Don’t see what you’re looking for in this FAQs for Product Managers? Send an email to [email protected].

What does a Product Manager do?

Product management is ultimately responsible for the product’s success or failure in the market. They own the decisions about what gets built and influence every aspect of how the product gets built and launched. To do that, the Product Manager identifies the customer need and the larger business objectives that the product or feature must fulfill, articulates what success looks like for the product, and rallies a cross-functional team to turn that vision into a valuable, usable, feasible, and successful product.

What are a Product Manager’s Roles & Responsibilities?

Product Management is ultimately responsible for the product’s success or failure in the market. They need to work with every functional team in the organization, most of which don’t report to the Product team. A large enterprise may have separate departments for each of these, while a smaller company will combine the roles.

  • Engineering – size, schedule, and deliver the software product
  • Manufacturing – build,  schedule and deliver the hardware product
  • Marketing – craft and execute the Marketing aspects of the Go-To-Market strategy
  • Sales – train sellers on new capabilities, listen as sellers describe customer needs, participate in Sales calls when needed
  • Finance – provide guidance to price the  product; track expenses & revenue
  • Partners – train partners on how to sell new capabilities; share the partner’s product needs and those of their customers. Your partners may be ISVs, SIs, VARS, VADS, or MSPs.
  • Press Relations – publish press releases & updates on the product
  • Analyst Relations – update analysts on the product, get feedback, understand market positioning
  • Market Research – understand what is happening in the target market segment
  • Competitive Research – understand what competitors are doing and are planning
  • UX/CX – describe the user’s experience and the overall customer journey through the product
  • Product Operations – support Product Managers by helping cross-functional teams collaborate, collect data, create standards / processes / best practices  / frameworks, and selects tools used by PMs
  • Strategy – manage the corporation’s or group’s (any large unit’s) strategy
  • Legal – ensure the product complies with local, national, and international regulations (e.g., with respect to license agreements, trademarks, privacy).
How does a Product Manager differ from a Project Manager, a Program Manager, or a Product Marketing Manager?
  • Product Manager:
    • Product Management lies in the intersection of technology, business, and user experience. Product Managers are ultimately responsible for the product’s success or failure in the market. They own the decisions about what gets built and influence every aspect of how the product gets built and launched, working with cross-functional teams.
  • Program Manager:
    • Program Managers focus on how the company will build the product or how the team will work on a project. Program managers are responsible for collaborating with cross-functional teams, managing senior stakeholders of the company and resource negotiation for their programs to ensure the product or project is ready on time, and support the program to accomplish it. They also help teams mitigate risks in a timely and resource-efficient manner.
  • Project Manager:
    • Project Managers are responsible for breaking strategic plans into actionable, task-oriented initiatives. This involves coordinating and leading teams, communicating within and among teams to ensure the project is ready on time.
  • Product Marketing Manager (PMM):
    • Product Marketing Managers promote products and their features to the product’s target audience. Their duties include studying the company’s products, locating key features that will attract customers and creating marketing campaigns for products. Note that some descriptions will indicate that the PMM drives execution of the Go-To-Marketing (GTM) strategy. This is inaccurate because the GTM plan should include more than just efforts by the Marketing organization.
What are the different types of Product Managers?

The following roles may cover hardware or software products:

  • Technical product manager – works with internal stakeholders: developers and designers to schedule and deliver the product.
  • Growth product manager – develops and drives strategies to grow the company’s business through customer acquisition, engagement, and retention.
  • Go-To-Market product manager – identifies & coordinates the cross-functional activities required to launch the product. Some organizations call this a product marketing manager, but that restricts the effort to Marketing. Sellers, Tech Sellers, and business partners need to be trained. The Marketing team doesn’t generally have the required technical depth to do that. Marketing works with Product Management to craft the product’s messaging, which will go out to customers, partners, sellers, analysts, and the press.
  • Platform product manager – works with internal stakeholders to create and optimize technical components shared across multiple products that make up a platform, portfolio, or system.

