Product Management Guide

What Is Product Management?

What is Product Management? Product Management Definition

Product management is an essential business role for any company making and selling products. Why? Because research shows that 21% of products fail to meet the needs of their consumers. But what is product management, exactly, and how can a well-developed product management strategy improve success rates?

For starters, having a skilled product manager and a well-rounded product management process can help prevent one in every five of your products from being a market failure. 

This guide will explain exactly what product management is, what it isn’t, and how it differs from marketing and project management

We’ll also walk you through creating an effective product management strategy and share essential tips for optimizing your product management operations.

An introduction to product management

Product management deals with handling the complete life cycle of a product or line of products. This process includes planning, forecasting, producing, and marketing the products, as well as determining when and how to discontinue products. 

The ultimate role of product management is to ensure the products your company delivers meet your customers’ needs and wants.  

Further reading
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Wrike Is a “Game-Changer” That Brings the Sonance Product Lifecycle Management Process to Life

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How to Plan the Perfect Product Launch With Wrike

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Why Real-Time Wrike Reports Boost Product Development

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What Do Project Managers Do?

What is the difference between marketing and product management?

Let's get a basic understanding of product management terms. Marketing and product management both have the same goal: to ensure your products are what customers want to buy. But, the tasks they complete to achieve that goal are very different.

Your marketing team will typically focus on refining your target audience, driving interest through marketing campaigns, and relaying feedback from potential customers to the product management team. 

On the other hand, your product management team will generally spend their time involved with product and feature design, production schedules, and more operational or technical aspects of getting the product to market.

At times, the two groups may collaborate on some tasks. For instance, if you create a prototype and want early feedback on it, the marketing and product management teams may jointly plan and run a focus group.    

Product manager vs. project manager: What is the difference?

People often confuse product manager with project managers, especially since they may both be shortened into “PM.” But project management and product management have very different focus areas. 

Here are two key differences between product manager vs. project manager:

  1. Product managers are responsible for the entire product life cycle; project managers tackle a specific project, such as getting a product to market or completing a prototype.
  2. Product management tends to focus on the overall product management strategy and high-level plan, while project management is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day execution of tasks. 

While product management and project management may occasionally tackle similar tasks or even use similar methods and frameworks (such as Agile), each one has a unique area of focus within a business.  

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What isn't product management?

We’ve now covered that product management is not marketing or project management. But what else isn’t it?

Product management isn’t an operational role. A product manager is a strategic person who helps lead the vision for your business’ products. While they may help oversee operations, their job is to maintain the product roadmap (the high-level overview of the product).  

Product managers typically aren’t expected to know how to build the product. For instance, only 5% of product managers know how to code. Product managers just need to understand how it works well enough to oversee feature design and help translate the wants of the customer into physical functionality.

The product manager also isn’t (normally) the product owner. Product owner is a Scrum role that is responsible for representing the customer’s best interest during a project. They aren’t involved with the overall product strategy or roadmap outside of that project scope

The person filling the product owner role may have a different job title and description outside of the project. They could be a business analyst, someone from marketing, or someone on your product management team. 

In contrast, product manager is a full-time role that generally doesn’t end or change with a project. Product management would oversee all product-related projects and the product owners involved with each one. 

Who works on a product management team?

Like a project management team, a product management team will often depend on the organization and types of products being produced.

In some organizations, a product manager may not even have a designated team. Instead, they will act more like a consultant who interacts with and helps guide the teams in implementing the product plan (operations, marketing, etc.). 

In other businesses, product management operations may be a completely cross-functional team made up of the following roles: 

  • Product marketing 
  • Production
  • Product analytics
  • Product design
  • Testing/quality control

Enterprises may even have multiple product operations teams, with each one focused on a separate product line or customer segment.

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How to Build a Go-To-Market Strategy Remotely

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How to Streamline Product Development With Project Management Tools

How to create a product management strategy

Product management planning typically includes three stages:

  1. Define the overarching vision and strategy for the product
  2. Create a high-level plan to achieve that strategy and vision
  3. Translate the product management plan into a visual roadmap

What do you put in a product management strategy?

Your product management strategy outlines the vision and goals for your product(s). This could involve capturing more market share, entering a new geographic region, expanding the product line, replacing an outdated product with a new version, etc. 

Once you’ve defined what you want to achieve with your products (in discussion with other key product stakeholders) you need to translate it into goals that can be measured. 

For instance, if you want to increase market share, you’ll need to define how much of an increase you’re targeting and by what date. You’ll also need to establish how you’ll measure market share so you and your team can consistently measure progress. 

What do you put in a product management plan?

After your product management strategy is created, it’s time to translate it into a plan. 

Since a product manager’s job is to focus on strategic initiatives, this is generally a high-level plan. At this point, there’s no need to get down into the weeds of what steps need to be executed each day. 

The product management plan will typically include only the high-level product initiatives. If your vision is to expand a product line, your product management plan may outline something like this:

  • Step 1: Work with marketing to elicit current customer feedback
  • Step 2: Create a new design based on product data, feedback & market trends
  • Step 3: Build a prototype or beta version of the product
  • Step 4: Gather early user feedback
  • Step 5: Refine the prototype based on feedback and re-test the market
  • Step 6: Go to production
  • Step 7: Work with marketing to launch the release campaign
  • Step 8: Go to market
  • Step 9: Ongoing management of product life cycle

Essentially, you want to include an overview of the different steps that will be covered, the departments or people involved, and a general timeline of how long each step or phase may take.

What do you put in a product management roadmap?

A product management roadmap takes your product management plan and transforms it into an easy-to-understand visual. 

By creating a product roadmap, you can see the product plan's overall timeline and where steps overlap. Plus, a visual of your plan makes it easier to share with stakeholders, such as the marketing director, operations manager, and other executives. 

Your roadmap is similar to a project Gantt chart. It should include all of the high-level steps covered in your product launch plans, as well as general timelines and any key milestones, such as targeted release dates. 

Further reading
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7 Product Management Best Practices for Beginner PMs

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Product Management 101: How to Become a Product Manager