Product Management Roles

Roles in Product Management

Guide to Product Management Roles

Guide to Product Management Roles

Product Management does not have a particularly well-defined structure.

Many of the job titles are interchangeable and mean different things within different organizations. Large organizations may have dedicated Product Management teams with a VP of Product Management sitting on the executive board. Smaller organizations could just have a single Product Manager that carries out the full scope of roles for one product.

That said, here are the most commonly specified Product Management roles and what they actually entail:


Junior Product Manager

Junior Product Manager

This role can also be known as a product analyst or an associate product manager. This role is generally taken on by a graduate that has just finished their degree.

They usually do not have overall responsibility for strategy. They will usually be tasked with owning single features in a product release. This would entail defining the feature; controlling the functional direction; writing the specification; and managing the feature through to release and beyond. They will also be given the opportunity to carry out benchmarking; market analysis; and competitive analysis. They may be mentored by a Product Manager.


Product Manager

Product Manager Role

Product Manager are normally responsible for the overseeing of all activities associated with the lifecycle of a particular product.

The product manager role generally requires 3-5 years previous experience in a product management role. Degrees in Business and/or Engineering are the usual requirement.

The product manager takes on a bigger vision and more responsibility.

Additionally they have to guide a cross-functional team to generate and implement new product initiatives and increase the profitability of the existing products. This may or may not be done under the supervision of a Lead Product Manager.

There is no clear answer to the question “What does a Product Manager do?”. This is due to the fact that there is no clearly defined, standard set of responsibilities for the role of Product Manager.

Each organization has its own specific set of responsibilities for the role. The spectrum that the responsibilities cover is very broad.

That said, the following is a list of the responsibilities that you are likely to encounter. Bear in mind that a Product Manager may be responsible for all of these or merely some portion.

Product Manager Responsibilities

  • End to end management of the product lifecycle from concept to phasing out of the product(s).
  • To be an advocate for the customer, keeping their interests in mind at all times.
  • To manage and communicate effectively with cross-functional teams.
  • To be an expert in the product and keep up to date with technological advances.
  • Development and execution of the product roadmap.
  • Perform business analysis with subject matter experts and customers.
  • Identification of new opportunities; product enhancements; and line extensions.
  • Development of documentation to support the approval, design, development and launch of the product.
  • Facilitate the design, development and launch of innovative products.
  • Identification of new target markets.
  • Identification, specification and prioritization of features, functionality and capabilities.
  • Definition implementation and maintenance of the marketing mix and business models for the product.
  • Facilitate development and implementation of high impact and differentiated product positioning and messaging.
  • Development and implementation of the launch strategy.
  • Facilitate development of high impact sales tools.
  • Development of sales and channel training materials.
  • Education of the sales force about products and solutions.
  • Monitoring of the marketplace, customers and competitors.
  • Definition and implementation of strategies to counter competitors.
  • Joint presentations with sales for key customers.
  • Joint relationship management with sales for key customers.
  • Evangelizing the product at industry events, seminars and customer briefings.

Lead Product Manager

Lead Product Manager Role

This role usually requires 6-8 years’ experience of product management. Degrees in Business and/or Engineering are the usual requirement; additionally an MBA is sought after.

Lead Product Managers have largely the same responsibilities as Product Managers. In addition, their role involves managing/mentoring product managers, as well as taking a fuller role in strategizing and execution of the product roadmap for the short, medium and long term..

Also known as Group Product Manager.

Usually more than 5 years of experience in Product Management is required for the post of a Lead Product Manager.

As with all roles in Product Management, the responsibilities of this role are likely to be different from one organization to another. The major areas of responsibility for a Lead Product Manager are detailed below, but as before the list are not exhaustive:

Lead Product Responsibilities

  • Manage/mentor one or more product managers.
  • Product lifecycle management from concept to phasing out of the product(s).
  • Collaboration with the entire Product Management team to create new revenue streams.
  • Analyzes, identifies and quantifies opportunities for new markets, new product features and new product ideas.
  • Preparation, presentation and implementation of businesses cases and business plans for new markets, new product features and new product ideas.
  • Set product requirements in line with customer needs and business objectives.
  • Develop market requirements, business cases, product requirements and business plan documentation. Works with the business to ensure quality product delivery.
  • Collaborate on product definition and product roadmaps.
  • Makes decisions, shapes and/or champion’s enhancements or new products for the product line supporting the overall business strategy.
  • Set product strategy from concept to phasing out of the product(s).
  • Conduct financial analysis – forecasting, tracking, analysis and reporting on the product – ensuring that the product meets business needs terms of units sold and profit contribution.
  • Set product positioning.
  • Set product pricing and distribution strategies.
  • Gain and maintain expertise in the product, market and business trends.
  • Continually monitor competitor and industry development.
  • Primary product/product line knowledge source for the business.
  • Primary evangelist and champion for the product/product line.
  • Develop go to market plans. Work in concert with sales and marketing to implement them.
  • Create Marketing Communication materials to support the product/product line.
  • Develop and create sale collateral, training materials and presentations for promotional activities.
  • Define and monitor product launch readiness and success metrics.
  • Create industry trade show strategy.
  • Provide product communication to a wide variety of audiences i.e. customers, senior management, internal groups, and internal departments and at industry events.

VP of Product Management

VP Product Management Role Guide

Also known as VP, Product Management this role is a member of the of the executive team of the business. Considerable experience in product management and business is required for this senior role.

This is a strategic role that leads the definition, development, and implementation of the businesses product strategy. Often have direct responsibility for the profit and loss for every product in the business portfolio.

VP of Product Management is often a member of the company’s executive team.

It is a very senior position and as such requires a considerable amount of experience in Product Management and personnel management to fill it.

