What is a Product Manager?

Product management is the intersection between business, technology and user experience. A product manager is responsible for the strategy and blueprint for a product or product line. They are the person who defines the ‘why’, ‘what,’ and ‘when’ of a product, and clearly communicates the business value to the product team so they can understand the purpose behind the new product or product release.

Product managers lead product teams from a product's conception through to its launch, and are behind the creative process of generating, developing, and curating new ideas. The job may also include marketing, forecasting, and profit and loss responsibilities.

What does a Product Manager do?

A product manager working in the office.

Product management is above all else a business function, focused on maximizing business value from a product. Product managers are crucial to the success of a product and the overall success of a company. They serve as the link between the customer, development team, and other stakeholders, and are responsible for ensuring that the product meets customer needs, is delivered on time and within budget, and achieves business objectives.

By conducting market research, defining the product vision, and managing the development process, product managers help to ensure that the product is competitive, meets customer expectations, and contributes to the company's growth and profitability. In short, product managers are essential for developing and launching successful products that meet the needs of both customers and the business.

Types of Product Managers
There are several types of product managers, each with a different focus and set of responsibilities. Here are a few examples:

  • Technical product manager: A technical product manager has a strong technical background and is responsible for overseeing the development of complex, technology-focused products.
  • Consumer product manager: A consumer product manager focuses on understanding the needs and behaviors of consumers and developing products that meet their needs.
  • Growth product manager: A growth product manager is responsible for identifying opportunities to drive user growth and engagement, and developing strategies to achieve these goals.
  • Platform product manager: A platform product manager is responsible for developing and managing a platform that supports multiple products or services.
  • Agile product manager: An agile product manager works closely with cross-functional teams to develop products using an agile methodology, which involves iterative development and frequent collaboration.
  • Brand product manager: A brand product manager focuses on developing and managing the brand identity and positioning of a product, as well as the overall marketing strategy.

Building great products is invigorating. Great products are built and adopted by customers when a group of committed, focused, and passionate team members play their positions to the best of their abilities. This starts with a strong product manager who feels a deep sense of responsibility for their role. The following are some responsibilities and duties of a product manager:

  • Defining the product vision: The product manager works with stakeholders to identify customer needs and develop a vision for the product.
  • Conducting market research: The product manager conducts market research to identify customer needs, understand the competitive landscape, and identify potential opportunities and threats.
  • Developing the product roadmap: Based on the product vision and market research, the product manager creates a roadmap that outlines the features and functionality that will be developed and released over time.
  • Managing the product backlog: The product manager works with the development team to create and prioritize a backlog of features and functionality based on customer needs, business priorities, and technical feasibility.
  • Collaborating with cross-functional teams: The product manager works closely with cross-functional teams, including development, design, marketing, sales, and customer support, to ensure that the product is developed and launched successfully.
  • Setting product goals and metrics: The product manager sets goals for the product and defines key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure success and track progress.
  • Communicating with stakeholders: The product manager communicates regularly with stakeholders, including executives, customers, and internal teams, to provide updates on the product's progress and solicit feedback.

Product Manager vs Marketing Manager
Product managers and marketing managers both play crucial roles in the success of a product, but their responsibilities and focus areas differ in a few key ways.

Product managers are primarily focused on the development and launch of a product. They work closely with cross-functional teams, including development, design, sales, and customer support, to ensure that the product meets customer needs, achieves business objectives, and is delivered on time and within budget. They are responsible for defining the product vision, conducting market research, developing the product roadmap, setting product goals and metrics, and managing the development process.

Marketing managers, on the other hand, are primarily focused on promoting and selling the product. They work closely with the product manager and other stakeholders to develop the marketing strategy, messaging, and campaigns that will drive customer awareness, interest, and engagement. They are responsible for identifying target markets, developing marketing collateral, creating and executing marketing campaigns, and tracking the effectiveness of marketing efforts.

In short, while both product managers and marketing managers are essential to the success of a product, their roles and responsibilities differ in terms of focus and scope. Product managers are focused on the development and launch of the product, while marketing managers are focused on promoting and selling the product to customers.

Are you suited to be a product manager?

Product managers have distinct personalities. They tend to be enterprising individuals, which means they’re adventurous, ambitious, assertive, extroverted, energetic, enthusiastic, confident, and optimistic. They are dominant, persuasive, and motivational. Some of them are also investigative, meaning they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive.

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What is the workplace of a Product Manager like?

As companies grow, the product management role entails three or four functions: product strategy, technical product management, product marketing, and field marketing. It is a big job. In a small company, all of these functions are performed by one person. In large companies, they are performed by four departments. But they are all part of product management.

A good number of product managers report directly to the CEO, acting as their representative at the product level. For technology companies, particularly those with enterprise or B2B products, the product management job is very technical. This is why many product managers report to development, or engineering.

The workplace of a product manager can vary depending on the size and type of the company they work for, as well as the stage of the product they are managing. However, here are some common elements of a product manager's workplace:

  • Collaborative: Product managers work closely with cross-functional teams, including design, engineering, marketing, and sales, to ensure the product is being developed and marketed effectively.
  • Fast-paced: Product managers are responsible for bringing new products to market quickly, so the pace of work can be demanding and deadline-driven.
  • Data-driven: Product managers use metrics, customer feedback, and market research to inform their decision-making and assess the success of their products.
  • Dynamic: The role of a product manager is constantly evolving as the product and market change, so product managers must be able to adapt and respond to changing requirements and priorities.
  • Office-based: Product managers typically work in an office setting, although the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in remote work for many product managers.
  • Technology-focused: Product managers in technology or software development companies typically work with cutting-edge technology and are expected to have a strong understanding of how technology is used to build and market products.

Product Managers are also known as:
Product Development Manager