These product management roles are related to the type of product and still could be subdivided based on the roles above:

  • AI product manager
  • API product manager
  • Data & Analytics product manager
  • Digital product manager
  • Enterprise product manager
  • Hardware product manager
  • Software product manager
  • Startup product manager
  • UX product manager
What does it mean when some people say that a Product Manager is like a mini-CEO?

Product Managers are ultimately responsible for the product’s success or failure in the market. They own the decisions about what gets built and influence every aspect of how the product gets built and launched, using a broad knowledge base to make trade-off decisions, and bring together cross-functional teams. Because of this, Product Managers are often the hubs for products — connecting customers, business partners, Engineering, Marketing, Sales, Customer Support teams, and other teams.

Product Managers have been called “mini CEOs” of a product, but that is not accurate because, while they have responsibility for the success of their product, they don’t have authority over the diverse teams needed to deliver, sell, and support the product.

Instead, Product Managers are leaders that excel at bringing teams together around a shared vision to deliver a market-leading product.

What are best practices of a great Product Manager?

Our research has shown that Ineffective Product Management can lead to 1 in 3 product launches failing, significant revenue lost, high turnover within the Product Management team, and a 30% loss in Engineering throughput (productivity). This is a high cost in terms of lost opportunities, in good times and bad.

Great Product Managers are leaders that excel at bringing teams together around a shared vision for how the cross-functional team can deliver a market-leading product.

Products That Count has numerous resources to help you become a Great Product Manager:

  • Product Awards Series: A collection of 20 podcasts from the Product Leaders, CEOs, and founders of the tools that enable Product Managers to deliver market-leading products & services that delight existing customers and bring in future customers across current and new markets.
  • Blog posts, articles, eBooks, podcasts, videos, and infographics that are part of Best Practices of a Great Product Manager and Becoming a Great Product Manager.
  • A highly-rated Strategic PM Bootcamp program that transforms your product team into a competitive advantage. This is not training because training does not work. This is a personalized, ongoing, iterative program with continuous mentoring that delivers Proven ROI because it focuses on the gaps of your specific PM team, not one-size-fits-all.
What are core traits that will make a Product Manager successful?

Not surprisingly,  these traits will make someone successful in just about any role:

  1. Lead & influence others
  2. Solve problems
  3. Gather, understand, & act on insights
  4. Communicate with purpose
  5. Manage your time
  6. Think strategically
  7. Organize chaos
  8. Ideate & explore solutions
  9. Execute ideas successfully
  10. Collaborate cross-functionally
  11. Be a team player
  12. Deliver on your promises
  13. Understand other team’s goals, processes & terminology

For Product Managers, Strategy, Design, Marketing, Sales, Finance, Support, Operations, UX, Content Management, and Engineering.

What skills are needed to be a great Product Manager?

The list of skills needed to be a successful Product Manager can be daunting, but it is well worth investing time in learning these skills every day. The better you understand the roles of the teams you interface with, the more effective you will be as a Product Manager. Ask the other teams questions as you work together.

The Soft Skills are important because the Product team has responsibility for a product’s success, but relies on cross-functional teams to build, deliver, and support the product.

Soft Skills:

  • Communications
  • Technical Writing
  • Presentation
  • Persuasion
  • Diplomacy
  • Delegation
  • Time management

Role-specific and product lifecycle-specific competencies:

  • Project Management
  • Roadmap development
  • Strategic thinking
  • Ideation & innovation
  • Design thinking
  • Customer & market research
  • Competitive analysis
  • User experience, onboarding, research
  • Finance
  • Agile development
  • Partner & Seller enablement
  • Digital transformation
  • Marketing competencies
Which organization should be driving the Product Roadmap?

Many organization will vie for control of the product roadmap. As a Product Manager, you will hear:

  • Sales works with customers every day and knows what they want.
  • Engineering builds the product so of course we should be in the driver’s seat.
  • Marketing handles the product messaging. We tell the world about the product.

