A key component of the Product Manager role is ensuring that the product supports the company’s overall strategy and goals. The Product Manager is responsible for delivering a differentiated product to market that addresses a market need and represents a viable business opportunity. Although the Product Manager is ultimately responsible for managing the product throughout its lifecycle – conception through end-of-life – they receive assistance throughout this process from specialists such as designers, developers, quality assurance engineers, supply chain and operations experts, manufacturing engineers, Product Marketing Managers, project managers, sales professionals, and more.
Skills and Competencies Required In The Product Manager Role
In most cases, the description of Product Manager covers an incredibly wide range of skills. However, most Product Manager roles have several key components:
- Domain expertise: Very often, your knowledge of your market and product area is why your company hired you. The fact that you know the customers and the business is the main reason you’re now a Product Manager.
- Business expertise: People say that the Product Manager is the CEO of the product. Though that is not typically 100% true, making sure the company is generating a profit is usually involved. You need to have a suite of business skills to keep your product profitable.
- Leadership skills: Many people within your company are looking to you for guidance. If you don’t have leadership skills under your belt, you need to develop them quickly.
- Operational ability: Product Managers need to dive deep into the many nitty-gritty details needed to manage a product: for example, creating part numbers or updating a spreadsheet. Sometimes you can get someone else to do these tasks, but many times you are responsible for them.
Product Manager Responsibilities: Key Tasks
As you take on the role of Product Manager, here are some bullet points you may find in your job description outlining a Product Manager’s responsibilities:
- Defines the product vision, strategy and roadmap.
- Gathers, manages, and prioritizes market/customer requirements.
- Acts as the customer advocate articulating the user’s and/or buyer’s needs.
- Works closely with engineering, sales, marketing, and support to ensure business case and customer satisfaction goals are met.
- Has technical product knowledge or specific domain expertise.
- Defines what to solve in the market needs document, where you articulate the valuable market problem you’re solving along with priorities and justification for each part of the solution.
- Runs beta and pilot programs during the qualify phase with almost final products and samples. In Agile environments, regularly reviews completed work and checks with customers to ensure that it meets the customer expectations.
- Is a market expert. Market expertise includes understanding the reasons customers purchase products. This includes a deep understanding of the competition, and how customers think of and buy your product. Product Managers need market research and competitive analysis skills to complete these tasks.
- Acts as the product’s leader within the company.
- Develops the business case for new products, improvements to existing products, and business ventures.
- Develops positioning for the product.
- Recommends or contributes information in setting product pricing. This point isn’t true in all industries, especially, for example, insurance; however, an awareness of competitive pricing is part of what companies expect you to provide as part of the pricing decision.
Product Manager Responsibilities: Key Deliverables
Product Managers drive action through the company mainly through written documents supported by presentations. Here is a list of the most common documents that you may be asked to create. Be aware that each company has their own specific list and terminology.
- Business case
- Market needs document
- Product Roadmaps
- White papers, case studies, product comparisons, competitor analysis, and user stories
- Presentations using the above content
- Excel spreadsheets to document data used above
Required Experience and Knowledge in the Product Manager Role
Product Managers call on a wide range of skills and have a broad set of business and product experiences to call on. Here is a list of what managers look for when filling a Product Manager role.
- Demonstrated success in defining and launching products that meet and exceed business objectives
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills
- Subject matter expertise in a particular product or market. This should include specific industry or technical knowledge.
- Excellent teamwork skills
- Proven ability to influence cross-functional teams without formal authority
Many Product Managers have a bachelor level degree in the industry that their product serves. Some also have MBA or additional business and marketing training.
The role of a Product Manager provides one of the best training grounds for moving onward and upward into roles like vice president, general manager, and CEO. And if you’re lucky and choose carefully, you get to work with some pretty talented engineering and development teams to create products that delight your customers, make a huge difference in your customers’ lives, and help achieve profits and strategic objectives that propel your company to success.
Product Manager Job Descriptions
See a Product Manager job descriptions example.
What you are most likely to hear a Product Manager say
“I had to take charge and make sure my product made it to market on time.”