The 26 Best Product Management Books

The best product management books

When we think about ongoing learning, it’s easy to fall into the trap of automatically considering certifications, diplomas and other qualifications. But growing and developing your product management career – and yourself – doesn’t need to be an endless cycle of pre-packaged classes or repetitive seminars.

Wherever you are in your product management career, there’s incredible value to be gained from product management books written by the industry greats. From someone just starting out to someone looking to fill in the gaps in their knowledge or experience, some of the industry’s greatest experts have put the proverbial pen to paper and produced several books that are excellent resources for the product manager who wants to do more than simply achieve goals.

26 of the best product management books that you must read.

If you are wondering “what books should I read?”, you came to the right place. To help you along, we’ve put together a list of 26 of the best product management books available, along with a brief overview of each book. You will find the essential books to read, the best books on strategy, and so on. All these books are available to buy online, either as hard copies or e-books, at time of publication, so we’ve also included links to these, and to make things simple, we’ve broken them down into the following categories:

Product Management Basics

#1. Product Management For Dummies

by Brian Lawley and Pamela Schure

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Perfect for: All levels of product manager who want to learn more about the job

The Dummies series of books has been a popular choice on a wide range of topic for a good couple of decades now, with good reason. Written by experts in the field, this book is no exception. Lawley and Schure take the reader through the world of product management step by step, from explaining exactly what the job entails at different expertise levels, and giving useful advice on how to stand out in the field. Peppered with relevant real-world examples, this is one of the best product management books for beginners through experts.

#2. The Product Manager’s Desk Reference (2nd Edition)

by Steven Haines

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Perfect for: Anyone involved in the Product Management Life Cycle

Even if you aren’t the product manager, if you are involved in the product lifecycle at all, this book will come in handy for the team. The first edition of this book defined the product management life cycle, and this second edition revamps and revitalises it to be up to date. The Product Manager’s Desk Reference is universally acknowledged as one of the best product lifecycle management books available on the market.

#3. The Product Manager’s Survival Guide

by Steven Haines

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Perfect for: Product managers from beginner to experienced who want to achieve high levels of success

Steven Haines is often cited as one of the thought leaders of product management, and this is just one of the many good books on product management he has written. The Product Manager’s Survival Guide is a step-by-step guide for those starting out in product management, and is also useful for those with more experience, who are looking to up their game.

#4. Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love

by Marty Cagan

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Perfect for: Product managers looking for insight into agile methodology

One of the toughest tasks for product managers is deciding what products are worth developing and what ideas to shelve or discard. But that’s not all the job entails – it also includes your relationships with various company players and managing various teams. Finding the right balance is crucial, and learning from someone else’s experience will help you succeed. Inspired is one of the best books on agile product management written to date and is a valuable addition to any product manager’s bookshelf.

#5. Intercom on Product Management

by Des Traynor and John Collins

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Standing out among the product management books for free download that are available, Intercom on Product Management covers all the product management basics you will need. In its four chapters, Traynor and Collins cover evaluating your product, new features, which features to build, and getting features used.

#6 & #7. Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager and The Hard Thing About Hard Things

by Ben Horowitz

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Perfect for: A quick guide to the psychology of good product managers, and the ultimate guide to running a startup

Andreessen Horowitz are a venture capital and seed capital firm that specialises in tech. On their company blog, entrepreneurs and experts alike can gain insight into various aspects of the tech world, including this quick guide to what makes a good product manager vs a bad one. Horowitz also penned top product management books on running startups, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, all proceeds of which are donated to the American Jewish World Service. The short product management pdf serves both as a handy reference guide and as some much-needed inspiration when things get tough, while the book provides incredible insights into the intricacies of business in Silicon Valley.

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Leading People & Teams

#8. Creativity, Inc.

by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace

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Perfect for: Managers who want to lead teams creatively

As one of the driving forces behind Pixar, the company that changed animated movies forever, Catmull is one of the leading experts on getting teams to think creatively and do things differently. In this book, he and co-author Wallace talk about the unique environment at Pixar that led to the incredible innovations in computer-animated film-making.

#9. Steve Jobs

by Walter Isaacson

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Perfect for: Product managers looking for insight into the way the greats do it

There’s no denying that Steve Jobs was one of the world’s leading product innovators and his unique people management style will be remembered for generations to come. In this biographical book on product management at its finest, Isaacson explores Jobs’  history, character and even flaws. The book makes for fascinating, inspiring and, at times, sobering reading.

#10. Elon Musk

by Ashlee Vance

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Perfect for: Product managers who want an inside glimpse into the life of a product development genius

Much like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk has made a massive impact on the way we do business, with his talent for spotting needs that the market doesn’t know it has yet, then fulfilling them. He has also been much spoken about as a leader of people, pushing them to excel at creativity. The creator of some of the world’s most disruptive products, including PayPal, is uncovered in this biography.

#11. High Output Management

by Andrew S Grove

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Perfect for: Managers who want to excel

In Silicon Valley, it’s not enough to just do your job well, it’s essential to do it better than anyone believed possible. Grove, as one of the leaders of Intel, wrote this guide to being a top-level manager, which is today considered a must-read in Silicon Valley.

