Product Managers have been described as “mini CEOs” and even visionaries. These notions are not so far-fetched, given that they oversee the product lifecycle from conception to presentation and are also responsible for implementation functions like distribution and marketing. In all this, Product Manager roles and responsibilities are wide and varied — and thus often confusing.
However, this also means that there are a lot of opportunities for growth in the career, and working as a Product Manager is a great option if you’re looking for a long-term, dynamic profession.
Let’s take an in-depth look at the different Product Manager roles and responsibilities to help you determine if it’s the right career path for you.
What Is the Role of a Product Manager?
Product management is a relatively new position that has emerged over the past 15 years — a development that has been driven substantially by the rise of tech companies. This is likely why the Product Manager job description is confused for roles like user experience design, technology leads, and one of the most common: project management.
The Product Manager role definition is generally described as a professional who is responsible for the strategy, creation, and development of a feature, product, or product line for a company. They are responsible for identifying the customer’s need and larger business objectives that a product will fulfill, specifying requirements for production, rallying a team to turn the product’s vision into reality, and finally, production and launching of features.
However, ask different Product Managers about the tasks they do on a day-to-day basis and you will get a wide range of answers. That’s because no two Product Manager jobs are the same.
What Factors Affect the Product Manager Role?
Product Manager roles and responsibilities can vary even if they are considered of the same kind. For example, though both are technical Product Manager positions, software product management encompasses different tasks from a Hardware Product Manager’s job description.
In the same breath, the type of company you work for determines the exact roles of the job. For example, a Product Manager at a major tech company is likely to work with a larger team and thus have more specialized responsibilities than one who works at a startup and is required to multitask a lot more. It’s up to you to decide which one you’d rather work with as different types of companies have their pros and cons.
All of these stipulations sound overwhelming to you? That’s exactly the point. Product management is too vast and generic to fit a specific description. Think of all the different types of products that exist in the world and even more that continue to be created — a good number of those were championed and overseen by Product Managers. This is why there are many ways to transition into product management and multiple avenues of the Product Manager career path.
Different Product Manager Types: Roles and Responsibilities
As mentioned before, there are many different types of Product Managers. There are of course some more general Product Manager types that are much more common than others, and these are generally grouped according to competencies. Overall, Product Managers can be divided into four main types.
Technical Product Manager
This is a Product Manager who is focused on the more technical aspects of developing a product. They usually have a strong technical background such as programming or I.T and work more closely with the technical team at the company. Technical Product Manager responsibilities mean they work more closely with the engineering and product development teams, rather than business, sales, or marketing teams of the organization.
Analytical Product Manager
Also called the Data Science Product Manager, this role is filled by people who have a data analytical background. They’re typically the most informed Product Manager within a company as they handle most of the data and analytics. They have high authority over business decisions made within the company, with the usage of analytical skills at their disposal.
Product Marketing Manager
The Product Marketing Manager has full knowledge of what the customers want, and what the market wants. They handle the decisions of what to include within a product, and what not to, throughout the duration of a product lifespan. They have the knowledge of what the customers want, what the targeted audience is, and the motivations behind each purchase of a product, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of a product, and how to enhance it to drive more sales.
Visionary Product Manager
Most of the Visionary Product Managers were once founders or high-ranking members of their company. Instead of planning for short-term product roadmaps, they go for 3-years ahead. They’re the ones with a long-term vision in mind, and they are more concerned with the long-term goals and plans rather than the shorter end of the spectrum.
What Type of Product Manager Do You Want to Be?
The first step to getting into a career in product management is to review the different types and determine what is suitable for you. Taking a look at what your strong points are versus what you enjoy to find the path that suits you best.
A Product Manager is the person who identifies the customer need and the larger business objectives that a product or feature will fulfill, articulates what success looks like for a product, and rallies a team to turn that vision into a reality.
Product Managers are professionals responsible for the strategy, creation, and feature definition of a product or product line for a company. They own the strategy that goes into the development of a product and are responsible for specifying requirements for its production and launching its features.
What Roles and Responsibilities Do Product Managers Have in Common?
That being said, there are a number of Product Manager roles and responsibilities that cut across in the career path no matter what company you work for or what type of PM you are. The role is, after all, called a “Product Manager” across different companies and industries.
Whether you are a Technical Product Manager or Product Marketing Manager, here are 10 Product Manager roles and responsibilities that the job will include:
- Manage every part of a product’s development from conception to completion. This includes creating and maintaining product-line-level strategies and production schedules.
- Define the product’s vision, roadmap, and positioning in the market.
- Communicate product vision to stakeholders and various teams you work with.
- Gather and analyze market and competition data to come up with ideas for new products and features that will match and surpass others in the market.
