Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Product managers are technical people, so there’s no need to involve them in business, marketing, or sales decisions.
- Product managers spend all their time writing requirements.
- Creating a roadmap is just a matter of sprinkling some features on a timeline and adding a few dates.
- Product managers are all former engineers.
It’s time to debunk some product management myths! What is a product manager, really? What are their responsibilities? Do you have what it takes to succeed in the field? Learn all about product management in this crash course introduction.
What Does a Product Manager Do, Exactly?
The product management field deals with planning, forecasting, producing, and marketing a product or product line at all stages of the product lifecycle. Product managers are responsible for product strategy, developing the product roadmap, and defining features.
Boil it down, and a product manager defines the why, what, when, and how of the product. And to do it, PMs spend a lot of time working with other people, from colleagues to customers.
Product managers work closely with anyone from engineering to finance to marketing, depending on the current stage of the product lifecycle. For instance, PMs collaborate with designers and engineers in the prototyping and testing stages to decide which features are critical, and which are less important to a product’s success.
During the product launch, however, a PM will work more closely with marketing and sales teams to build product awareness and determine how best to reach and persuade potential customers.
Product managers are the ultimate problem solvers, designing and refining solutions to their customers' most pressing needs and wants. They’re critical to an organization’s success, merging business savvy, technological know-how, and marketing magic to develop and launch innovative products.
Product Manager Salary & Responsibilities
Product managers are in high demand at every level, from entry-level Associate Product Managers to Chief Product Officers. A product manager’s role and responsibilities can vary widely based on the position and level of seniority, as you can see in these typical product manager job descriptions:
- Chief Product Officer: Responsible for all product-related activities, including product conception and development, production, and possibly marketing. This executive-level position typically reports directly to the CEO.
- VP of Product Management: Leads, defines, and communicates product strategy in line with long-term business goals, owns the product management roadmap, manages the product lifecycle from concept to phasing out, develops budgets, and defines pricing and competitive positioning.
- Director of Product Management: Plans and assigns workloads of product managers, manages existing product lines to increase profitability, establishes metrics to measure and improve effectiveness, and conducts market research to identify new opportunities.
- Product Manager: Develops products by conducting market research and product manager analytics, determining requirements and specifications, setting production schedules, and developing marketing strategies.
- Associate Product Manager: Works closely with product managers, designers, marketing managers, analysts, engineers, and testers to develop products from conception to launch.
The average salary for product managers is currently around $100,000 annually, but can be as high as $1M+ for a Chief Product Officer.
How To Become a Product Manager
Successful product managers have mastered a mix of technical knowledge and business education. As such, a degree in computer science or engineering and previous technical experience is often desired, and/or an MBA or other business degree.
Required skills and qualifications go beyond diplomas and certifications, however. Because they serve as a liaison between so many different teams and departments, product managers need to be excellent communicators. They also need to be technically adept, so they can interact with the development team but also speak clearly with customers and stakeholders. They need to be big-picture thinkers, capable of balancing customer expectations with business needs and budget and setting clear priorities.
Best Books & Blogs for Product Management Beginners
If you want to get a more in-depth look into product management, picking up a few books is a great way to deepen your understanding of the field.
Check out these 8 helpful blogs and books to learn what it takes to succeed as a product manager.
- Product Logic
Written by the VP of Product at MDsave, this blog covers a myriad of product management topics and techniques, from superforecasting to the product triangle model.
- Product Management School
An encyclopedic guide to software product management, this site covers all sorts of FAQs, from product management skills to tools and resources.
- Product Management for Dummies
Brian Lawley & Pamela Schure
This comprehensive reference offers easy-to-understand explanations of the essentials of product management, from defining the product life cycle and creating a winning product strategy, to gathering and analyzing customer feedback.
- The Product Manager’s Survival Guide: Everything You Need to Know to Succeed as a Product Manager
Follow this book’s blueprint for graduating from novice to confident product manager. Start by understanding the keys to success, then learn how to become a product expert and customer advocate, effectively manage your teams to increase productivity, and further your career.
- The Product Manager’s Desk Reference (2nd Edition)
A companion resource to The Product Manager’s Survival Guide, keep this all-in-one reference on your desk to quickly look up product management strategies, processes, tools, and templates. Haines doesn’t stop at logistics — he also covers the soft skills you’ll need to lead your team to success, collaborate with other departments and teams, and communicate with stakeholders.
- The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded
Ever pushed a door handle instead of pulled? Or examined a new device from every angle, baffled by how to turn the thing on? Cognitive scientist Donald Norman argues that design isn’t just looks meant to catch a customer’s attention; it’s the key to why some products satisfy customers and earn their loyalty while others flop. He’ll remind you not to get caught up in slick technology and forget that your main job is to solve human problems.
- Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products
Use behavioral psychology to hook customers and keep them coming back — without resorting to expensive and aggressive advertising. Learn how to create “viral loops” so users instinctively reach for your product, build customer engagement, and develop products people love.
- This Is Product Management Podcast
Listen to this popular podcast to get practical insights every week from the brightest minds in product management.
More Product Management Resources:
- How 5 Product Managers Got Their Start
- Capterra's Best Product Management Software 2017
- 20 Must-Read Books for Product Managers & Product Marketers
- Creative Problem Solving for Product Developers (Infographic)
- A Day in the Life of a Software Product Manager
Are You a Product Manager?
Sources: Wikipedia.org, Aha.io, Quora.com