Product Management is ultimately responsible for the product’s success or failure in the market. Only Product Management has P&L responsibility for the product or product portfolio.

Product Management owns the decisions about what gets built and influence every aspect of how the product gets built and launched. The other organizations only see and are responsible for part of the picture. Product Management builds the product roadmap by considering the whole:

  • Industry & Market
  • Competitors
  • Customers
  • Business partner
  • Technology
  • Business strategy
  • Legal concerns
  • Open source
  • Platform or portfolio strategy
  • Team capabilities & capacities
What should I do in my first 90 days as a Product Manager?

Read this article and listen to the podcast from Tribevest Product Leader John Franck on the First 90 Days as a Product Manager.

  1. Check in with your manager (and team leader) to understand the expectations of your role.
  2. Schedule a “Meet & Greet” with each of the cross-functional teams you will be working with. These are your partners in delivering a great product.
  3. Learn to demo your product. Get any questions you have answered. Your users will likely have the same questions. Figure out how they would get answers. Make it easier for them.
  4. Understand the key metrics for your product, how to track them, and what insights can be gathered from each.
  5. Set a product North Star, OKRs, and KPIs so all teams are rowing in the same direction.
  6. Find some quick wins that you can push through to production to show your leadership and ownership.
  7. Create and communicate your roadmap, dashboard and vision for the future.
  8. Listen more than you talk.
What goals should I set for my first year as a Product Manager?
  • Your position – Talk with your product leader to
    • Set expectations for your position
    • Obtain regular feedback – what are you doing well? What needs more focus?
    • Discuss your career aspirations
  • Business goals
    • What is expected of my product by the company?
    • How will it be measured?
    • Which are the most important goals?
  • Cross-functional team:
    • Learn how the individual groups are measured, the challenges they face, and what motivates them.
    • What are their capabilities?
    • Identify gaps that, if solved, would make them more productive
    • How you will regularly communicate with the team – regarding the product, sprint, project, and getting to know each other better.
  • Market segment:
    • Who are the key players? What do they offer?
    • How does your product fit in the segment?
    • Where is the market going (trends)? Which segments are emerging?
    • Are there gaps that would be opportunities for your product or a new product?
    • What would game-changing innovation look like for this segment?
  • Customers
    • Visit your customers to understand:
      • What are their top challenges? What problems keep them up at night?
      • How do they use and view your product?
      • How do they learn about new offerings in your industry?
    • Be able to demo your product to show that you understand how it works
  • Business partners:
        • Do they sell your product or embed it in a solution of their own?
    • Your partners could be a combination of ISVs, SIs, MSPs, VARS, or VADs. Their needs will vary.
    • What challenges do they face selling, using, and supporting your product?
  • Competitors:
    • Use a tool like SWOT analysis to identify gaps and opportunities
    • What are their key differentiators?
    • How do they message their differentiators? How does their messaging differ from yours? Does it resonate better with the market?
  • Technology:
    • Understand the technology your product is built on.
    • How is that technology evolving?
    • Has it been or will it soon be replaced with something newer?
  • Ecosystem:
    • Are there analysts that influence customer buying decisions?
    • Who are the other key players or influencers?
    • What conferences and events are important for your product?
    • How do customers learn about new offerings in your industry and market segment?
  • Create a product vision, strategy, roadmap, and sprint plan based on
    • Your business goals
    • Opportunities in your industry & market segment
    • Customer challenges, needs, wants
    • Business partner challenges, needs, wants
    • Competitor activity, weaknesses, opportunities
    • Technology trends
    • Capabilities of your teams (primarily the Engineering team).
  • Set product OKRs with your team
    • What does success look like?
    • How will you measure it?

Remember that designing, building, launching, and supporting a successful product is a team sport. Always ask, listen, and [where appropriate] take action.

What challenges does a Product Manager face?

