You may have heard of a product manager. The demand for this job occupation has increased in recent months. In fact, companies dedicated to retail, have indicated that this figure is one of the most demanded profiles by companies. Especially when it comes to expanding into global markets (1).
The term product manager is particularly popular in the workplace and is often used as a job title. However, this job category often leads to confusion due to its unclear nature. In this article, we’ll explain exactly what this job title is and what functions it performs.
- A product manager is a multi-functional position, with interconnections with several departments.
- The functions he/she performs require an academic background complemented by advanced interpersonal skills.
- It is a challenging and potentially frustrating job. However, it can also be rewarding by meeting the objectives set.
Who is a product manager?
A product manager is the figure in charge of detecting consumer needs, and developing and delivering products that meet them. He/she can take care of one or several products, and accompanies them from their launch until they disappear. Generally, he/she acts as a bridge interconnecting different departments, such as the business, technological development and user experience areas (2).
Additionally, a product manager must continuously connect with the development department. This is because for achieving the goal of detecting consumer needs, he/she needs to know what they are and why they should be met. In short, he is the person in charge of designing a roadmap for the product, as well as ensuring that it is carried out satisfactorily. One of the main objectives will be to maximize the profitability obtained for as long as possible.
What are the functions of a product manager?
We already know what a product manager does, but what does he/she do on a day-to-day basis? As we have already mentioned, the product manager is the one who is in charge of defining the product’s action plan. In the same way, he/she must also be in charge of interconnecting different departments to achieve an adequate result (3). Here is a more specific description of his or her functions within the company:
What types of product managers are there?
Nowadays, you should know that there are different positions that a product manager can perform. These depend largely on the company you are working for. This is because each company has a different approach to its customers and their needs. In the same way, generally, a product manager applies the knowledge and experience previously acquired in his or her previous department (marketing, engineering).
Below, we explain the differences between the different categories:
- Product manager. Is responsible for looking after the product lifecycle, from start to finish, as well as the roadmap. He or she works together with different internal departments of the company, as well as with customers, potential users and partners.
- Product owner. This role is to support the development team, as well as to create user stories.
- Growth product manager. Specializes in delivering results related to profit and business growth, as well as customer retention.
- Technical product manager. Primarily works together with the engineering team on key features on product specifications and functionalities.
- Platform product manager. Is responsible for creating and optimizing technical components shared between different products.
What training does a product manager require?
It is sometimes interesting to know what academic background is necessary to end up working as a product manager (4). Although it is true that each company has different selection criteria according to their Human Resources departments, there is a small consensus. However, in an ever-changing and highly globalized world, this information should not be taken at face value.
In other words, if you have or are pursuing certain studies that we may not refer to, it does not mean that you cannot apply for this position. It is simply a compilation of the different educational backgrounds that are commonly found in people who are dedicated to this function.
What skills does a product manager need to have?
It is necessary to make a differentiation when talking about the qualities that a candidate must have in order to become a product manager. Firstly, we have hard skills, which are those elements of a technical nature that we have. This segment includes degrees, knowledge of languages, or work experience in certain positions that we may have.
We must also take into account soft skills, which are those “non-tangible” skills that are difficult to quantify. They are subjective qualities that we have, also called interpersonal skills. Basically, we could define them as the way in which we interact with others. Below, we detail those skills a product manager should have (5):
How to analyze progress as a product manager?
It is important to know that a product manager will be required to deliver results. Therefore, this is one of his top preferences: to obtain results for the company and for customers. It is essential to know what goals to achieve, as well as to understand and analyze how the strategy is working.
In order to study the progress being made, there are key points to consider:
- Team efficiency: we must know which are the most important points and how they are progressing. As well as noting those impediments that are delaying or blocking progress. This will lead us to understand if you are satisfied with the team’s performance and speed, or if there are problems to be solved first.
- Product usage: it is relevant to know which are the most and least used functions. In the same way, analyze at what points the user gets stuck with the product or abandons it. Therefore, it is important to know the conversion rate (in case our product has trial and paid versions). Additionally, it is also key to analyze the sales funnel.
Is the job of a product manager stressful?
Another common question about product managers is whether their job involves a high degree of stress, and whether they are happy in their position. As we all know, with great responsibility comes great responsibility. And the latter usually leads to that feeling of tension called stress. Due to the versatility of the position, a product manager has to deal with a multitude of different situations.
Therefore, it is possible that in some of these stages, he/she may encounter experiences that are frustrating, which can end up causing the appearance of stress. That is why you should know what challenges a product manager faces. Here are the main causes of frustration they encounter:
Tips for being a good product manager
If you want to know some small tips to apply in your first weeks as a product manager, here is our list:
- Start with a strategy: do not make decisions impulsively. Design a strategy beforehand and stick to it. Be clear about your objectives and understand what steps you need to take to get closer to them.
- Know your customers: as we mentioned earlier, empathy is one of the key attributes of a product manager. It is essential to invest time in getting to know the users’ problems to be solved. To do so, organize meetings, calls, encounters with real customers, etc.
- Build relationships with your team: the success of a project manager lies in the sum of the individual achievements of each of the different work teams. Relationships with good communication and trust will help deliver a great product.
- Prioritize tasks: as an element of interconnection between different departments, a product manager is always required by employees from every sector of the company. You can’t please everyone at the same time. Therefore, prioritize the most important items and pay the most attention to them. Don’t mind saying “no” to other less relevant requests at the time.
As you have seen, the tasks of a product manager are very varied. Being a product manager can certainly be a challenge to face, but it is also very rewarding to observe the possible success of the product. At the end of the day, it is all about providing a solution to a need that has been identified among consumers. And the achievement of different objectives in order to make the product a reality is undoubtedly rewarding. As well as accompanying the product during the different phases of its life, and encouraging the maximization of ROI (return on investment).
Additionally, the versatility that this job requires also implies the idea of the improvement that one experiences in the different areas of one’s life. Not only by acquiring experience in one of the most demanded positions in the retail industry, but also in the different personal skills that one develops. It is a position where you are in contact with different people from various departments, and you can certainly learn a little bit from each of them.
1. Rauniar, Rupak; Doll, William; Rawski, Greg; Hong, Paul. The role of heavy weight product manager in new product development, 2008.
2. J. Luck, David. Interfaces of a Product Manager, 1969
3. P. Buell, Victor. The Changing Role of the Product Manager in Consumer Goods Companies, 1975
4. Chisa, Ellen. Evolution of the Product Manager, 2014.
5. Haines, Steven. The Product Manager’s Survival Guide: Everything You Need to Know to Succeed as a Product Manager, 2013