Product manager, project manager, and project lead. Do you know the difference between each of these roles? For people that aren’t in the industry, they could look like a variation of the same job. This is far from true.
The product manager role is fairly new. Despite that, the sector is growing hugely. Glassdoor recently released a study that suggests that product management is the 10th best career path in the US.
This article will go into more detail about a product manager job description. However, as a brief overview, a product manager focuses on the development, strategy, and improvements of a product. The job is increasingly more important in workflow spaces, product teams, and digital industries.
What Does A Product Manager Do?
A digital product manager will take the overall business goals and align them to the customer base’s needs. With this, they steer a product through creation, across multiple teams. The aim is to deliver a final product that satisfies both the user base and achieving business objectives.
Product managers will prioritize the new releases and structure the product life cycle. This as well as delivering the product onto the market.
Some key elements of a product manager job description are:
- Working closely with internal and external stakeholders on improvements, issues and priorities.
- Following customer needs, collecting information, and analyzing it.
- Prioritizing product features to be released in the upcoming releases.
- Assisting in creating a long-term vision and roadmap of the product.
- Translating the organizational strategy into product requirements and required improvements.
A product manager often works across multiple departments. Because of this, a product manager fills any empty space between teams. This creates a cohesive working unit, ensuring that a product release is successful.
It’s unfortunate that sometimes teams such as key account management, customer support, engineering and design, work in isolation. A successful product manager nurtures cross-departmental communication for product improvements, changes and updates.
Putting this into practice, a product manager will define a vision and a strategy. From there, the features get outlined, and a development plan is created. All of these steps create a product’s lifecycle.
Day-to-day activities of a product manager
Over the last 20 years, product manager roles have gotten more and more popular. Even so, compared to other disciplines, there is still much to define about what a product manager does. A product manager balances a variety of responsibilities and tasks, but what that means varies from company to company.
This lack of clear boundaries is one of the things that makes product management such an exciting position. However, there are some core elements outlined about how to be a product manager.
Product management in a large business
A product manager’s role and responsibility in a big company could place them within a team of qualified colleagues. There is more support and resources for a product manager. Nevertheless, there is also more time spent on managing stakeholders to keep them in line with the product vision.
As large businesses need to balance more teams and external stakeholders, gathering and managing information becomes a bigger part of day-to-day responsibilities.
Product management in a small business
Compared to a large business, a product manager in a small company spends less time gathering information from different teams and stakeholders. The product role in a smaller business is more focused on direct work, rather than the big picture plans.
They focus on more straightforward tasks that are essential to moving a product towards completion. As the teams are smaller, they can also handle multiple stakeholders easily, as there likely won’t be too many departments or stakeholders to manage.
Product manager responsibilities
No matter the size of the business, there are a few activities that a product manager in any kind of company will focus on.
1. Create a product vision
The product vision must balance the business objectives alongside the needs of the user base. This means reaching out to stakeholders and customers. With this information, a product manager forms a roadmap and strategy to deliver the product into its vision.
2. Fight for the user
A product manager must understand what the users and customers want. To do this, they conduct a large amount of consumer research. A product manager will find the client base, reach out to them and collect key information.
This often means working closely with the customer support team to determine issues that aren’t currently addressed. This information is then used to improve the strategy and development.
3. Market and competitor analysis
To fulfill a product vision, a product manager must understand the needs of the user. As well as their competitors’ offerings. A product manager must understand why customers behave as they do, or why competitors have chosen certain paths. Without this, they could not know where their own product is leading.
Skills needed to become a product manager
A product manager has to combine a range of skills. Some of their skills are very technical, others are interpersonal and theoretical. Below you can read more about the 4 most important skills that should be highlighted in the product manager job description.
Communication and negotiation
Despite how hard businesses try, inter-department rivalries can develop. However, a product manager must navigate the needs of multiple departments. Clear communication and good negotiation skills are crucial to bringing stakeholders together around a product vision.
