A product manager (PM) is a person responsible for the market research, development, creation, and launch of a new product.
In this article, we’ll talk about the role of product managers, their responsibilities and skills, the difference between a product manager, project manager, and product owner, PMs’ career path, and how to become a product manager.
What is the role of a product manager?
PMs are people who are fully responsible for a certain product. They generate ideas, study demand and current market situation, create a development strategy, recruit a team of specialists, and plan and monitor the implementation of assigned tasks.
The primary goal of a product manager is to control every stage of product development and interact with sales, marketing, technical support, manufacturing, and R&D departments. It is a dynamic position that involves maintaining a continuous flow of ideas and resources to create a successful product.
Product manager responsibilities usually vary, but the most common include market research, product development, and product control after its launch. We will provide the full list of PM responsibilities in one of the next sections.
Generally, a product manager is a specialist who works at the intersection of business, marketing, and programming. A PM is not only a manager but also a programmer, marketer, designer, etc. Such a person should have a lot of different skills in order to ensure a smooth workflow.
Top 5 product manager skills
There are lots of hard and soft skills necessary to become a product manager, and we will review the most important ones in this section.
Use our list to check whether you or other people are suitable for this position.
Ability to analyze the market
If you want to make a successful product, you need to be aware of marketing trends in the competitive environment. Good product managers:
- know their competitors;
- know the ways to improve a product and its sales funnel;
- can add value to a product;
- know how to promote a product;
- can analyze the effectiveness of product improvements.
This profession requires both knowledge of business processes and creativity.
Strategic thinking is the ability to analyze critical factors that will influence the long-term success of a business. It is not about concentrating on details but about thinking globally. Strategic thinking is used in creating a product development strategy.
The goal of any product is to create value for customers. Therefore, a manager analyzes the audience, market conditions, and competition, creates a "picture" of the idea, and makes it come true. Moreover, a product manager identifies new trends and customer pain points through regular market evaluation and changes the strategy accordingly.
Product managers are team players. Since they constantly communicate with lots of specialists, they should have good communication skills. It is crucial for them to understand their team members' resources in order to distribute the responsibilities properly. They should be able to find an approach to everyone and understand their interests and needs.
The success of a product depends on every person in the team, so product managers need to make sure that everyone does the best job possible. They should know how to set development goals, be able to work with contractors, and negotiate effectively.
It is impossible to reach a specific goal without excellent timing and planning. Therefore, product managers should come up with ideas and plan their implementation in detail. They should be flexible in terms of planning to be able to meet deadlines.
Product development is a process that requires a responsible person in charge. Therefore, product managers should not be afraid of challenging tasks. They need to have leadership skills and be able to make major decisions.
In the next section, we will talk about product manager responsibilities.
Product manager responsibilities
Developing a successful product in a highly competitive environment is a complex process that requires a lot of effort. Here, we will talk about what product managers are responsible for.
1. Market research
Product managers start their work long before the actual product development process begins. They should explore the market, monitor customers’ needs, analyze their competitors, estimate their product's potential, and develop a strategy keeping their competitive advantage in mind. This step is crucial since it determines the success of a product.
2. Product development
This part of the process starts when a concept of a future product is approved. A product manager has to delegate clear tasks to everyone in the team and monitor their product development progress. It is vital to discuss potential problems and complaints with all the team members and improve the product during the development stage.
A product manager is responsible for communication between the company's senior management and other employees. They should ensure the implementation of the idea in real life.
3. Product control
Product launches do not guarantee success. Product managers should create a product development plan and follow it. They are also responsible for long-term and short-term sales forecasts. PMs should revise and improve marketing and development strategies and make value analysis according to certain analytics and statistics.
The responsibilities of a product manager, project manager, and product owner are often confused. However, these professions are completely different — let's find out how.
Product manager vs. project manager vs. product owner
Let’s take a look at the differences between product managers, project managers, and product owners in detail.
|Product manager||Project manager||Product owner|
|Creates an idea, develops a strategy, and hires a team||Monitors the timely implementation of an idea at each stage||Makes a final decision and finances a project|
Generally, a product owner is the leader of a company; a product manager develops an idea for a certain product and is the product owner's subordinate; a project manager is a person who controls the work of other specialists in the team.
Now that you understand the difference between these professions, we will describe the product manager's career path.
Product manager career path
A PM often starts out as a specialist in another related sphere and eventually moves on to product management. Universities don't teach this profession, so it is enough to take courses and gain internal potential and skills.
There are several key product management vacancies you can find in different companies.
- Associate product manager. This is an entry-level job since associate product managers report to a senior product manager. They work on product development and consult with other PMs to make serious decisions.
- Product manager. A product manager is the next stage of a PM's career development. These people are responsible for developing a strategy, roadmap, and product itself. This position requires flexibility and strong leadership.
- Senior product manager. When there is a team of product managers in the company, some of them can become senior product managers. These specialists manage higher-value products, lead associate product managers, and communicate with business leaders as representatives of their product management teams.
- Director of product management. This is a role for product management leaders. These specialists focus on making sure the team is running effectively, improving certain processes, and controlling other PMs. They may move away from the management of a certain product and focus on working with their team.
- VP of product management. A VP of product management is an executive position. These people work on budgeting, strategy, and communicating with product owners. The role of a VP in product development is to promote products that will have the greatest business impact.
- Chief product officer. This is the highest position in product management. A chief product officer reports to the CEO and oversees all product activities in the organization. This position requires strategic thinking since these specialists are responsible for setting long-term goals in their companies.
So now that you know more about product managers' career path, let’s proceed to the ways of getting into this profession.
How to become a product manager
The profession of a product manager is becoming more and more popular nowadays. If you are interested in becoming a PM and don’t know how to succeed — we will give you some tips in this section.
There are two ways to reach the goal:
- start as an intern or associate PM;
- switch to product management from a related sphere (development, marketing, etc.)
However, both of these ways require certain knowledge and skills. Follow our guide to have an advantage in the competition and become a highly qualified PM.
There are no state educational programs on product management. Moreover, a university is not always a good choice. However, you can choose from a wide range of courses to get basic knowledge in the sphere. There are lots of them on Coursera, for instance.
Build analytical skills
You need to be able to collect and sort data and identify and analyze patterns of customer behavior.
A product manager needs to understand customer behavior flawlessly in order to segment the audience and develop a strong product line. Consequently, a background in UX would be an advantage.
UX design involves creating an easy-to-use product that can satisfy customers and provide them with pleasure and value during the interaction. It helps enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty to a certain brand.
Learn the basics of coding
Knowledge of code will let you communicate more effectively with developers and set you apart from other candidates. This skill is essential to be in high demand among different companies.
To sum it up, it’s crucial for a product manager to be well-versed and open-minded. The tips above will help you prepare for hiring a PM or getting a product manager position.
Last Updated: 05.05.2022