- Test samples for effectiveness and impact, and track product performance after launch.
- Act as the customer’s advocate by identifying the user’s needs.
- Recommending necessary improvements, detecting product issues through customer feedback and user experience, and guiding the team on fixing these issues.
- Balancing both customer and stakeholder demands and expectations.
- Identifying product opportunities and determining which ones are worth pursuing.
- Managing the health and performance of the product development team.
The position you take may require more focus on one task to another, but the above responsibilities are generally what informs every PM’s KPIs, no matter the type of PM you are or the company you work for.
What Are Companies Looking for in a Product Manager?
Organizations define their positions based on different offerings, their customers, and their ultimate company and product strategy. Thus, Product Manager job descriptions will vary according the the company and its portfolio.
Let’s take a look at the job descriptions of two positions that require different levels of skills and competence:
We are a rapidly growing mobile app and media company. The core of our business has been built around a portfolio of mobile apps with millions of downloads. In addition to our apps we also have several other digital properties with an expanding footprint across multiple channels of digital media which continues to grow daily.
Who we are looking for:
The mission of this role is to grow an engaged audience by creating web and digital products that our users love. We require someone who will:
- Lead the build of a new Web property for our existing audience by coordinating with designers, developers, and our internal team
- Oversee content creation process from helping to determine what content to create, coordinating with freelancers, and staging the content for publication
- Write technical specifications for developers for the creation of new features and maintain internal documentation of product releases
- Responsible for developing features and creating content that drives organic growth to our web and other digital properties
- Increase user retention rate across our properties by understanding our audience and developing new features to maximize user engagement
- Monitor, react to and grow important audience KPIs such as daily user retention, time on site, RPC, and organic traffic
- Strong experience managing digital web products (content-based sites a plus)
- An eye for UI/UX design and being able to communicate with designers and developers
- Analytical; excellent knowledge of Google Analytics and web-based KPIs
- Ability to execute at a very detailed level while keeping the big picture in mind
Preferred (Bonus) Qualifications:
- Basic understanding of Html and CSS
- Experience with WordPress or other CMS
- Experience working in both mobile apps and web-based products
- Experience managing designers and developers
- Previous history creating a successful website from idea to deployment
We are seeking a highly organized, diligent, and computer savvy candidate to assist in growing our company by analyzing current products, environments, current/future trends, and competition to improve and optimize our product line.
Prior experience in the specific job/category is not required but is preferred.
Job description includes, but is not limited to:
- Sourcing new products and opportunities
- Working on current product development initiatives through all phases
- Sourcing new suppliers
- Working with existing suppliers to coordinate shipments and inventory
- Creating and issuing purchase orders
- Optimize supplier relationships (logistics, costs, packaging, etc.)
- Optimize current assortment by analyzing packaging, colors, functionality, etc.
- Coordinate with office and team members on product feedback
- Research product feedback and implement changes
- Be highly proficient in Microsoft Excel
- Be highly proficient in computer research
- Have strong communication skills
- Have strong organizational skills
- Be willing to travel, if necessary/required (company paid)
Product Manager responsibilities and duties are different in both companies. Let’s take a look at the two side by side.
Product Manager Job Description Comparison
Likely a senior product management position.
Defined as an entry-level position.
Highly technical with requirements for proficiency in various Product Manager tools.
A simple role that does not require much technical expertise.
Responsible for a large team.
Likely part of a team of many Product Managers of different levels.
Will work on creating complex digital products.
More involved in after-production product management such as marketing and distribution.
Requires a thorough understanding of the business and market.
Allows for learning in the position.
What Characteristics Make a Great Product Manager?
Product Managers are responsible for everything from decision-making to holding a team together. They’re held more accountable for product success than their teammates. In other words, everyone aspiring to product management needs to take an honest assessment of their motivations and whether they have the strengths to be good at the job.
This means that while most people focus on the first set of more tangible skills, it is the soft skills that create the foundation for a Product Manager to be effective at their job, especially if you don’t have prior product management experience.
And then there are the soft skills that are often underappreciated but are very much key to success in the role:
- Problem-solving skills
- Effective communication
- Leadership skills
- Prioritization skills
- Quick decision-making
- Being organized and able to multitask
- Attention to detail
- Listening and empathy
- The ability to work well with others
Which Product Manager Role Is Best for You?
With all the Product Manager roles available to you, it can be overwhelming to know what to focus on and how to position yourself for the best career transition. How do you identify which skills you can use to market yourself? Better still, do you know which type of Product Manager role you want to pursue, and in which industry?
We’re offering career coaching to walk you through it and get you the answers you need. Get the expert advice of former Product Manager recruiters as well as veteran Product Managers. Sign up for your free coaching session today.