Customer service, design, engineering, operations, and management must all unite. For a business to meet its objectives and create a happy customer base, all departments must work as a team.
A good product manager should set up clear communication strategies to make sure everyone is on the same page.
There are multiple ways to ensure clear communication. These include regular briefings, detailed meeting agendas, clear and accessible documentation, and defined opportunities for teams to give and get feedback.
Here’s a list of essential skills everyone in product management should possess for communicating effectively:
- Stakeholder management
- Information & documentation management
- Project management
- Effective communication
- cross-functional communication
- Feedback management
Setting clear and thought-through priorities is another important aspect. The needs of different stakeholders should get addressed. However, this cannot happen all at once. Most teams, in some capacity, will ask for extra resources.
But some teams need resources more than others. It is the job of the product manager to define the teams that need resources the most. It’s also important to estimate the amount of work that goes into an activity. Product managers should be able to separate a project vs task so teams spend realistic amounts of time and resources on different activities.
Prioritization can get tricky. It doesn’t just cover priorities within a company, but clients as well.
For example, is it better to release a feature that satisfies the needs of one big client, but might disadvantage a number of smaller ones? Or does the product diverge from its current path, to better align with new business goals?
The right answer depends on very specific business situations. Any product manager must clearly understand the impact that their decisions have.
Here’s a list of essential skills you can add in the product manager job description for prioritizing work effectively:
- Information pooling and data analytics
- Task management
- Priority management
- Time tracking and skill assessment
Leading the team to work independently
A product manager must have strong leadership skills. This can come in many shapes and sizes, but one thing is for sure. To get a product released, there are too many decisions for a single person to make. It is clear that a product manager couldn’t make all decisions alone.
A product manager has to lead a team of specialists and departments. Ideally, these employees should be capable of deciding the best course of action for their field of expertise. If a decision becomes problematic, a product manager should use their problem-solving and leadership skills wisely.
It’s important to create a space for teams to work independently as well. Especially in remote environments, leveraging asynchronous work as much as possible can be advantageous.
Here’s a list of essential skills everyone in product management should possess for leading effectively:
- Interpersonal skills
- Recognize and effectively respond to different types of communication styles
- Coaching & mentoring
- Personal development management
Understand how to test and innovate
As a product moves through each stage and gets closer to completion, it enters a testing phase at some point. For example, a software product manager will be in charge of the beta stage and pilot programs of a new product.
They must have a clear understanding of the testing process and how to overcome issues that arise. Learning more about project management frameworks can be very beneficial to people in this role.
Knowledge of the agile framework is extremely useful here. An agile product manager can adjust a project around quick feedback.
Peter Bendor-Samuel, CEO of Everest Group, writes on Forbes: “Product management is a companion component of the Agile methodology and DevOps operations. Product management creates a Product manager – an individual responsible for the software product – who sits outside the development team.”
Why product managers should be fluent in task management
Effective task management is one of the most crucial skills that any IT product manager should master. With many businesses moving to remote and hybrid working patterns, task management is an important bullet to add in your product manager job description.
A product manager must be on top of monitoring multiple coworkers’ tasks. This is important to keep all teams on schedule and guarantee that everyone is staying organized at work.
To move a product successfully from conception through to completion, a product manager should have the right remote work tools to help streamline processes and organize workflow.
Manage your products with Rock
This is where Rock comes into the picture. Product managers can bring customers, the development team, and management together in one place. Communicate and collaborate with anyone within seconds.
Task management on Rock makes managing a product way more straightforward. A product manager can create, assign and follow tasks that are necessary to develop and improve a product. This gives the whole team a clear overview of where everyone stands in the process.
The Files mini-app lets all the people involved with a project access files easily. This means all files get organized in one place. Add files directly from your device or connect to Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Figma, Miro, and many others.
Also, you can store any vital project information for everyone to access in one place. In this case, the Notes mini-app or the Pinboard come in handy. Using these features you can make sure that everyone on the team is on the same page and up to date.
To find out more about how Rock can improve your product management, sign up for free today.