When you think of product management the first image that might pop up is a group of folks sitting in a conference room with a pie chart on the screen. Each one has a fancy MBA from elite colleges and years of experience in the business and management world.
But how about I tell you, Susan, a 17-year-old high school student is also a product manager? She runs a small online business selling handmade bookmarks. Product management is not as complex a process as you might think.
Want to understand what this new corporate branch is? In this article, we will cover everything there is to know about product management.
What is product management?
Product management is the process involving ideation, development, pricing, deployment, and marketing of a product. It is observing each step of the product from ideation to sales.
An easy definition is: product management is looking into every possible process needed for a product to be successful.
For example, if a company sells sweaters. The product management unit will look into the latest fashion trends, popular brands (competition), new designs, demographic of the target audience, material stocking, tailoring/stitching units, shipping/return methods, feedback, customer care, etc.
Product management is blurring the line between different divisions of an organization. Product managers coordinate and collaborate between various departments like the IT team, timely delivery (add more), sales, etc.
For example, if a company sells sweaters on their app. The product management team will look into user demand in sweaters, new designs, building/updating the app, marketing the app, analyzing user experience with the app, and collecting feedback.
Product management is collaborating with each division which will bring a product to life.
3 Main aspects of products management
The most important aspect of product management is the consumer. They will be using the unique solution your product will provide. Without users, your product is a mere display in a vitrine. A product needs to be providing value to the users to be considered a success.
For example, if you are building the app to keep a check on the freshness of the vegetables. Your users are people who buy groceries for homes or restaurants and want to keep an eye on their pantry.
Product management revolves around realizing the user’s pain points and providing them with easy-to-use products as a solution. User feedback is key for the modification of the product as per demand.
Technical product management starts with developing the product. It involves programming with the engineering and the design unit. It involves coding of the products, many several tests, and deploying for the users to access.
Here the development will work on using Machine learning and artificial intelligence to guess the vegetable’s freshness. They also need to make a user-friendly application.
Engineers might get caught up in trying to solve the issues they find needs to be solved. But product management is focusing the software team towards the target user’s problems.
Product management can not be completed with good marketing and business strategies. But product management is looking into all aspects of business like getting investors/sponsors even before development.
The business division of product management will look into connecting with restaurant owners, caterers, etc. to purchase and use the application.
Product development doesn’t end at the selling of the products. It goes deeper into rectifying consumer issues and customer support as well. Sale is an important metric for calculating the efficiency of the product development team.
Skill sets involved in product development
Product development demands several skill sets from the people involved. Luckily you can always have a big group with each member specializing in each skill.
Research skills: Product management will only be upstanding with people who can do thorough research. Understanding the customer needs and solidifying the search with actual facts will make a strong foundation for the product.
Road map building: The process of planning out the process of product development is a necessary skill. All divisions should be well informed and participate in the roadmap making. It should take all small details into account for a successful product.
Domain expertise: The product manager must have expertise in the field of the product. Product management is about making the best product possible for the customer. It will only be possible with expert knowledge of people working on the product.
Problem-solving skills: Seeing an issue and immediately trying to think of solutions is critical for product management. In the end, the product is all about trying to solve a problem.
Right vision: Sometimes the departments might go off track by focusing on the nitty-gritty of the product. It is the job of the product manager to bring everyone's focus back to the big picture. It is about the vision of the company and the needs of the customers.
Business strategies: Product management needs to have brilliant business strategies. It is not limited to just sales but almost for every step. You need to continuously get new clients and retain existing ones. This is possible only when the product evolves with time using great business strategies.
Follow-ups: Consistency and perseverance are the keys. The product will be unique and efficient only when you make a product that others thought is impossible. Follow up with team members, each department, and prospects.
Customer relationship management: CRM is an important part of an organization to have a healthy relationship with the customers. Taking regular surveys and taking user problems with the product will help improve the product.
Data Analytics: Every major business has its own set of data analytics engineers or data scientists for a reason. It is like predicting the earthquake prior to the disaster. Data analytics can make all the difference in your product management game.
Critical feedback: The product management team has to be honest about their opinions on the product. Taking and giving critical feedback will save the company from embarrassment from users.
