What is Product Management?

It’s a question we hear all the time… What is Product Management? So we created this guide to help individuals, teams and companies answer that question.

What is Product Management?

Product Management is the role and function within an organization that is responsible for a product’s overall success. Product Managers work with groups inside and outside of the company to build and execute a plan to make sure the product best meets its financial and strategic goals.

What is Product Management? A Guide for Individuals, Teams, and Companies

We created this guide to help individuals, teams, and companies answer the question: “What is Product Management?” If you can successfully understand, articulate, and define the goals of a healthy Product Management function, you will dramatically increase your ability to introduce and optimize Product Management.

This Guide Will Be Useful for:

  • New and experienced Product Managers, Product Marketing Managers, and Product Owners
  • Those who want to become Product Managers, Product Marketing Managers, and Product Owners
  • Those who interact with the Product Management function in their company

We hope that this guide helps you explain Product Management as a function, clarify roles and responsibilities, understand key deliverables, define core skills and ship some great products!

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So Really… What is Product Management?

Product Management is a critical strategic driver in a company. It can make a huge impact in terms of whether products, as well as the entire company, succeed or fail in both the short and long term. It’s the only role in a company that grasps all aspects of the business, including customers, the market, competition, trends, strategy, business models, and more. As such, great Product Management makes great companies.

The Benefits of Having a Great Product Management Organization:

  • Delivering products that better meet customer needs
  • Increasing revenues and profitability
  • Creating delighted customers who generate positive word-of-mouth referrals
  • Capturing and owning markets long-term due to solid product strategy (which drives overall company efforts)

High-performing organizations value the contribution and direction that strong Product Managers bring to the company – that’s the bottom line.

What is Product Management’s Function in the Company?

What is Product Management - Central Point of Communication
What is Product Management – Central Point of Communication

Central Point of Communication

Think about it this way: Product Management is in contact with all company departments—as shown above—as well as external entities such as customers, press, analysts, and partners. Although each of the other groups understands its roles in making the company successful, Product Management is the only group that has a holistic point of view and understands how all the pieces fit together to bring great products to market.

One other way to think about the definition of Product Management is to relate it to what Product Managers do versus what Product Marketers do. Product Managers ensure that a great product is built to meet customer and market needs. Product Marketers then ensure that the product is marketed effectively so that it sells well and meets its revenue and profitability goals.

Product Management Definition - Product Management vs Product Marketing
What is Product Management – Central Point of Communication

Watching the Whole Product

Product Management focuses on not only the product’s features and benefits, but the role expands to look at how the customer understands product value. This includes how a product is sold, supported, financed, and anything else that the customer could consider as part of the product. While driving delivery of the “Whole Product” is not strictly identified as a Product Management job description, wise Product Managers reach beyond their official responsibilities to make sure that a customer’s needs are met through all departments in the company.

What is Product Management - Watching the Whole Product
What is Product Management – Watching the Whole Product

Defining Product Strategy

Product Managers are responsible for defining product strategy. They understand the relative position of their product in today’s market and what tomorrow’s product should become so that it can compete in the future marketplace. Product Management constantly tracks how fast they are making progress as they execute against a defined product strategy.

Defining Go-To-Market Strategy

Product Management knows that products are only successful if bought by customers. A go-to-market strategy means that the right pieces are put in place so that a successful product is marketed and sold effectively.

Gathering Requirements

Product Managers are responsible for gathering customer-focused requirements. Their job is to correctly collect and analyze customer input.

Guiding Engineering

FIn line with gathering requirements, the next step is for Product Managers to translate that into product requirements, which engineering uses to create the final product. This translation of “the customer said” to “the product does” is a core Product Management function, which involves immense effort and tact in guiding engineering to the best solution.

Guiding Sales and Marketing

Finally, Product Managers are responsible for guiding sales and marketing to use the best messages when promoting products. In some cases, Product Marketing Managers take on this role. Sales and Marketing use the information given to them by Product Managers to best communicate the value of the product and complete the sales process.

What is Product Management’s Relationship To Other Groups and Key Stakeholders?

Product Managers, Product Marketing Managers and Product Owners work with a wide variety of people and departments collectively known as Stakeholders. Here is a description of the most important of these stakeholders and how Product Management helps them achieve their goals.

Project Management

Companies have project managers to keep the process of product development on track. Project Managers coordinate different departmental tasks and schedule concurrent activities so that a product is released to market in as short a time as possible.

Marketing

In the sequence of getting product into customer’s hands, Marketing is the next function over from Product Management and Product Marketing. The marketing role includes generating customer demand, helping Product Marketing and sales respond to competitive moves, taking care of public relations, planning events, and creating material that supports the sales force and channel.

What is Product Management - Product Management to Sales
What is Product Management – Product Management to Sales

Sales

The overall goal of a sales function is to facilitate the sales process. A sales process is one in which customers conclude that they should purchase your product—and then do so. Aside from the traditional salesperson who has a direct relationship with the buyer, Sales Engineers or Technical Sales Managers are involved in more complex sales situations, too. This technical sales function dives into the proposed solution, including a demonstration of the product in action. They ensure that once purchased, the product will do what it’s supposed to do.

Develop Digital Products That Matter

Learn the iterative customer-led product management methodology used by successful companies.

Product Development

Product development or, as it is sometimes called, engineering, is the organization that creates your product. Many specialties fall under this one title, including (but certainly not limited to) the following categories:

  • User experience or interface designers
  • Software developers
  • Hardware engineers
  • Quality Assurance

Your relationship with product development is key to your success as a Product Manager. The product developers translate customer problems that you define into real products that address those needs. The quality of your communication and influencing skills are critical in guaranteeing you have a good relationship with product development.

What is Product Management’s Relationship To Other Groups?

Almost every department in a company interacts with Product Management. When you introduce yourself to a department, ask them what the key deliverables and outcomes are that they work on with Product Management. While you may not talk with these departments daily, when you do, this is their perspective on their jobs and the nature of your work with them.

The Finance department will be highly focused on keeping the numbers straight and ensuring the company is making more than it spends. You will collaborate with this department on the cost of development, revenue and profits, pricing, and—sometimes—forecasting.

The Operations team streamlines task sequences to deliver products and services. They also manage many critical company processes. You need to convince them to implement as simple a process as possible so that your customers can easily buy your product. Conversations with operations are often very detailed; hang in there. These details can make or break the success of your product.

The Service and Support team provides the after-sales support that keeps your customers satisfied as they use your product. Talk to Support folks to discover customer issues and train them on new products and changes to existing ones.

In Summary…

A well-oiled Product Management function can deliver amazing products that customers understand, buy, and use. Becoming great at Product Management requires focusing on the product and marketing side of the business. Every day brings a variety of challenging and exhilarating situations that Product Managers face and find solutions to. Are you ready to dive in and learn more?

If you would like to learn more about Product Management, see the roles, skills, and documents needed.

Develop Digital Products That Matter

Learn the iterative customer-led product management methodology used by successful companies.