In today’s industry, great Product Management is no longer optional. What it used to be a competitive advantage now is a must-do for all companies that want to stay competitive.

Product Management is all about building the right product. How to build the product right is important, but if your customers don’t care about your product it doesn’t matter. There are thousands of masterpieces out there that nobody cares about.

Moreover, the role of a Product Manager is still a little vague. The nature of the role makes it very dependant on the context. Companies struggle to find common ground to describe what Product Managers should be responsible for.

What is a Product Manager?

Product managers are responsible for the ultimate success of the product. They are like the conductor in an orchestra. The conductor helps the orchestra to deliver a great performance to the audience.

Although there is a manager in the job title, Product Managers don’t have people in charge. They need to lead the team without authority.

To discover a product that is valuable, usable and feasible - Marty Cagan

Think about Product Management as the intersection between Business, Technology, and User Experience. A Product Manager pulls all the pieces together by getting feedback from everyone else.

From Martin Eriksson’s article. Resources section.

  • Business: Product Managers achieve business goals while maximizing return on investment (ROI). This is why product optimization is so important.

  • Technology: Product Managers understand the trade-offs of product implementation during delivery. This is why knowing the tech stack is so important.

  • User Experience: Product Managers understand that people think in terms of conceptual models and not features. This is why talking to users and getting feedback first hand is so important.

A good Product Manager needs to feel comfortable with all three, no matter what their background is.

What Product Managers do?

Product Managers have two key responsibilities. First, they decide which opportunities are worthy to pursue. Second, they define what to build.

Product Managers start by setting the vision for the product. To do so, they need to research the market, the customer and the problem they are trying to solve. They learn as much as possible to come up with a vision for the product. Depending on the organization, this could be a team effort.

After the product vision is clear, Product Managers switch to evangelist mode. Everyone at the company needs to understand the product’s vision so their job is to communicate it. This is fundamental to the success of the product.

Then, Product Managers work on the product strategy. This is how the team is going to achieve that vision. During product development, many challenges will come up. The strategy is the map they need to get the right product out on time.

Once the product is out, Product Managers need to measure the product’s success. They go out and talk to customers directly. They look for ways to improve the product by understanding how customers are using the product.

This is what they do, over and over again.

Product Manager vs. Project Manager

This is one of the most common mistakes companies do. Project Managers are responsible for accomplishing the project. A project usually has a timeline, a scope and a budget as constraints.

Product Managers are responsible for the success of the product. To measure that success, it is important to define Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Although they would need the skill of project management to manage product releases and keep the product on track.

Product Manager vs. Product Marketing Manager

Another common confusion. Product Marketing Managers are responsible for telling the world about that product. This may include positioning, messaging, and pricing. They also provide tools for selling the product and leading marketing programs.

Product Managers, in contrast, are responsible for validating the product with real customers and users.

Their work may overlap sometimes, but they need to work very close during product launches.

Product Manager vs. Product Owner

There are still companies that use these terms interchangeably. But a Product Owner is a concept introduced by Scrum. It is a role that represents the customer in a development team and defines what needs to be built.

Product Owner is the role that a Product Manager usually plays on a Scrum team. Someone can be a Product Owner in a Scrum team without having Product Management skills or background. But won’t be able to build a successful product. Product Management exists beyond any methodology or framework.

Types of Product Managers

A common way to classify Product Managers is their relationship with stakeholders. Stakeholders are the people that have input on the product.

Internal Product Manager

The internal Product Manager is one of the best introduction roles. They are in charge of building internal tools for the company they work for. And since the number of users is often small, the risk is lower.

This is a great opportunity to learn a lot about technology and do a lot of project management.

Business to Business Product Manager

The next introduction role. Their goals are mostly influenced by the marketing and sales teams. Their focus is on tight deadlines and revenue. The number of users is small but they are not usually the customer.

It is a good opportunity to get creative, especially in dealing with internal and external stakeholders.

Business to Consumer Product Manager

This is the most challenging role because the number of users is often high, so the risk is higher. The level of uncertainty and pressure is strong since the company can lose money on any misstep.

This a great opportunity to learn, especially doing user testing in a fast-paced environment.


This is a first draft and a just a glance of what Product Management is. Take the time to learn from the resources below. We keep them up to date!

Do you have any feedback? Please, let us know here.

References

“What, exactly, is a Product Manager” by Martin Eriksson 4 min read
“What is a product manager and what do they do?” by Geoffrey Keating 4 min read
“Product Manager vs Product Owner” by Melissa Perri 7 min read
“Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love” by Marty Cagan, Chapters 1-3  
“The Product Book” by Product School, Chapter 1  

Additional Resources

“Dear Junior Product Manager…” by Lilly M. Dobreva 3 min read
“What Is a Product Manager, Actually?” by Alex Valaitis 8 min read
“What People Don’t Tell You About Product Management” by Jason Shen 15 min read
“What’s in the DNA of Product People?” by Jase Clamp 8 min read
“A Simple Trick to Make You A More Efficient Product Manager” by Lilly M. Dobreva 2 min read
“Product Distribution Models” by Clement Kao 8 min read