The strategic and financial analysis is much more pronounced with this role. A VP of Product Management is expected to inspire and lead their team through words, actions and triumphs.

VP of Product Management Responsibilities

  • Lead, manage and mentor a team of Product Managers, directors, and related personnel.
  • Interviewing, hiring and training of employees.
  • Planning, assigning and directing workloads.
  • Appraising performance, rewarding and disciplining employees.
  • Product lifecycle management from concept to phasing out of the product(s) across all products/product lines.
  • Lead, define, represent and communicate product strategy and vision in line with the businesses long-term goals.
  • Assess product development and enhancement opportunities.
  • Oversee competitive research and technology assessments.
  • Evaluate and establish program priorities in line with the business objectives.
  • Own the product roadmap.
  • Accountable for quality of teams, product, human and business performance.
  • Develop budgets, forecasts, metrics and measures. Monitor and evaluate the results.
  • Responsible for ensuring effective cross-functional collaboration.
  • Lead Product Marketing Managers to assess product mix; evaluate market share; conduct competitive analysis; and identify new products.
  • Oversee and drive the establishment of strategic marketing plans for each product or product lines.
  • Define pricing and competitive positioning.
  • Influence business and industry practices by driving innovative ideas, solutions and products through leadership and decisive action.
  • Be passionate about satisfying customers by building world-class teams and processes.
  • Key evangelist serving as the public face of product with; the press; market analysts; strategic partners; and other industry leaders.
  • Take part fully in a range of industry events including: conventions, panels, forums. Submit and present white papers to establish the businesses leadership in the marketplace.
  • Addressing complaints and resolving problems.

Director of Product Management

board-director-product-management

Board of Director in Product Management

Also known as Director, Product Management this role usually requires about 10-15 years of experience in product management.

A Director of Product Management is likely to be responsible for a large proportion if not all of a product line. Responsibility here lies with creation of an overall strategic roadmap. They manage a team of Lead Product Managers, Product Managers and Junior Product Managers. They ensure that the Product Management process that is in place fosters activities that result in compelling products being produced.

More than 10 years of experience in Product Management is usually required for the Director of Product Management role.

In addition to the long list of Product Management related responsibilities for this role there are also a whole host of people management responsibilities. This is usually the first role in a Product Management career path that comes with these added responsibilities.

The list below details the main responsibilities that you are likely to come across but each organization is managed differently and therefore roles will differ significantly from one to another.

Director Of Product Mangement Responsibilities

  • Manage a team of Product Managers.
  • Interviewing, hiring and training of product managers.
  • Planning, assigning and directing workloads of product managers.
  • Appraising performance, rewarding and disciplining product managers.
  • Product lifecycle management from concept to phasing out of the product(s) across all products/product lines.
  • Management of existing product lines, increasing profitability and setting of Profit and Loss goals for each product/product line.
  • Establish metrics to measure effectiveness and drive improvements.
  • Creation of product strategy, product roadmaps and specification of product requirements.
  • On-going development of the product vision and strategy. Synthesize ideas on strategy, planning and execution of next generation of products. Building consensus and driving execution.
  • Maintain product and market knowledge. Analyses and keep abreast of market trends.
  • Aggressively identify opportunities for improvement and incorporate new product features on an on-going basis. Define market opportunities and develop product briefs.
  • Lead cross-functional teams to realize product concepts and bring them to market. Work with customers and internally to define and refine product requirements.
  • Best practice research and benchmarking. Conduct competitive analysis and develop a strong understanding of stakeholders to drive development decisions.
  • Development and execution of tactical plans.
  • Act as product evangelist both internally and externally.
  • Develop and manage relationships with customers.
  • Function as the technical contact point.
  • Addressing complaints and resolving problems.

 


Cultivating and Shaping Product Managers

Cultivating and shaping product managers can contribute powerfully and tangibly to the value of PM. This, in turn, can help a company achieve its desired competitive advantage. Once the right people are found, recruited, selected, and hired, the next step is to give them the right tools so they can learn their jobs and ramp up quickly.

Six areas are essential when it comes to cultivating and shaping product managers.

1. Establishing optimal job levels and progression plans

There are three basic job levels for product managers:

  • Associate product manager
    Associates have little to no experience in PM and require structure, close management, and
    purposeful coaching.
  • Product manager
    Product managers are equipped with a collective portfolio of skills, core competencies,
    and experience.
  • Senior product manager.
    Senior product managers are the masters. Their experiences have left them with a wide range
    of knowledge and wisdom that enable them to get things done and deliver results. Correct categorization is
    essential to avoid having someone tasked with something they cannot handle.

2. Guiding product managers to think and act holistically and systematically
Good product managers must be able to think in both linear terms and amorphously. There are several ways to
teach a product manager to do this. Leaders can create situational profiles or find comparable situations that
can be studied. They may also want to expose product managers to situations that arise in other functional
areas.

3. Motivating product managers to be conscientious about the performance of their products
Product managers should be taught how to understand the financial impact of their work on the company. They
also need a thorough understanding of all key performance indicators.

4. Inspiring product managers to make informed, fact-based decisions
Product managers need to know how to uncover data from many sources, analyze the data, and make decisions.
Sometimes uncovering data can expose more areas in need of improvement than are possible to take on. In
these cases, the product manager should know how to decide what to prioritize.

5. Making sure product managers can effectively influence and lead others
Not every product manager can or should be a leader. Those who manage product managers should know who
has the greatest potential and should work on bringing that leadership to the forefront.

6. Creating targeted development programs for product managers
Managers of product managers should use the Product Manager Scorecard to identify the most important competencies
or characteristics that reflect the needs of the business, and then assess the product managers based
on that information. They can then create developmental products consisting of structured work activities that
help fortify product managers’ skill levels.