What is Product Management and How to Become an Outstanding Product Manager
May 23, 20229 min read
Co-founder at Ideamotive. Technological advisor and software consultant.
Some believe that a product manager should formulate and prioritize hypotheses, and then turn them into knowledge through A/B tests and research.
Others believe that the product manager should be a user advocate, make features and improve product metrics.
The rest are sure that the product manager should manage the roadmap, motivate the team, consolidate the unit economics, optimize the conversions of key funnels, and be responsible for revenues.
In different teams, product managers really do all of the above. But these are the only tools that should help achieve the most important goal. A goal that product managers often forget about.
From this material, you will learn what is product management, why the essence of this job is to create a more effective way to solve user problems, and what it takes to be a great product manager.
What is Product Management?
First, let’s answer “what is product management?''. Product management is an organizational function that accompanies each stage of the product life cycle, from development to positioning and pricing, focusing primarily on the product and its customers.
To create a competitive product, product managers take into account the interests of customers in relation to the company and ensure that the voice of the market is heard and considered. Thanks to this focus on the customer, managers regularly deliver better and more advanced products.
In a technology where established products are rapidly being replaced by newer and better solutions, a deep understanding of customers and the ability to create customized solutions for them is required more than ever. This is where product management comes into play.
In other words, product management is its development and modernization. Product management includes both the management of long-term development and the solution of daily problems and issues.
Why does one need product management?
The product and its development must be managed, otherwise, it will die or develop in the wrong direction. Product management is a way to make product development predictable and reduce risks.
Martin Eriksson beautifully answered the question “what is product management?”. He said that "it is the interplay of business, user experience, and technology."
Business - product management helps the team achieve their business goals, overcoming the communication gap that occurs between the developer, product designer, customer, and business task.
User experience - product management focuses on the user experience and represents the interests of the customer within the organization. The correct vision of the client's desires always pays for itself.
Technology - an excellent understanding of technology is of paramount importance, as the main processes take place in the development department.
Types of Product Management Roles
It happens that the product is managed by only one manager. This person should have deep knowledge in at least one of the areas related to product management, and a passion or desire to develop in other areas.
Most often, this manifests itself in one of two cases: there is an experienced business marketer who knows how to listen to the user and is able to speak fluent technical jargon, or there is a developer who understands the product so well that together they can begin to manage its creation.
These people turned out to be such unique employees that now this is the highest-paid position in the company.
Because it's really hard to find people who are fluent in two areas at once, often product management is done by a small group of people.
Here are some roles:
Chief Product Officer (CPO) - oversees the life of the product at the organizational level. Organizes the work of managers.
Product Owner - takes a more active role in development, being responsible for getting engineers to work on time with stakeholders.
Product Marketing Manager (PMM) - supports, and improves communication between the buyer and the development team, helps to better understand the client and implement their idea into the product.
User Experience (UX) Researcher - user experience is one of the main responsibilities of a manager. A specialist who studies user behavior and provides usability recommendations is a great addition to any team.
Since there is no clear strategy in product management, many impatient job seekers focus on key operating principles.
For example, you studied information management, a brand new specialty at the University of Colorado, Boulder. You took business management courses and computer science courses with the aim of learning to speak both "languages" and overcome the communication barrier between the two worlds. Similar assessment skills contribute to data analysis (in particular SQL), project management, and strategy in general.
These product management skills are actively promoted by programming schools and universities around the world, proving that this principle has come to us for a long time.
to adapt the functional characteristics of the product, taking into account legal requirements, standards, and other features of the territorial markets of presence.
Product Manager vs Project Manager
The next thing we should mention concerning what is product management is the difference between a Product Manager and a Project Manager.
Just like with the case of product owner and product manager there is a misconception that these are interchangeable (or even identical) positions. In fact, these specialties require different knowledge and skills. Despite this, some companies are trying to hire one person for these positions.
Sometimes this is done to reduce costs, and sometimes because of a lack of qualified personnel. The fact is that few universities train product managers at the moment. More often, this qualification is obtained in online universities/courses.
If you want to become a product, you must understand the boundaries between product and project. Without this, it will not be possible to establish productive work to create new products. Therefore, it is necessary to understand what is product management and project management.
To understand the differences between the two specialists, it is enough to consider the basic definitions of the concepts:
product - something intangible, unlimited in time, developing indefinitely;
project is a process with a clear framework (time, budget, etc.).
To put it simply, the final product consists of many completed projects. At the same time, the implementation of a separate project will not lead to a finished product.
Comparison table between what is product management and project management
A product is a software or service that has market demand for coverage consumer needs.
A project is an enterprise for the creation of a product (software or service) that has limited time, resources and requirements.
Product Manager - CEO of a specific product within a company or startup.
Project Manager - leader of a separate project, the implementation of which aims to create the ultimate product.
Performance evaluation (KPI) carried out according to the profit from the product.
Performance evaluation (KPI) carried out on the successful completion of the project implementation on time within the planned budget.
A product manager does not always have subordinates, but it is he/she who influences the product and its development.
A project manager manages the team and is responsible for allocating resources.
