical for product management. Understanding what the data is telling you to make informed decisions about the product is an important skill to have.

  • Communication: Product managers need to communicate effectively with different stakeholders. As a product manager, you need to articulate the product vision and strategy, as well as get feedback from customers and other stakeholders.

  • Project management: A product manager must be able to effectively manage all aspects of the project, from start to finish. This includes setting timelines, assigning tasks, and tracking progress.

  • Strategic thinking: You’ll need to think strategically about the direction of the product and how it will fit into the overall company strategy. In this role, you’ll often need to make long-term plans and envision where the product will be in two years, five years, or even ten years. 

  • Agile: Agile software development has become very popular recently because it helps teams deliver high-quality software and products more quickly and efficiently. Agile methods include Scrum and Kanban–two popular ways of organizing projects and tasks. Both approaches strive to improve productivity by allowing your teams to collaborate as they navigate their way through each phase of the project lifecycle.

  • JavaScript and other front-end coding languages: Knowing some coding fundamentals can help you to interact with developers, hire the right people, and estimate product scope. JavaScript is a relatively easy language to understand and learn. If you manage web teams or web-based products, you should know the differences between JavaScript, HTML, and CSS.

  • SAP PLM: You’ll probably need to know how to use SAP PLM (SAP Product Lifecycle Management). This industry-specific software application allows managers across different departments to collaborate on projects. It will enable you to see task progress in real-time.

How to start a career in product management

The educational requirements for product managers vary depending on the company and the specific role. A bachelor's degree is sufficient to apply for most roles. However, a master's degree is preferred or required for some positions. Additionally, relevant experience in product management or a related field is often necessary. To pursue a career in product management, there are a few things you should do to get started. 

Learn product management fundamentals.

The first step is to gain a solid foundation in the basics of product management. This includes understanding the different stages of the product lifecycle. You also need to gain proficiency in creating and managing a product roadmap and effectively communicating with other team members and stakeholders.

Study your industry.

To be successful in product management it's important to have a good understanding of the industry you're working in and the specific needs of your target market. This means doing research and studying trends in your industry. It's helpful to talk to people who are already working in product management roles within your company or industry. 

Gain experience and build product skills.

One of the best ways to gain experience and skills in product management is to develop products yourself. You can do this by starting with small projects like developing product prototypes or doing product testing. Developing products will give you first-hand experience with all aspects of the product lifecycle, from ideation to development to launch. It will also allow you to build up a portfolio of work to show potential employers down the road. 

Create a portfolio.

When you're ready to start applying for product management jobs, create a strong portfolio highlighting your best work. Include products that you've successfully launched, along with details about your role in each project. This gives prospective employers a clear idea of what you can do and evidence of your abilities and role-related skills. 

How long does it take to become a product manager?

The amount of time it takes depends on various factors, including your education and your chosen career path. However, it typically takes several years of experience working in a related field, or product-related role, before you can advance into a product manager role. 

It may take five to seven years to become a product manager if you have a relevant bachelor's or advanced degree. Without a degree, it may take longer to progress and some roles are not available to you due to employers wanting candidates with a college education.   

What is the average salary of a product manager? 

Product management is one of the most important and in-demand skills in the business industry. It’s ranked as the 10th best job in the United States, according to Glassdoor [2]. The average base salary of a product manager in the US is $102,220 per year, and the career outlook for this position is positive [3].       

Product management certifications

Product management can be a challenging and rewarding career, and certifications can help you take your job to the next level. Certifications are also an effective way to ensure that you embark on a path of continuing education, which is required to maintain certification and helps support a successful career in an evolving environment. 

By pursuing certification, you can gain the knowledge and skills you need to succeed in this competitive field. In addition, certifications can give you a competitive edge when applying for jobs or promotions. Various online product management certifications are available, and each one can offer you different benefits. 

Here are some of the product management certifications.

  • AIPMM Certified Product Manager Credential

  • Product Development and Management Association’s (PDMA) New Product Development Certification

  • Product School’s Product Management Certification Programs

  • Pragmatic Institute’s Product Management Certification

  • Certified Associate in Product Management (CAPM)

  • Certified Product Marketing Manager

  • Agile Certified Product Manager And Product Owner

Ready to take the next step in your career?     

If you are interested in a digital or online-focused product management career, consider The University of Virginia's Digital Product Management Specialization. This specialization covers a wide range of materials essential to product management, from product strategy to user experience design. You could also consider Google’s Project Management Professional Certificate, where you can learn about in-demand skills of how to manage projects and teams. 

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Article sources

1

Zippia. “ProductManager Demographics and Statistics [2022]: Number of Product Managers in the US, https://www.zippia.com/product-manager-jobs/demographics/.” Accessed January 13, 2023.

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