What Is Product Management?

If you're wondering what product management is, you're not alone. Many people are curious about the role, but don't know where to start when it comes to learning more about it - whether they’re hiring or applying for jobs. 

In this blog post, we will define product management and discuss some of the key responsibilities that come with the job. We will also highlight some of the skills that are necessary for success in this career field.

What Is Product Management?

Product management is the process of managing the development and successful launch of a new product. It typically involves envisioning a product, defining and specifying its features, planning its launch and marketing strategy, and then overseeing its implementation and eventual rollout.

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The goal of product management is to ensure that the product meets the needs of the customer while also meeting the objectives of a business. This requires close cooperation between marketing, engineering, and sales teams as well as regular communication with customers and stakeholders.

A good product manager needs to have both a clear vision for what they want their product to be, as well as the practical skillset to make that vision a reality. 

They need to be able to manage budgets, coordinate with engineers and designers, write effective briefs, oversee quality control, assess customer feedback, and make tough decisions when things don't go according to plan. In short, they need to be able to wear many different hats and juggle many different balls simultaneously. We'll cover that in detail later on, so bear with us!

The History of Product Management

The first recorded use of the term "product management" was in 1957 (even though some sources trace it back to 1931) when it was used in the title of an article in Harvard Business Review. The article, entitled "The Product Manager - Staff Member or Line Manager?", discussed the need for a specific type of manager to be responsible for product planning and development.

Prior to that time, there was no specific job title or role for someone who was responsible for product planning and development. In fact, the role could be filled by any number of people within a company, including engineers, marketing staff, sales staff, or even the owner or founder of the company.

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So why did they come up with the term "product management" in 1957? There were a few factors that contributed to this. First, there was a growing recognition that the success or failure of a product was not simply the responsibility of the engineering or design team. It took a coordinated effort between all departments within a company to create and market a successful product.

Second, there was an increasing demand from customers for better products and more innovative features. This put pressure on companies to come up with new products at a faster pace, and it became increasingly difficult for any one person to be responsible for the entire product development process.

The term "product management" was created to fill this need and designate a specific role within a company that was responsible for all aspects of product planning and development.

What Does a Product Manager Do?

So, once we've defined what product management is, what does a product manager actually do? As we mentioned earlier, the job involves a lot of different responsibilities, and it can vary from company to company and from product to product. However, there are some key activities that are common to all product managers.

Understand User and Customer Needs

The first and most important task of a product manager is to understand the needs of the customer. This involves doing research, talking to customers, and reading feedback

They need to be able to translate these needs into features that will meet the objectives of the business while also delighting the customer. Furthermore, they need to be able to keep track of ever-changing customer needs and make sure that the product remains relevant.

Represent the User and Customer Internally

A product manager is the voice of the customer inside the company. They need to be able to communicate the needs and wants of the customer to all departments, including engineering, marketing, and sales. They also need to ensure that all decisions made about the product are based on what is best for the customer, not what is best for the company. 

If there is a conflict between the two, the product manager needs to be able to side with the customer. And when things go wrong, they need to be able to take the heat from all departments.

Customer Interviews

Conducting customer interviews is a great way to see what people want, and as a product manager, you get first-hand feedback that can help with the product backlog. Customer interviews can give you valuable insights into customer needs, what people like and don’t like about your product, and how they would want the product to be improved. 

A reputable product manager must have a knack for conducting customer interviews if they want to keep tabs on the customer’s voice and needs.

Monitoring the Market and Competition

Product managers are also responsible for monitoring the market and competitive landscape. They need to be aware of what new products are being released, what features are being added, and how the competition is reacting to their product. This information can help them make decisions about future product roadmap items. 

Furthermore, they need to be able to identify new opportunities and trends in the market and figure out how their product can capitalize on them. And when the time comes, they need to know how to execute a successful product launch.

Defining a Vision for The Product

With all of this information, a product manager needs to be able to define a vision for the product. This means creating a roadmap of features and functionality that will help the product meet the objectives of the business while also delighting the customer. 

They need to be able to make sure that all departments are on board with this vision and are working towards achieving it. So, it's important for a product manager to be able to build a consensus and get buy-in from all stakeholders – otherwise, the product will never see the light of day.

Creating a Product Strategy

Along with the vision, a product manager also needs to create a product strategy. This document outlines how the product will achieve its vision and what tactics will be used to get there. It includes things like market analysis, competitor analysis, target customer profiles, and estimated sales forecasts. 

As the product manager, you will need to update this document as the product evolves and make sure that all departments are aware of it. While it's not necessary to have all of the answers, it is important to have a plan and be able to execute it.

Be a Resource for The Development Team

In order for the product to be successful, the development team needs to be able to work with the product manager. The product manager is a resource for them – they can turn to the product manager for help understanding customer needs and determining what needs to be built into the product. 

The product manager should also be available to provide feedback on prototypes and help prioritize tasks. For the development team, it's important to have a single point of contact who can help keep things on track.