The main success factor is knowledge of the target audience and understanding of methods: making a profit from the product.
The main success factor is the competent organization of work processes and the application of the necessary work methods
What It Takes to Be a Great Product Manager
Another question we need to learn to find out is “what is product management?”.
So product managers must be well versed in business, user experience, and technology. But there are three additional skills, or abilities, that every product manager needs:
Ability to present a product well
Mastery of marketing strategies
The product leader must inspire as well as master the tactics of dialogue because this is the key tool of the manager.
Through customer feedback and market research, product managers learn even more about the customer than salespeople.
They then use their skills to share the client's vision with the rest of the company.
Customer focus also shapes the marketing strategy. Instead of using established methods, the product management team gives their word on seeing the product through the eyes of the customer.
In addition, market knowledge and the ability to stand out from the competition pay dividends in the long run. Understanding the basic concepts of marketing and positioning will help managers deliver products where people can find themselves and feel heard.
Finally, product management is all about empathy. Empathy for the developers and the way they work, empathy for the client and their pain points, and even empathy for senior management who maneuvers between getting the benefit and getting the job done on time.
This skill of empathy, developed through introspection and a deep understanding of each group, separates managers who can rally an organization around common goals from those who can't.
A great PM knows how to perfectly choose a product team, including developers, project managers, and business consultants. Product managers analyze the requirements of a particular product and collect a team of professionals accordingly. Hence IT product managers are just like a mother/father who knows their development team and treats its members as children in some way.
What is the Product Management Process?
PM's work can be divided into 5 modes:
Designing a new product or some new functionality. At this stage, the PM organizes a meeting with the technical architect and developers and announces the tasks that they have to solve. As a result, the team determines the path that development will take.
Planning. At this stage, it is important to take into account all the factors that affect the development process, including the qualifications of employees and the risks associated with them, dependence on third-party services, and bug fixing.
Control. A PM needs to understand what is going on in a project. They have to always keep their finger on the pulse.
Prompt resolution of emerging issues. Solving pain points of software development.
Communication with the customer, team, and related employees at all stages of project development.
checking the work performed by teams over the past day;
conducting stand-up with the team;
communication with the customer via email, skype, telephone, and meetings;
work with documentation, and reporting;
monitoring of the execution of tasks;
solving various current problems.
In 2020, Gartner conducted a study comparing how product managers work in companies that are constantly growing - and those that are stagnant. So, at least 50% of product managers from "growth companies" took seven steps before starting to develop a solution.
Validated the problem through interviews with clients (50%);
Analyzed competitors (56%);
Created a resource plan (52%);
Tested prototypes with clients to get feedback (52%);
Did “sizing” with developers (61%);
Planned project timelines (59%).
What about companies that stagnate? Half of their product managers took just three steps: drafting a project plan, analyzing competitors, and planning how many resources they would need.
It is noticeable that the first group uses the best practices from the agile methodology, while the second is much closer to the classic waterfall, which gives much less feedback and does not allow you to quickly iterate.
How To Start A Career In Product Management
The entry threshold for the position of Product Manager in an IT company is high. If you aspire to this position, then you are ready to take on responsibility, quickly switch from one task to another, communicate with a lot of people a day, and also constantly learn new things. But where to start?
Skills to develop
The IT Product Manager is in fact the CEO of the product. They must be willing to constantly learn what is product management in real life. The Product Manager guides the team towards the goal but has no direct influence on the team. A product manager must be able to solve problems, think clearly, be able to prioritize and manage stakeholders.
If we analyze one day in the life of a Product Manager, we find a lot of work with stakeholders. Problems will be everywhere, each more acute than the last, but the PM must know how to proceed carefully and ruthlessly cancel tasks that are not essential.
What to learn to find out what is product management?
The career path to the PM position for a specialist who has previously worked in IT looks something like this: Developer —> Lead developer —> PM.
If you want to become a PM, your skills must fit the management style of the company, you must have a normal or good relationship with the C-level. Ideally, your candidacy should come to your manager's head first if they think about a replacement.
What should a resume for an IT Product Manager position look like?
This is a chicken and egg problem where we often notice that product management experience is required for product management jobs. However, if we break down the role of a Product Manager, it will be a combination of problem-solving, data-driven decision making, stakeholder management, prioritization, and understanding customer pain points.
Therefore, a candidate's resume for the PM position should show their bias towards action and problem solving, which is very common in people with startup experience.
Show that you are well aware of what is product management. Displaying that you know what to do from the start to product launch and managing a team effectively are the next important things to highlight on a resume.
Progress is rapidly changing our world, and in order to remain competitive in the labor market, it is no longer enough to master any one specialty. A person who would like to master the profession of a product manager will have to combine a large number of skills from related professions, an extraordinary outlook on the world, leadership qualities, empathy, stress resistance, and constant development.
The question of what is product management is quite complex since the role of a PM includes a wide variety of functions. Also, this term is often confused with similar ones. Still, many young men are striving to master this profession.
Being a product manager is both interesting and difficult, but you should understand that in the near future not a single startup will do without this position, not to mention global business projects.
Be brave, learn what is product management and try something new!