Product Manager: The role and responsibilities

Product Manager: The role and responsibilities

Get a clear picture of the product manager’s role and responsibilities. Find out more about this role. 

Keyword(s): product manager, product owner

What is a product manager?

A product manager is a person who identifies the customer need and the larger business objectives that a product or feature will fulfill, articulates what success looks like for a product and rallies a team to turn that vision into a reality.

A product manager is responsible for defining a prioritized list of features and functionalities which are developed over time according to particular business targets an organization sets forth for the product team.

There are many players within the product management process and the product manager must be sure that engineering, sales, marketing, and customer support are working as a team to fulfill the business case and customer objectives. Product management usually gets confused with a sales or advertising role because a product manager must be close to the client base and has to be able to articulate the product’s value proposition higher than anyone—even the sales team. A product manager will work closely with the customer support team to find out key pain points that the present product isn't addressing, and how to create solutions to address this customer feedback.

A product manager in cooperation with the product marketing supervisor conducts various research to get a deep understanding of potential product customers. In order to develop a user expertise that may fulfill clients, product managers need to participate in buyer experience interviews to collect buyer feedback and interpret buyer needs by both taking what they are saying at face value and inferring needs from their feedback.

Becoming a product manager does not require a qualification in computer science or design, so the chance to create products is there for anybody who has good communication, management, and business skills.

Outside of setting objectives, providing direction, establishing cross-functional strategies, and keeping stakeholders on track, the product manager might uncover that much of the actual work is out of his/her hands, particularly if the product manager does not have profit-and-loss duties. People with all manner of degrees, or even no degree at all, have gone on to success in product management, learning on the job or bringing to bear skills and experience indirectly related to formal education.

Since there are such a lot of totally different teams of stakeholders from investors to end users and all of them can influence the final end result of the product development, product managers have to speak and work with all of them. As we already mentioned, they work along with a product marketing manager to create the clear understanding of potential clients.

The role of a product manager is to create a product customers love by incorporating their feedback into our web and mobile platform. The role is much bigger than that—if the product manager doesn’t keep focused, the sales group has nothing to sell, the marketing department nothing to market. A lot rides on the product manager during the development process, so it is necessary for product managers to grasp what challenges they might face so they can prepare for them.

Product manager responsibilities

Specific responsibilities vary depending on the size of the organization. In larger organizations, for instance, product managers are embedded within teams of specialists. Researchers, analysts, and marketers help gather input, while developers and designers manage the day-to-day execution, draw up designs, test prototypes, and find bugs. These product managers have more help, but they also spend more time aligning these stakeholders behind a specific vision.

On the flip side, product managers at smaller organizations spend less time getting everyone to agree, but more time doing the hands-on work that comes with defining a vision and seeing it through.

  • Prioritizing product features and capabilities.
  • Monitoring the market and developing competitive analyses.
  • Understanding and representing user needs.
  • Aligning stakeholders around the vision for the product.
  • Defining a vision for a product.
  • Creating a shared brain across larger teams to empower independent decision-making.

There are core competencies that every Product Manager must have — many of which can start in the classroom — but most are developed with experience, good role models, and mentoring. Some examples of these competencies include:

  • Running design sprints
  • Performing market assessments
  • Feature prioritization and road map planning
  • Conducting customer interviews and user testing
  • The art of resource allocation (it is not a science!)
  • Pricing and revenue modeling
  • Translating business-to-technical requirements and vice versa
  • Defining and tracking success metrics

Best practices and tips for being a successful product manager

Whether you are looking to become a digital product manager as a career path, or you’re just getting started in your product manager career, it’s necessary to understand the roles and responsibilities and how to become a great product manager. Successful product managers possess a good mix of hard and soft skills such as user research, making a product roadmap, communication, and time management.

An effective product manager leverages internal stakeholders and consumer research to first understand all these specific attributes tied to their clients’ needs - and then they create a digital roadmap which is in line with these expectations.

A successful product manager will be capable of create strong cohesion amongst cross-functional teams, which might include the product team, the engineering team, the sales team, and the customer support team. A successful product manager must prioritize, by expertly assessing the importance of a particular task in relation to all the other feature requests currently in the backlog.

Part of the product manager’s skills ought to focus on being able to guide and support people, in addition to construct a strong team all through the production process. Relationship management is also vital in successful negotiation, resolving conflicts, and working with others toward a shared aim, which is especially challenging when a PM is tasked with balancing the needs of customers, resource-constrained engineering teams, and the company’s revenue goals.

Just as there isn’t only one kind of team, one of the most exciting aspects of the product manager role is that there isn’t only one way to do it. During the last two decades, the craft has exploded both in popularity and approach. Unlike designers who have successfully segmented themselves into interaction designers, graphic designers, motion designers, and so on, product managers, as a whole, are still wrestling with how to label their different strengths.

Know the lay of the land - Product managers need to know the lay of the land better than anyone else. They very rarely start with a clean slate. More than likely, product managers are dropped into something that already has momentum. If they start executing without taking the time to get their bearings, they’ll make bad decisions.

Empower your team to make their own decisions - Product managers can’t make every decision. Touching every decision isn’t the product manager's job—at least it shouldn’t be. One of the keys to great product management is empowering your team to make their own decisions by creating a shared brain—or a way of making decisions and a set of criteria for escalating them.

Learn to influence without authority - Influence comes in many forms. Listening to people and understanding how they’re influenced is the first part. Figuring out how to get them on board with your point of view is the second. Becoming a great storyteller—even when you don’t have any data to back up your point—will take you a long way. Some people won’t be convinced until they see you do the work. Understanding which levers to pull with which person is the key to leading without any direct authority.

Develop a thick skin - Making tradeoffs will inevitably make people unhappy. The trick is to first make the right tradeoffs, and then be able to explain why you made the decision you did. If you’re good at explaining your decision, someone can still not like it, but more often than not, they’ll respect the way you made it. And even if they don’t, great product managers figure out a way to deal with it.

Product manager vs. product owner

The product manager or product marketing manager studies the customer’s wants and needs, whereas the product owner makes sure that product development is following the product roadmap. The product manager decides what is going to be built or adapted and the product owner makes sure the development team does just that.

While a product manager defines the direction of the product through research, vision-setting, alignment, and prioritization, the product owner should work more closely with the development group to execute against the objectives that the product manager helps to define. A project manager is responsible for a single part of a product lifecycle – product development, while a product manager’s responsibility is to lead a product from the germ of an idea to launch, specializing in features, business value, and the customer. 

Do we need both roles? Various factors play into whether a business requires both a product owner and product manager. One, the other, or both? The real question about what a company needs must come from what the desired product outcome is rather than the titles that are going to be used. Business value is the top priority and then assessing the product management team roles and processes to help achieve those goals comes next. Structures and processes are often built into a corporate system that becomes unable to adapt due to inflexibility. There needs to be an assessment of who is doing what jobs now, challenges that need to be overcome, the overall decision-making process, and the end goal.

If you have more questions about the product manager role and how you can become an expert in this field, contact us today. 

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