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What is product management?

Moe Ali
Moe Linkedin Profile
CEO, Product Faculty

This is a question that comes up regularly. Even experienced business owners and senior management teams are not quite sure what the product management definition is or the role of a product manager. There is a reason for this; the term encompasses a vast range of responsibilities and often means different things in different industries and organizations.

To make it simple, we have formulated an answer that we think covers the product management definition. Product management is the process of strategically shaping a company's products' growth, market launch, and providing continuous support and innovation.

However, that product manager definition does not explain how it works in practice or the core competencies and role of a product manager, which is what we are going to look at in more detail here. But first, let's talk about the history of this profession.

The history of product management

In 1931, Neil McElroy of Procter and Gamble sent out a memo asking for more people to be hired. He outlined the ways that the brand could be built, and this became the foundation of a product manager. Until recently, it was seen as a role that could come under the brand management, marketing or engineering umbrella, but now increasingly seen as one of the most critical roles in the development and production of a new product, and often reports directly to the CEO of the organization.

Roles and Responsibilities

The day-to-day role of a product manager is to work strategically and tactically to ensure product development or range of products, from concept to the completion of a great product. There are many, many tasks that a product manager has responsibility for. They do not usually handle all of themselves but instead head an agile product management team that will each take on more specific tasks.

First of all, the product management team will carry out research into the product. They will collate information about competitors, customers, and the overall product market. Once they have done this, a product manager will begin to put together a product strategy. They will take the research they have gathered and create a process for the product or products, including the goals and objects, an overview of the product itself, and a timeline of how the process is to proceed before it can go to market.  

Communication is another task that PMs are responsible for. Once they have created a strategic working plan, they must then communicate it to the business's key players. This may include the product development team, product management team, sales and support, product marketing specialists, the product owners, investors, and C-level executives. However, communication doesn't just stop there; it must continue throughout the entire agile product development process, and beyond if there is to be a successful product.

Once the product has hit the market, the product managers will continue to carry out market research and explore the data and customer feedback that they have about the user experience to build up a picture, work with the software development teams to develop the product even further and improve it for future iterations of the product.

Senior product team leads might also be tasked with defining the role of product within their organization, managing multiple product teams, and working with other cross functional teams across their company.

What are product management skills?

Communication: So much of the product role is about communication. This is sharing information about a new product strategy, as well as, being able to listen to the rest of the product management team and end users feedback in order to improve the product and reach business objectives such as increasing sales revenues and profit margins.

They also need to be able to convey the product features, company culture clearly, and appeal to the customer's needs. Once the production starts, product managers must work closely with product developers, UX designers, the engineering team, and the sales team of the business to create new products that combine functionality with what customers want while sticking to resource constraints.


"A product manager’s role is strategic, much like a CEO but for the product."


While technical knowledge is not essential to the actual job title, it is important that a product manager is not a complete Luddite when it comes to the product. As mentioned above, they have to communicate with customers, senior management teams, and engineering teams, and so a basic understanding is necessary.

Business experience and knowledge are important in certain product roles. While PMs might not be solely responsible for revenue and profitability, a lot of it depends on their success with the research and the framework that they set out.

Other skills might include:

What is a product management strategy?

A product management strategy, or roadmap, is pivotal to the success of new products. It is the end product of market research, customer interviews, and research into competitor companies. The product management strategy lays out the framework for the entire organization - from sales and the product marketing manager to the sales team and other business people.

What is the difference?

Product Management vs. Project Management

There is often confusion around product management and project management, but they both encompass very different roles and responsibilities. As discussed above, a product manager is responsible for research, laying out a vision, and communicating this, as well as creating a clear product roadmap. A project manager then takes the vision, product roadmaps, product strategy and breaks them down into tasks, develops the timeline, allocates resources and monitors the progress, and communicates this progress to the key players involved.

Product Manager vs. Project Manager | ProductPlan

Product Manager vs. Product Owner

While the product manager oversees cross-functional teams and lay the roadmaps, the product owners focus on the day to day grind and tactical execution of the PMs plan. The PO is commonly a subordinate of the PM and part of the Product team.

What is a product owner vs. a product manager? | ProductPlan

The future of product management

Product management in the future is going to look significantly different from what it is like now. It has changed so much over the years from when the job title was initially coined. Remote working has become more popular than ever, especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that is something we forecast will continue in the long-term.  

We also know that as technology advances, things will change and progress at a much faster rate, and product managers have to be willing and ready to go with it. The skills that got them to where they are now are not going to sustain them in the longer term. The development of new skills will be essential.

Conclusion

We hope this article comprehensively answered your questions of "what is product management?" In this article you should have learned the definition of product management, what are roles and responsibilities of a product manager, the history of this field, the skills required to become a PM, and the future of this role. Follow our blog for more product knowledge like this.

If you are looking for advanced product training, join our part-time, 6-Week Live Online Advanced Product Management Certification and learn the tools, frameworks, and skills used by the best agile product people.

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