The Role Of A Product Manager Explained

The role of the product manager is to manage the production of a product. Is that enough? No? Well, let’s go into what details are likely to be laid out in a product manager’s job description.

We gathered all the basics and have the role of a product manager explained, from the responsibilities to daily tasks. We also have an answer to a never-ending question – what does it take to become a product manager.

Product Manager’s Job Description

Product Manager's Job Description

A product manager will deal with a variety of tasks on a daily basis, but here are your main future responsibilities in a nutshell:

Develop Products

The first responsibility is to identify the product to be developed using the available feedback into the company and outside the organisation. It is likely that it is also to receive instruction from managers and/ or pitch new ideas to managers.

Market Research

The products to be developed come from extensive research, both data-driven and qualitative information, derived from speaking directly to the user. This could be through focus groups and customer surveys, for instance.

Generate Product Requirements

Putting a bit of flesh on the initial plans for development requires coordinating the different stakeholders and their competing needs and values. This part of the job is going to be mainly listening carefully and negotiating well.

Determining Specification

Some detailed planning, laying out the exact details of the product for your manufacturers and engineers to work from but which also consider the whole product lifespan.

Develop a Production Timetable

Dates, times and the people involved in production will be clearly outlined.

Develop the ‘To Market’ Decisions

This includes the price point, the time for product introduction and the marketing strategies, in negotiation with other stakeholders in the company.

That is a lot of responsibility but what isn’t specified is that there are designers and engineers, marketers, salespeople, IT specialists, etc. all working around the same duties with the product. Therefore, although responsibility lies with the product manager, the act of doing may be the responsibility of someone else.

What Does Product Manager Exactly Manage?

We get the idea that the product manager manages the product. In fact, the product manager controls the process and the people involved in the process. As a product manager, you want the product to get from the first thoughts of an idea to market in the best possible time and with the cheapest possible expense.

You will then take responsibility for the life cycle of the product, making sure there is a clear roadmap about release times of new features or upgrades and ultimately the removal of the product from the marketplace.

A product manager, therefore, is managing workflow. They are coordinating the different professionals it will take to bring a product to market, including designers, manufacturers, sales, marketing, IT.

The product manager will negotiate the time and the details between stakeholders. It might be that a marketer wants a specific specification but logistics sees this as something that could add to lead times.

The product manager negotiates the answers to questions posed by the development and roll out of the product.

The Responsibilities of a Product Manager

The Responsibilities of a Product Manager

The responsibility of a product manager is the success of the product. The product manager takes overall responsibility and is accountable to the targets set out by senior managers.

Therefore, it is about creating timelines and roadmaps and holding others accountable for the meeting of the markers laid out.

The working day of a product manager will be made up of meetings with different stakeholders, trying to get the best out of the talent within the company. This means that a product manager might contribute to the vision and strategy for development and communicate this to designers and developers. They are likely to meet regularly with marketing, customer service, finance and company heads to bring this strategy and vision together.

Successful product managers take on the responsibility of knowing the product and its users inside out. As the driver of a Formula One car may work with the mechanics to understand how it drives well and could drive better, a product manager will recognise the smallest specification of a product and why it has been chosen that way.

An example might be in the production of a machine part. The product manager may ask the question: why don’t we use the same size bolts throughout the design of the machine to reduce the complexity of the supply chain? It might be that choosing the same size bolt throughout will also shave down costs because there is a better deal to be done on bulk purchases.

Managing the limited data is, therefore, a primary responsibility of the product manager. Although analytics of customer experience is usually the remit of the marketing team, as a product manager there is a lot of collecting, analysing and responding to user feedback and the products developed by competitors.

This is the critical information for driving the success of the product. The information from this user feedback and competitor research will impact on all areas of development from design through to launch.

As a product manager, there is also a specific responsibility to be involved in the implementation and support of marketing campaigns too. A product manager takes responsibility for enthusing the users to purchase the product.

The everyday tasks of the role will include managing budgets, hosting demonstrations and inspiring and encouraging staff.

One of the primary responsibilities of the product manager is the communication of ideas and solutions and listening to people to identify potential barriers.

Do You Need a Degree to Become a Product Manager?

Not necessarily, is the best answer to this question. Product managers can come from a range of educational backgrounds, vocational as well as academic. It is also possible for the product manager to ascend through work experience.

However, there are more accepted and traditional routes.

Generally, the minimum entry requirement is a bachelor’s degree in business or a related field. It is a good idea to take classes in marketing, economics, statistics and maybe some specific modules in the areas of design and manufacture for the area you are most interested in.

Even though a degree is accepted as standard entry-level qualifications, this is not to say you can immediately become a product manager from a university. The role of product manager is a competitive one, with most companies tending to have just one or two.

It is a career that requires a broad range of skill and an extensive working knowledge of how a company functions. Therefore, it is likely that you will need at least two years of experience in the field before you would be considered for the role of product manager.

Most managers train for the specific role on-the-job, helping them become familiar with the particular product’s features.

What Is a Career Path to Becoming a Product Manager?

Career Path to Becoming a Product Manager

To begin with, it is unlikely that you will find an entry-level product manager position. These posts are rare and requirement experience in dealing with senior and middle tier leadership.

This is not to say that you cannot begin a path to product management by taking a managerial position in one of the areas needed for later in your career. It is possible to get a managerial position in marketing reasonably early on or responsibility in managing and using data or in managing the customer experience.

All of this on the job experience will give you the pathway towards a product manager position.

It is, therefore, important to remember that the great thing about this career is that any knowledge is relevant knowledge.

This means various courses and certifications can promote career development and enhancement and improve your chances of gaining a post or increasing the responsibility of a job.

There are likely to be specific product manager workshops available and conferences in specific technical fields. However, much career development is going to come from getting to know the relevant product inside out and proving worth through action.

Here is a step-by-step process you might want to consider:

#1 What sort of product manager do you want to be? Do you want to work in software for instance or manufacturing? Do you just want to develop the product or do you want to be responsible for the whole lifespan of a product or maybe even products?

#2 Decide if you want to be a general product manager or a specialist. A specialist would know much more about the product field, while a generalist would know more about strategy, communication and workflow.

#3 Consider the characteristics, skills and knowledge you are going to need to attain this position you envisage.

#4 Look for roles within teams that help to start building the list of qualities you defined as necessary for gaining this product manager role.

#5 Continue to reflect on your skills gaps and work to fill these through experience and certification that will help you to fulfil the role of the product manager.

#6 Remember a lot of product managers learn on the job. Do not assume that you need all the characteristics, skills and knowledge on your list before you begin to apply. Get enough experience and learning to be able to show you could hit the ground running, while still accepting that there will be much to learn. And then enjoy your achievement.

Final Thoughts

The role of product manager is to draw all the threads together to ensure the best development and launch of a product to the most appropriate market.  

It requires you to be the master of all trades across the company but also to be the conductor of the orchestra, communicating effectively to ensure all happens at the times it needs to in the way that is most efficient.

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