Product management is a multifaceted discipline. It involves product planning, team management and marketing over the lifecycle of a product. The intricacies of the role require a combination of hard and soft skills. It is about working out a fine balance between user needs, experience and expectations, developers' competencies and concerns, and management's vision and business goals — all with the purpose of delivering optimum products on time and within budget.
Competition between tech companies to market their software, hardware, and service products is intense. This is why demand is robust for qualified IT product managers. They are the professionals management relies upon to plan and deliver products that will have a market and expand their business. Large organizations normally employ several product managers.
Currently, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't publish statistics and growth projections for product manager roles in particular. There is data on Computer and Information Systems Managers in the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook. According to BLS, jobs in this category are expected to grow by 16 percent over the period 2021 to 2031.
What does a product manager do?
A product manager's role is complex. A successful product manager needs to understand different perspectives and get everyone together to bring a product to market in line with company priorities and goals. During the product development stage, team members go to the product manager with any questions, problems or concerns that come up. The product manager must address questions and concerns and help solve problems.
This role requires relevant technical expertise, market and business sense, and an understanding of customer needs and user experience. It's also helpful to understand developers' capabilities and perspectives, and have knowledge of the competitive position of the products managed.
An IT product manager could be responsible for the entire product, from conception to market launch, or just one or more parts of product development. Responsibilities differ, depending on seniority, organizational imperatives, and the product specifics.
A product manager is responsible to develop a product strategy and line of action, or product roadmap as it is known in the IT industry. A clear roadmap outlines the concept, objective, path, priorities and evolution of a product as time goes by.
A successful product manager needs to interact as often as required with product developers, company management, marketing, customer service, and prospective users in order to ensure that the end product fulfils user requirements and the organization's business goals.
Specific day-to-day job responsibilities may include some or all of the following:
Meeting clients or customers to ascertain product requirements — Understanding user requirements and expectations is key to successful product management.
Advocating product vision within the company as well as with external stakeholders — A product manager needs to communicate management's vision across departments, to customers or clients and other stakeholders.
Creating and managing product roadmaps and timelines — A roadmap is a tool used to communicate product vision, direction, and evolution over time. It demonstrates short-term and long-term business goals to all stakeholders and enables alignment of product teams with strategic goals. Product managers use roadmaps to explain how each team member's efforts align with product and long-term business goals so that they all work in the same direction.
Managing product budgets — A product manager is responsible for balancing budget and resources and bringing a product to market within deadline and budget.
Overseeing product development — A product manager is responsible for monitoring the development process, resolving issues and getting team members to work toward a common objective. The manager must coordinate and collaborate with people on the development team in order to deliver optimum products cost-effectively.
Reviewing and amending product development strategies when required.
Contributing to the development of product pricing models.
Product positioning — A product manager may need to undertake market research and plan product positioning accordingly.
Organizing or assisting with product launches.
Product enhancement and innovation — Product managers research market trends and customer needs and behaviour so as to plan product changes and design new features.
Presenting new product ideas and features to stakeholders — Planning new products or enhancing existing ones is part of a product manager's responsibility. They need to demonstrate ideas and new features to business heads and other stakeholders.
Gathering feedback from users — Keeping track of user experiences, analysing feedback and responding in a proactive and timely manner is an important part of product management.
Keep an eye on
Product managers need to stay up-to-date with industry and market trends and the changing competitive landscape. It is necessary to understand the audience and be able to discern the demand for a particular app, software, video game, service or hardware.
They also need to develop In-depth understanding of the technologies used to develop products. They must also be aware of new technologies applicable in their domain. Finally, it's important to update one's knowledge of the latest developments in product development methodologies, such as Agile and Kanban.
Training and employment background
Relevant experience is the primary qualification for a product manager's role. It's rare for an organization to recruit a professional without experience for this position. Normally, employers ask for a minimum of two years of product management experience for a junior product manager's role where the new recruit would be one of multiple product managers working on a product.
Middle and senior product managers need more experience. A company looking for a professional to manage a small product team would likely require at least five years of experience.
A product manager must have very good communication and interpersonal skills so that he can communicate effectively across different departments, negotiate, motivate people to work as a team and manage conflict. Good emotional intelligence helps in understanding different perspectives, empathizing with customers and other stakeholders, and adopting a holistic approach to problem solving.
Solid technical skills and business sense are necessary. Many organizations require product managers to have a degree in computer science or engineering. Some may require a bachelor's degree in marketing.
Though experience and a relevant degree are primary qualifications for a product manager's role, a recognized certification may help tech professionals without product management experience to develop requisite skills. Professionals working as product managers might opt for a specific credential in order to develop advanced knowledge and skills in their domain.
Popular product management certifications include:
Certified Product Manager Credential (CPM)
This is one of the top PM certifications. It is offered and managed by the Association of International Product Marketing & Management (AIPMM). Additional information is available online.
Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO)
This credential is managed by Scrum Alliance. Additional information is available online.
New Product Development Certification (NPD)
The Product Development and Management Association (PDMA) manages this credential. Additional information is available online.
The Pragmatic Institute also offers PM certifications in different tracks. Additional information is available online.