Product Management - Roles and responsibilities of a Product Manager

Product management is a hot career track and the title of Product Manager is the go-to job for many MDA graduates today. In this blog post, we discuss what exactly is product management and what are the roles and responsibilities of a ‘Product Manager’.

What is Product Manager and Who is a Product Manager?

Product management is an organizational role in companies developing products or technology. Product management is quite a complicated discipline and involves planning, production, marketing and various other tasks related to the creation and distribution of a product. Product management covers all the activities in the product life cycle including the formulation of the idea for the product or discovery, Design, Development, Monitoring and Evaluation, Marketing, Sales and sometimes even discontinuance of the product.

The product manager is the facilitator for product management in the organization and is the key person driving the product management activities. The product manager is responsible for the entire product lifecycle, right from its inception to release and many times even after release and makes sure the objectives of the product are met. That being said each company has different types of products and goals, and hence the role of a Product manager differs from company to company. However, there are few responsibilities expected for most of the product manager job profiles and we will be covering those in this article.

Skills for a Product Manager

Before we jump into the responsibilities, let’s take a look at the skills required to be a successful product manager.
Whether a ‘Product Manager’ requires to have a technical/engineering degree is one common question that many ask. Well, if you take a look at the job openings for ‘Product Manager’, you might see different titles like ‘Technical Product Manager’, Digital Product Manager, and generic Product Manager. If you dig in, you might discover that the expectations and job descriptions for most of these roles would be similar. Like I already mentioned, the tasks vary from company to company. Some companies opt to have two PM roles- a business-minded PM and a technical PM, while some opt to have just one person to lead the product and take care of technical and business sided. In the case of two PMs, the business side PM will be taking care of overall product strategy and will be often customer-facing and the technical PM will be focusing on how the product works and will be working closely with the technical teams. In this case, the business side PM may not require an engineering degree at all.

However, technical knowledge is essential for product managers to understand the technology trends, development approaches and technical capabilities to develop better products for customers.

Irrespective of what they do, there are certain soft skills that every Product manager should possess to execute their day to day tasks like

  • Leadership skills - A Product Manager should demonstrate strong leadership skills to lead and guide multiple teams, and make them build them Product Vision.
  • Communication skills- To keep all the stakeholders informed of all the updates and effectively communicate the plan to everyone.
  • Collaboration- The product manager has to work collaboratively with the cross-functional teams and management to achieve the goals.
  • Compassion- A product manager should have a strong compassion and empathy for the customers to understand their needs and pain points and be able to find solutions for them.  
  • Innovative- A Product manager has to be highly innovative to find solutions and products that can be beneficial to the customers and can add value.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Product Manager

A Product Manager is responsible for driving the strategy, vision, design, and execution of a product and making it a success. Thus a Product manager decides on what a product should do in its lifecycle by connecting the cross-functional teams in the three disciplines- technology, design, and business.
Let’s now take a look at what are the day to day responsibilities of a product manager.

  • Ideation: Ideation is the initial step in product management where the product manager contributes ideas for a new product or maybe even collect ideas for new products from others. The product manager also has to analyze and evaluate the ideas through research and make thoughtful decisions.
  • Market research and Competitive analysis: A product manager has to be well aware of the trends in the market and identify customer's needs to develop a product that they need. Creating customer personas to identify the customer needs and proposing a solution for their pain points is the key to developing great products.He/She also needs to have a thorough understanding of the competition prevailing in the market, potential competitors, their strengths and weaknesses that could be used effectively to improve your product to give more value to the customer and so on.
  • Gather requirements: Once the customer needs have been identified, the product manager would have to work with his team in identifying the requirement to address all the customer needs.
  • Define Product Vision and Strategy: Based on the customer needs and requirements, the product manager has to define the product vision- which represents the core essence of what the product is and set the product strategy- on how you will achieve your vision. Product vision and strategy sets the direction for where the product is headed and its end state.
  • Define Product features: The product manager is responsible for defining the features of the product with User Stories and requirements.
  • Product Roadmapping: Product Roadmapping is all about what and when the product teams will deliver. Basically, a product roadmap is a document showing the stakeholders where the product is heading and how it will get there.
  • Stakeholder communications: This is one of the most important responsibilities of a product manager- to ensure that all stakeholders including the management and team members are well informed about the product strategy or plan and all the updates so that everybody is on the same page.
  • Work with the cross-functional teams - The Product Manager has to work collaboratively with the various teams in engineering, design, sales, marketing, support, etc and lead them to deliver a complete customer experience. I would say this is one of the most critical as well as difficult responsibility of a Product Manager. He has to work with and pitch into different teams as and when required. He would have to guide and give instructions to the engineering and design teams to ensure proper design of the product and make sure they don't deviate from expectations. He would also have to guide the marketing and sales team on setting marketing/promotional plans, pricing of the product, and so on.
  • Monitoring product results: Launching the product doesn't mean you are done, the product manager is responsible for monitoring and analyzing the product performance by tracking various key performance indicators (KPIs) like revenue, market share, margin, cost savings, customer feedback, etc.The product manager is also responsible to make decisions on upgrading, improving or revising the product based on product performance or as and when required and even decide on discontinuing a product and replacing it with a new product.

Thus, in a nutshell, the role of a Product Manager is to wear multiple hats to manage everything that must be done to get the product shipped. I hope the article would have helped in throwing some light on what Product management is all about and what is the role of a Product Manager.

If you are keen to kick start a career in Product Management, find below a list of courses and certifications which would be helpful.

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