Supervision and command: Product managers are expected to have an uncompromising reputation. The group members must respect and follow your decision. Product management required a great deal of supervision. Keeping an eye for details will ensure a good quality product.
Communication skills: Soft skills are as crucial as technical skills. Without smooth communication, the team will not be able to deliver the best product. Teamwork and communication are the key ingredients of an exemplary corporation.
Technical writing skills: Product management will require advertisement. Members who can do good technical copywriting are an asset. Your product description will connect with people and convert leads into clients.
Time management: Product management isn’t finished in finger snaps. Yet, we need maximum work in minimum time. That can be done by setting the priorities straight and managing time.
If you think these skills are all that’s needed, think again. Product management asks for the investment of time, knowledge, manpower, money, etc. It is a complex task and hence, will need several skills to be perfect.
In the next segment, we discuss what major divisions make up the product management system.
Departments the product management collaborate with
User Experience: User experience is one of the prime factors for a product. If the users are experiencing a good interface while using your digital it will lose its main purpose of generating profit. The UX team has all the loads of responsibility to make the customers like your first impression and keep using the product thereafter too.
Development: The development team consists of engineers who will eventually design the product. They are mostly the technical genius behind the product. They will also be responsible for taking care of customer issues or crashes if needed.
Marketing: A strong marketing team will take product management to new levels. They will brainstorm strategies, positioning, branding, etc for the product. The marketing crew will bring in business and take care of dealing with potential clients.
Testing: Even before the product hits the market, it needs to go through several rounds of A/B testing. It is done in order to predict its future and behavior once it goes live. Testing is helpful and will lead to correcting mistakes even before a bad review.
Customer care: This is a derivative of user experience but crucial in itself. Good customer care service will help retain users and also bring a connection with them. In the end, customer loyalty matters the most for generating more leads and trust amongst your product users.
Analytics: Product management expects you to infer data and come up with plans to always keep them in the company’s favor. Data is the easiest hack to get in your user’s head and solve the major problem.
There are plenty of subcategories of these 5 divisions. We can drive deeper into the nitty-gritty but these are enough to get you started and running for a long enough period. Now that we have gathered the ingredients, time to learn the chronological steps of product management.
Metamorphosis of product management
Identifying the gap: Product management starts with noticing the gap in the market. The sweet spot of a technical affair is when the demand for the solution is high and solutions options are low.
Research: The product manager is responsible for market research. The research team will find statistical proof of the value of the tech product. It will provide the base for product development.
User pain points: The most important part is fixing your target audience. Once you know who your target market is, you can customize the product for them. Make a list of the user pain points and build the product for them.
Deciding the vision: Product management is a culmination of many teams and the objectives can get blurry. It is the product manager’s duty to keep the vision of every department under product management focused on the company’s vision for the product.
Strategizing: The product management team has to strategize and road map the product. The strategies and tactics act as the necessary plan for the success of the product. The strategies are made taking into account the customer, competition, budget, profitability, etc.
Technical development: This is the part where a product gets made. The development team will code, execute, test, and get the product ready for the market. Product management aims at keeping the development department’s concentration on the vision and users.
Delivery: Product management can not neglect timely delivery. If the product or a few features of the product is to be launched on a predefined date, it must be done. This will ensure customer satisfaction and dedication.
Sale: Once the product has reached the market, you now need people using it. The product becomes a business only after a client base. The product has to be promoted in digital or offline means.
Analytics and growth: Data is a useful treasure in product management. You can always analyze, identify patterns and behavior of the product. Product management is using the analyzed data to good advantage for growth.
Customer feedback: The final step is taking regular customer surveys to fix existing issues or developing new products. One company that takes customer feedback is guaranteed to build real relationships with its clients.
Post feedback or brainstorming more ideas, product management repeats this process. There are many more steps that can be added for a better product management cycle.
Career path for Product Manager
Does a job in product management sound exciting to you? One ideal role in this domain is a product manager. Glassdoor has rewarded product management as the 3rd best job in the US.
The responsibilities of a product manager depend on the company and the product. Although they might need to do various tasks, the main role remains intact. Here are two methods you can use to become one yourself.