Our research indicates that

  • Over half of Product Managers are new to their role and feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities
  • 1 in 3 Product Managers leave their job because there were no opportunities for them to grow.
  • Half of Product Managers have a 10-year goal of becoming a Product Leader.
  • 4 of 10 Product Managers say they frequently experience “Imposter Syndrome”.
  • The #1 reason Product Managers leave is a lack of mentoring by their Product Leaders.
  • 3 of 4 Product Managers see getting more skills and certifications as key to progression of their careers.
How can I solve the Product Manager challenges?

The first steps are to understand the Characteristics of a Great Product and why products fail.

  • Best Practices – Products That Count offers resources describing proven product-led growth Best Practices from experienced product executive practitioners.
  • Level Up – Take a top-rated strategic Product Management course (described below) to perfect and get certified in the superpowers that will make you successful.
  • Mentoring – Obtain personalized coaching and mentoring from experienced Product Leaders who have successfully overcome the challenges you’re facing.
  • Peer Network – Join the Product That Count’s network of over 300K Product Managers and Product Leaders to discuss your top challenges and learn how others solved them.

Learn how C-Suite and VP-level Product execs

The Strategic Bootcamp Product Management Course from Products That Count enables any organization to learn the craft of Product Management. This is a personalized, ongoing, iterative program with continuous mentoring that delivers Proven ROI because it focuses on the gaps of your specific Product Management team.

What are the impacts of not solving the Product Manager challenges?

Ineffective Product Management comes at a cost. For starters, 1 in 3 product launches fail. Additionally, there is a 30% lost Engineering throughput and significant missed revenue. The success of digital transformations is threatened by low-performing product teams.

On top of that, employees recognize when a Product team is not effective and will begin to search for another job, resulting in a ~30% turnover rate within the Product team. This hinders the ability to correct the problem as frequently it is the best Product Managers that leave.

See both of these articles for solutions to Ineffective Product Management:

What metrics will show whether a Product Manager is successful?

The success of a Product Manager is closely tied to the success of their product. At Products That Count, we view product metrics or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) through 3 lenses. Your focus as a PM will vary depending on where your product is in the growth cycle.

  • acquisition – how are you doing acquiring customers?
  • engagement – how engaged are your users?
  • monetization – how do you make money?

Metrics gauging the success of your product should have been called out in the business case. They will vary by industry and product, but often include the following aspects:

  • Financial – revenue, expense, profit, gross margin
  • Market – # customers, market share, growth rate, Monthly Active Users (MAU – paid and free)
  • Customer – NPS, performance, reliability/quality, product usage

To be of value, a metric must provide insights and be actionable.

 

What kinds of things should I be doing now if I want to become a Product Leader?

The best Product Manager identifies the customer needs and the larger business objectives that the product or feature must fulfill, articulates what success looks like for the product, and rallies a cross-functional team to turn that vision into a valuable, usable, feasible, and successful product.

To be considered for a promotion to a leadership position, demonstrate the skills of the best Product Manager to stand above your peers. Simply put, ship great products.

Elsevier SVP of Product Management and eLearning Solutions Mikhail Vaysbukh identifies two behaviors he looks for in Product Leaders: an ownership mentality and a commitment to achieving results through engaged employees and team and talent. Delivering market-leading products is a team sport.

From Tips for moving into a Head of Product Role

  • Grow your Leadership Skills
  • Ensure that Your Core Product Management Skills are strong
  • Gain Experience in Managing Different Products
  • Understand Different Product Roles and Responsibilities
  • Know your Industry
  • Carefully Plan your Next Career Step

Read Product-Led Growth: An eBook for Product Leaders and then demonstrate your unique insights to solving these challenges all Product Leaders face:

  • How can I turn my product into my company’s biggest growth engine?
  • How can I scale our strategy to truly accelerate the growth of our business?
  • What challenges stand in the way of my building product-led strategies?
  • What else could I do to help my product grow our customer’s success?