Prioritizing Product Features

As the product manager, one of your main responsibilities is to prioritize product features. You need to make sure that the development team is working on the most important items and that the product roadmap is achievable. 

This means making tough decisions about what gets added and what gets cut. It's not always easy, but it's necessary in order for the product to be successful. If every feature is a high priority, then nothing will get done. 

Defining Features and Requirements

For the development team to build the product, they need to have a clear understanding of what needs to be built. This is where the product manager comes in. They need to be able to define features and requirements – in other words, they need to be able to articulate what needs to be built in a way that the development team can understand.

This includes things like use cases, user stories, and wireframes. And it's not just the development team that needs this information – the marketing team also needs to know what the product is and how it can be marketed.

Building Product Roadmaps

If you think that being a product manager is all about creating documents, then you're wrong. It's also about building product roadmaps. A roadmap is a visual representation of the product and its features. It shows the development team what needs to be built and when it needs to be completed. 

As the product manager, it's your responsibility to update the roadmap as the product evolves. When done correctly, a roadmap can help keep everyone on track and ensure that the product is completed on time and within budget. Project managers can also use it to help plan their own projects.

Release Management

Once the product is completed, it needs to be released. As the product manager, you're responsible for making sure that everything goes smoothly during the release process. This includes things like creating release notes, coordinating with the marketing team, and ensuring that all systems are ready for launch. 

You also need to make sure that post-release support is in place. With so many things to think about, it's easy for something to slip through the cracks. That's why it's important to have a solid release management process in place, but also to be prepared for the unexpected.

Working with Sales and Support

As the product manager, you're also responsible for working with sales and support. This includes things like creating product demos, providing training materials, and answering customer questions. It's your responsibility to make sure that everyone who comes in contact with the product has a good understanding of it. And if there are any problems, it's your job to fix them.

The product manager is a key player on the team, for many reasons. They need to be able to communicate effectively with everyone – from the development team to the customers.

If you're interested in becoming a product manager, then make sure that you have strong communication skills. It's also important to be able to think strategically and make tough decisions. And last but not least, with so many things to juggle, it's helpful to have good organizational skills.

Analyze And Present Results

A product manager is responsible for analyzing and presenting the results of a product. This includes things like usage data, customer feedback, and surveys. As the product manager, it's your job to figure out what the data means and how it can be used to improve the product. You also need to be able to present this information in a way that's easy to understand.

Project managers draw conclusions from statistics and analytics to make better decisions for their projects. With technology becoming more complex, it is essential for product managers to be able to use and understand statistics. They are the ones to help their company make informed choices that can positively affect the product.

Now that you know what a product manager does, it's time to decide if this is the right career for you. Do you have strong communication skills? Can you think strategically? If so, then a career in product management may be right for you. But keep in mind that it's not an easy

What is the Product Management Process?

Product management is the process of bringing a new product to market. It includes everything from ideation and product development to commercialization and launch.

There are many different frameworks and models for product management, but at its core, the process is about creating value for users and customers through a thoughtful mix of strategy, design, and execution.

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The first step in any product management process is understanding what users need and want. This can be done through market research, surveys, interviews, and other user engagement techniques. When you already have a good grasp of user needs, you can start developing a vision for your product. This will help guide your team in the right direction as you move into the development phase.

Next comes designing and building the product. This involves creating prototypes, writing specifications, and working with developers to bring your product to life. Once the product is built, it's time to test it with users and get feedback. Such feedback will help you make changes and improvements before launch.

Finally comes commercialization and launch. This is when you put your product into the hands of users and start generating revenue. It's a crucial step, and it's important to have a solid marketing and sales plan in place.

The product management process can be complex, but if you're patient and organized, you can achieve great things.

What Is Agile Product Management?

Agile product management is the process of managing a product’s lifecycle through a series of sprints in order to ensure that the product meets the customer’s needs and is delivered on time.

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The agile product management methodology is based on the principles of agile software development, which focuses on delivering working software incrementally and frequently. This allows for constant feedback from stakeholders and helps to ensure that the product is constantly evolving in response to customer needs.

Agile product management requires close collaboration between the product manager, developers, and stakeholders and relies heavily on communication and transparency. The agile methodology can be applied to products at any stage of their lifecycle, from conception to post-launch support.

Product Owner vs Product Manager

Some people think that the Product Owner and the Product Manager are one and the same, but this is not always the case. The Product Owner is responsible for defining and prioritizing user stories, while the Product Manager is responsible for ensuring that the product meets customer needs and delivering it on time.

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The main difference between a product owner and a product manager is that a product owner is focused on the delivery of the product, whereas a product manager is more focused on the strategy and vision for the product.

A product owner is responsible for making sure that the features requested by the stakeholders are delivered in a timely manner. They work with the team to make sure that all of the features are properly scoped and prioritized, and they liaise with stakeholders to make sure that they're happy with the direction of the product.

A product manager is responsible for creating and maintaining a roadmap for the product, setting a strategy, and defining what success looks like for the product. They work with stakeholders to determine what needs to be built, and they work with the team to make sure that the product is built in a way that meets customer needs.