Education: One can have a bachelor’s degree in management or business administration. A degree in marketing, advertisement, engineering, economics, communication, mass media, or equivalent will work too. Don’t give up because you chose to not pursue these or any degree at all. There’s a place for all of us in product management if we are passionate enough.
Associate Product Manager: You can work as an associate or assistant product manager in any company of your choice. You will have a few responsibilities as a product manager but once you feel you got good experience and reviews, it’s time to aim higher.
Product Manager: You can ask for a raise in your current working environment or switch to a better opportunity. Even without a degree, your experience will give you enough leverage to become a product manager. You will be responsible for the good fortune of the product you handle.
Senior Product manager: After a few years of experience, you go on to become a senior product manager. You will either work on one product that is of major importance to the company or several products. You might even have a few APM under you to train and mentor.
Director Product manager: After a few more years of being a Senior Product Manager, the next step will be Director Product manager. Now your role shifts from managing individual departments to more holistic leadership roles. You will make bigger decisions that will impact many products.
Chief Product Officer (CPO): Here you have reached the executive level. You will look for the big picture and might report directly to the product owner/ CEO. You will have to make major decisions for many valuable products for the company.
The career path of a product manager varies from company to company. But this is the broad basics. Your enthusiasm, passion, and ability to grasp new skills will have a big impact on the speed of climbing the corporate ladder.
Tools needed for product management
Your product management journey can use a little helping hand. These tools are perfect for beginner to pro. Incorporate these early on to make life much simpler for yourself.
Trello is a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards. In one glance, Trello tells you what's being worked on, who's working on what, and where something is in a process.
ProductPlan is an easy-to-use roadmap software that empowers product managers to plan, visualize, and communicate their product strategy. It helps you to build and share product roadmaps in minutes with its intuitive drag and drop interface. You can easily create different versions of your roadmap for different audiences building consensus across your organization.
Adobe Photoshop is the predominant photo editing and manipulation software on the market. Its uses range from the full-featured editing of large batches of photos to creating intricate digital paintings and drawings that mimic those done by hand.
Canva is a free graphic design platform that allows you to easily create invitations, business cards, flyers, lesson plans, Zoom backgrounds, and more using professionally designed templates.
Team Messaging Tools
Slack is a workplace communication tool, “a single place for messaging, tools and files.” This means Slack is an instant messaging system with lots of add-ins for other workplace tools. The add-ins aren’t necessary to use Slack, though, because the main functionality is all about talking to other people. There are two methods of chat in Slack: channels (group chat), and direct message or DM (person-to-person chat).
Mattermost is an open-source platform for secure communication, collaboration, and orchestration of work across teams and tools. Mattermost is built specifically for software development and engineering use cases and integrates deeply with a rich ecosystem of third-party developer tools. Mattermost gives companies full control over their data; with self-hosted and private cloud deployment options and access to the source code, developers can contribute directly to a shared, flexible, and extensible platform built just for them.
User Experience Monitoring Tools
With UserExperior's mobile app session replay functionality, you can "see what your consumers see." It allows marketers, UX designers, and developers to see the entire user experience. It's more than just a session replayer. It also provides heatmap analysis of user interactions across multiple devices to reveal usability issues that affect your app development.
SurveyMonkey is online survey software that helps you to create and run professional online surveys. It is a powerful and well-known online application.SurveyMonkey presents all the tools necessary for you to create strong, professional surveys easily.
The exact feature is dependent on which of the four pricing plans you choose. However, if you’re just starting up with online survey tools and you are trying to figure out the best one, you can opt for the free pricing plan that gives you access to the basic tools needed to create great surveys.
The demand for Product managers has grown 32% from 2017-2019. Companies are realizing the importance of specializing product management teams to have cooperation between all departments involved in building a product. Product management aims at making a product to provide maximum value to the users. That in turn is increasing the quality of products in the market. Users can get great results due to the customer-oriented approach of functioning. With the ever-increasing demand and use of technology, constantly evolved tech products are available. That’s when product management is making all the difference by bridging the gap between customer needs and company values.
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