A product manager (PM) is a person responsible for the market research, development, creation, and launch of a new product.

In this article, we’ll talk about the role of product managers, their responsibilities and skills, the difference between product manager, project manager, and product owner, PMs’ career path, and how to become a product manager.

What is the role of a product manager?

PMs are necessary for almost every IT company. They play a vital role in the success of a business. Now let’s look closer at the role of a product manager.

PMs are people who are fully responsible for a certain product. They generate ideas, study demand, and current market situation, create a development strategy, recruit a team of specialists, plan and monitor the implementation of assigned tasks.

The main goal of a product manager is to control every stage of product development and interact with sales, marketing, technical support, manufacturing, R&D, etc. It is a dynamic position that involves maintaining a continuous flow of ideas and resources to create a successful product.

Responsibilities of product managers are quite different, but the most common include market research, product development, and product control after its launch in the market. We will provide the list of responsibilities in one of the next sections.

Generally, a product manager is a specialist who works at the intersection of business, marketing, and programming. A PM is not only a manager but also a programmer, marketer, designer, etc. Such a person should have a lot of different skills in order to ensure a smooth workflow. We will consider them in the next section.

Top 5 Product Manager Skills

There are lots of hard and soft skills which are necessary to become a product manager. We will review the most important ones in this section.
Use our list to check yourself or a person pretending to get this profession.

Ability to analyze the market

If you want to make a successful product, you need to be aware of marketing trends in the competitive environment. Good product managers

  • know their competitors;
  • know ways to improve the product and its sales funnel;
  • are able to add value to a product;
  • know how to promote it;
  • are able to analyze the effectiveness of the improvements.

This profession requires both knowledge of business processes and creativity.

Strategic thinking

Strategic thinking is the ability to analyze critical factors that will influence the long-term success of a business. It is not about concentrating on details, it is about thinking globally. Strategic thinking is used in creating a product development strategy.

The goal of any product is to create value for customers. Therefore, a manager analyzes the audience, market conditions, and competition, creates a "picture" of the idea, and realizes it. Moreover, the analysis is done constantly: a product manager identifies new trends and customer pain points through constant market evaluation and changes the strategy.

Сommunicational skills

Product managers are team players. They communicate with lots of specialists constantly, so they should have good communication skills. It is important for them to understand the resources of their team members in order to distribute responsibilities properly. They should be able to find an approach to everyone, understand their interests and needs.

The success of a product depends on every person in the team, so product managers should build work in such a way that everyone fulfills duties qualitatively. They should know how to set development goals, be able to work with contractors, and negotiate effectively.

Time-management skills

It is impossible to reach the goal without planning the timing of tasks. Therefore, product managers should come up with ideas and plan their implementation in the smallest detail. They should be flexible in planning to be able to meet deadlines.

Responsibility

Product creation is an important process that requires responsible people. Product managers should not be afraid of difficult tasks. They must have leadership skills and be able to make serious decisions.

In the next section, we will discover product manager responsibilities and their differences in different companies.

Product Manager Responsibilities

Developing a successful product in a highly competitive environment is a complex process that includes many steps. Here we will speak about what product managers are responsible for.

1. Market research

Product managers start work much earlier than product creation begins. They should explore the market, find out customer’s needs, analyze the competitors, estimate product potential and develop the strategy according to a competitive advantage. This step is crucial because it decides the success of the product.

2. Product development

This part of work starts when a concept of a future product is approved. A product manager has to give clear tasks to everyone in the team and control the process of product creation. It is important to discuss development problems and complaints with team members and improve the product during the development.

A product manager is responsible for communication between senior management and other parts of the company. They should ensure the implementation of the idea in real life.

3. Product control

Product launch does not guarantee success. Product managers should create a product development plan and follow it. They are responsible for the formation of long-term and short-term sales forecasts. PMs should revise and improve marketing and development strategies; make value analysis according to actual analytics and statistics.

There is often a misunderstanding of the responsibilities of the product manager, project manager, and product owner. However, these professions are completely different.

We will cover this difference in the next section.

Product Manager vs Project Manager vs Product Owner

People often misunderstand these three professions. Let’s look in detail at the differences between product managers, project managers, and product owners.

Product manager Project manager Product owner
Creates an idea, develops a strategy, and hires the team Monitors the implementation of each stage in a timely manner Makes final decisions and finances the project

Generally, a product owner is a leader of the company; the product manager is the head of a certain product and obeys the product owner; a project manager is a person who controls the work of other specialists in the team.

Now, when you understand the difference, we will describe the product manager's career path.

Product Manager Career Path

There are lots of steps on the way to becoming a top-rated product manager. Read more about these steps in this section.

A PM often starts out as a specialist in some other sphere and eventually moves on to product management. Universities don't teach this profession, so it is enough to take courses. To work in IT, the main things are internal potential and skills.

There are several main vacancies in product management that you can find in different companies.

  1. Associate product manager. It is entry-level in the profession. Associate product managers report to the senior product manager. They work on product development and consult with other PMs to make serious decisions.
  2. Product manager. A product manager is a next step in the career ladder. These people are responsible for the strategy, roadmap, and the product itself. This position requires flexibility and strong leadership.
  3. Senior product manager. It is a high level for product managers. When there is a team of product managers in the company, some of them may become senior. Their responsibilities are similar to the product manager’s but on a higher level. These specialists manage higher-value products, may lead the junior ones, and communicate with business leaders as a representative of the product management team.
  4. Director of product management. This is a role for leaders in product management. These specialists focus on making sure the team is running effectively, improving processes, and controlling other PMs. They may move away from the management of a certain product and focus on working with the team.
  5. VP of product management. The VP of product is an executive position. These people work on budgeting, strategy, and communicating with product owners. The role of a VP in product development is promoting products that will have the greatest business impact.
  6. Chief product officer. It is the highest level in product management. The chief product officer reports to the CEO and oversees all product activities in the organization. This position requires strategic thinking the most, as the chief PM is responsible for setting long-term goals in the company.

So now that you know about the product manager career path, let’s proceed to the ways of getting into this profession.

How to become a product manager?

The profession of a product manager is becoming more and more popular nowadays. If you are interested in becoming a PM and don’t know how to succeed — we will give some tips in this section.

There are two ways to reach the goal:

  • start as an intern or associate PM;
  • come to product management from a related sphere (development, marketing, etc.)

However, both of these ways require certain knowledge and skills. Follow our guide to have an advantage in the competition and become a highly qualified PM.

Take courses

There are no state educational programs on product management. Moreover, a university is not always a good choice. However, you can choose from a wide range of courses to get basic knowledge in the sphere. There are lots of them on Coursera, or you can search in Google to discover more ones.

Build analytical skills

You need to be able to collect and sort the data, identify patterns of customer’s behavior and analyze them.

Understand UX

A product manager needs to understand the behavior of your customers flawlessly in order to segment the audience and develop a strong product line. Based on this, a background in UX would be an advantage.

UX design involves creating an easy-to-use product that can satisfy customers and provide them with pleasure and value during the interaction. It helps enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty to a certain brand.

Learn the basics of coding

Knowledge of code will let you communicate more effectively with developers and set you apart from other candidates. This skill is essential to be in high demand among different companies.

To sum it up, it’s crucially important for a product manager to be well-educated and open-minded. The tips above will help you prepare for hiring a PM or to get a profession of a product manager.

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