So, the main distinction is that a product owner is focused on getting features delivered to stakeholders, while a product manager is more focused on setting a strategy and ensuring that the vision for the product is met.

Skills a Product Manager Needs

While the specific skills required for product management vary depending on the stage of the product and the company, there are some general skills that all product managers need. 

These include:

1. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills

Problem-solving skills are essential for product managers, as they are constantly faced with challenges and obstacles. They need to be able to think critically and come up with solutions that meet the needs of the customer and the company.

Moreover, critical thinking skills are important for analyzing data, understanding user feedback, and making decisions that will impact the success of the product.

2. Strong communication skills

A product manager needs to be able to communicate effectively with stakeholders, developers, and the customer. They need to be able to articulate their vision for the product and explain why certain decisions are being made.

Strong communication skills are also essential for managing a team of developers, running informational webinars, and ensuring that everyone is on the same page. Since communication is key in agile, a product manager who lacks strong communication skills will likely struggle with the agile methodology. However, with the best communication skills, an agile product manager can be a powerful force for good.

3. Ability to work in a fast-paced environment

Product managers need to be able to work in a fast-paced environment, as products are constantly evolving and changing. They need to be able to adapt quickly and make decisions quickly.

Moreover, they need to be able to handle multiple tasks at once and manage their time effectively. 

Project management as a field is dynamic and ever-changing. The role of a product manager is evolving along with it, and it's important to stay up to date on the latest trends.

4. Proven leadership experience

Simply, a product manager is a leader of the product. They need to be able to motivate and inspire their team, make decisions, and set the vision for the product.

Leadership experience is essential for a product manager, as they need to be able to lead the team through difficult challenges and navigate through complex waters. They also need to be able to use tools like online booking systems or HR management systems when necessary, to navigate work in respective teams they are in charge of. 

5. Detail-oriented

Product managers need to be detail-oriented, as they are responsible for ensuring that all the details of the product are accounted for. This includes understanding customer needs, designing and building the product, and measuring its success. Being detail-oriented also helps a product manager catch potential problems and prevent them from becoming bigger issues.

6. Technical expertise

While it's not necessary for a product manager to have a lot of technical expertise, it is helpful. This is because they need to be able to understand the technical aspects of the product and communicate with the developers effectively.

Having a basic understanding of coding and development can help a product manager understand what is possible and what isn't, as well as help them troubleshoot issues.

Tech skills are becoming increasingly important for product managers, as many products are now being built with agile methodology in mind.

7. Analytical skills

Of course, analytical skills are essential for any product manager. They need to be able to understand and analyze data in order to make informed decisions about the product.

Moreover, they need to be able to measure the success of the product and come up with ways to improve it. Analytical skills also help a product manager understand user feedback and determine what changes should be made to the product.

Knowing what each metric means and how to track it is a critical skill for a product manager.

8. Good self-discipline

This is often overlooked, but it's important for a product manager to have good self-discipline. They need to be able to work independently and stay on track without too much guidance.

Product managers often have a lot of autonomy, so it's important that they can stay motivated and push themselves to achieve their goals.

Self-discipline is also helpful in avoiding distractions and staying focused on the task at hand.

Product Management Tools

To become a great product manager, you need to use a different set of tools. The exact toolset will depend on your preferences, but here are a few good tools to keep in mind.

FeedBear - the all-in-one customer feedback platform. Collect feedback through feedback boards, let your customers comment and vote on features and create beautiful roadmaps to engage your customers.

Jira - made by Atlassian, one of the most common tools for project management, agile product development, and bug tracking. Although clunky to use at times, ideal for ensuring a smooth workflow in your product team.

Hotjar - for recording your visitor sessions and seeing what the customers do within your website and product. Intuitive heatmaps make your job that much easier.

Miro - collaborate with your entire team on a shared whiteboard to collect ideas from users and coordinate different teams within your company. There are other whiteboard tools out there, but none as beautiful and intuitive as Miro.

Pendo - get an in-depth look at how your customers behave within your product. Send targeted messages to customer during their use of the app and improve your product onboarding.

Figma - there’s a reason why so many designers and developers use this specific tool. In Figma, you can easily create prototypes of your product interface and interact with other team members right where the work happens.

UserTesting - allows you to get videos of real people who use your product and tell you what they liked and disliked and gives you recommendations on what you can do better.

Balsamiq - when you need to come up with a wireframe for a page fast and easy, this is the tool to use. If you need a quick way to create a mockup of a page for your next product meeting, consider Balsamiq.

UXCam - like Hotjar, but specialized for mobile apps. Session recordings, heatmaps, user feedback - all in one for your mobile product.

Wrapping up

Product marketing is one of the most promising roles in tech in the years to come. At the intersection of development, design, user experience, marketing and sales, it’s going to be pivotal for many SaaS companies in the future. If you’re wondering whether it’s a good career to be in - it is and will be even more so soon.

On the other hand, if you’re wondering whether you need a product manager in your team, there’s a good chance that you do, simply because of all the benefits they bring for your entire workflow.

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