Check out the Becoming a Great Product Leader page for resources on product culture, building great teams, and how to design, build, and launch great products.

How can I become a Product Thought Leader?

Join the Conversation:

  • Follow Product Management leaders, read PM blogs, and listen to podcasts from Product Thought Leaders. Share, like, & repost the content.
  • Connect with new and experienced Product Managers and Product Leaders. by becoming a part of Product That Count’s network of 300K+ product professionals.

Shape the Conversation:

  • Express your opinion on the Product Management topics you’re following based on your experience. Comment on content from the Product Thought Leaders.
  • Learn best practices through the lens of C/VP-leaders. Hear how Product execs solved the problems you’re currently facing by listening to the award-winning podcast series Product Talk. Listen on iTunes or Spotify.

Drive the Conversation:

  • Contribute to your company’s Product community and stand out as a Product Thought Leader.
  • Author original content on Product Management topics. Share the content with your growing network of followers.
How do I find time to be proactive rather than reactively solving the crisis du jour?

It is easy as a Product Manager to fall into the mode of being reactive. Your inbox is full of emails from customers, business partners, Sales, Marketing, Engineering, and more. You are attending an excessive number of meetings each day to keep up with what’s going on. Sales is bringing opportunities to you constantly – if you immediately add this new feature, we can make $1B next week. Executives are making product commitments when speaking to customers or at conferences. Everyone is knocking on your door, looking for your time.

Best selling author Nir Eyal provides his perspectives on

Teladoc Health CPO Donna Boyer offers her perspective in Time Management: The Jar of Life. Go after the big rocks first.

Envisio offers 10 characteristics of proactive leaders. Since implementing 10 items at once may seem overwhelming, approach the list incrementally, setting a new goal for each week or month. Soon you will be a proactive product manager.

How can I stop feeling like an impostor – that someone will uncover that I don’t know what I am doing?

Imposter Syndrome is pretty normal for new Product Managers that are overwhelmed by the full scope of the job and awareness that Ineffective Product Management can have serious impacts on the business.

But remember that you were put into the position because someone saw the potential in you. Your management believes you can be successful. They succeed when you succeed.

This article offers 9 means to cope with Imposter Syndrome.

Learn how C-Suite and VP-level Product execs

How should I find a mentor – someone non-judgmental that I can ask questions of?

Find a mentor outside of your chain of command that you admire. Look for someone in a role you would like to be in 3-5 years from now. Your manager can help you find a mentor as their network within your company is likely larger than yours. Your mentor can be within your company or outside of it. Don’t look for a mentor that can offer your next position; that isn’t how mentoring works.

There are no limits to how many mentors you can have. You could have one mentor in a career you’d like to pursue, and another mentor that seems to have managed work / life balance in a manner you admire.

You own the relationship with your mentor(s). Do not waste their time. Decide on what you want to accomplish with the mentorship (e.g., career guidance), how frequently you will meet, and the agenda for each meeting. The mentor is taking time away from their busy day to help you; listen to them and act on their recommendations.

There are many articles on the internet regarding finding a mentor. If you want to continue within Product Management, one of your mentors should be a Product Leader.

How can I better handle my workload? I feel overwhelmed and anxious. There is too much on my plate and I am not handling it well.

Your inbox is full of emails from customers, business partners, Sales, Marketing, Engineering, and more. You are attending an excessive number of meetings each day to keep up with what’s going on. Sales is bringing opportunities to you constantly – if you just add this new feature to your roadmap. Everyone is knocking on your door, looking for your time.

It’s no surprise that you feel overwhelmed. Accept that this is normal, especially if you are new to the role. But remember that your organization’s leadership put you into the role because they strongly believed that you would succeed. Have confidence in yourself.

See the earlier FAQ on moving from reactive to proactive. This will help you feel positive about what you’re accomplishing, rather than focusing on the mountain ahead of you.

Some other ideas:

Don’t see what you’re looking for in this FAQs for Product Managers? Send an email to [email protected].

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