#12. Managing Humans

by Michael Lopp

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Perfect for: Those looking for learning backed by entertaining stories

Michael Lopp has worked for some of the biggest names in product development, including Apple, Symantec, Netscape and others. This collection of stories about his experiences as a manager for Silicon Valley’s greats is both an entertaining read and an educational insight into how to manage the people in your teams.

#13. Product Leadership

by Richard Banfield

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Perfect for: The full product and people management experience

Product management is, at its core, about managing people effectively. In this software product management book, Banfield goes into detail about how successful teams work, the best approaches for guiding your team, and strategies and tactics for working with customers and other stakeholders.

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Strategy & Planning

#14. The Halo Effect

by Phil Rosenzweig

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Perfect for: Separating real working strategies from deceptive strategies

Rosenzweig holds no punches in this book that promises to expose the various business “delusions” that persist in corporate companies. The book discusses how to understand the mechanics of success, rather than focusing on financial success as an indicator of strategic brilliance. For anyone looking for realistic insight into what strategies really work and which don’t, this is certainly one of the best books on product management available.

#15. In Search of Stupidity (2nd Edition)

by Merrill R Chapman

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Perfect for: Finding out what not to do

A good manager knows how to learn from the experiences of those who came before – and that includes the bad experiences. In this second edition of the book, Chapman takes the reader through twenty years’ worth of the most disastrous strategies and philosophies that have befallen the industry and analyses how to avoid making the same mistakes.

#16 & #17. Crossing the Chasm and Inside the Tornado

by Geoffrey A Moore

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Perfect for: Product managers looking for effective marketing strategies

There will always be early adopters for any product, but can you take it beyond them to business success? Moore’s Crossing the Chasm covers the early stages of getting a new product to market, through to full adoption, while the follow-up, Inside the Tornado, deals with what happens once your product goes mainstream. Individually, these books give valuable insights into the strategies of getting your product to market and then marketing it, but together they are hailed as two of the best product marketing management books available.

#18. The Four Steps to the Epiphany

by Steve Blank

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Perfect for: Startups that need strategies that work

Blank believes that startups are vastly different from established corporates, and that they need strategies that work differently. This is the basic premise of The Four Steps to the Epiphany, which offers startups strategies for getting their products developed and business plans implemented well. For the product manager in a startup venture, this book is indispensable.

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User Experience & Design Thinking

#19. UX for Beginners

by Joel Marsh

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Perfect for: Newbies to the world of user experience, or experienced product managers looking for new ways to guide teams

User experience is absolutely critical to the success of any product, and the savvy product manager will make sure they and their team members understand the basic principles thoroughly. UX for Beginners is a series of 100 standalone lessons that can be absorbed and easily referenced again and again. Along with books 20 – 22, this forms part of the O’Reilly Media UX collection.

#20. UX Strategy

by Jaime Levy

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Perfect for: Product managers who want to keep the user experience front of mind

Product design teams need to focus on the user experience while developing the product if they hope to succeed. With this book, product managers can lead their teams to develop and design digital products that customers want and need, and that they will enjoy using.

#21. UX Research

by Brad Nunnally and David Farkas

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Perfect for: Product managers who want to build the user experience into products

It all starts with research – understanding your future customer’s needs and desires. With this product management book, readers are taken through how to properly research the market, then implement that research, without wasting time and energy on unnecessary research paths.

#22. Mapping Experiences

by James Kalbach

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Perfect for: Understanding where the user experience succeeds and where it fails

Customer feedback is one of the most important tools a company has to ensure they develop better products and create better user experiences. Unfortunately, the feedback can sometimes get lost in translation. This book on product management helps guide you through collecting, interpreting and using user experience feedback to create consistently good products.

#23. Lean UX

by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden

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Perfect for: Understanding and embracing the Lean UX approach

Gothelf and Seiden took inspiration from the Lean and Agile theories of development and put together this guide to developing products from a user experience perspective. It’s full of problem-solving, proactive approaches to designing and creating products that serve users as well as the business.

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Behavioural Economics

#24. Nudge

by Richard H Thaler and Cass R Sunstein

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Perfect for: Product managers who want to leverage customer emotions to steer decisions

More decisions are made based on emotions than on logic, and understanding this – and how to leverage it – is what makes the difference between a good product manager and a great one. This book helps you understand what makes people make the choices they do, and how to use that information to your best advantage.

#25. Designing with the Mind in Mind (2nd Edition)

by Jeff Johnson

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Perfect for: Product managers looking for insight into perceptual and cognitive psychology

Since the beginning of user interface design, cognitive psychology has played an important role in the design and development of these products. This second edition of Johnson’s product management book gives an updated view on cognitive and perceptual psychology to help you understand UI design guidelines intuitively, rather than simply following a checklist.

#26. Hooked

by Nir Eyal

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Perfect for: Practical advice for developing products that customers find addicting

Nir Eyal takes years of experience and applies them to this book, giving the reader a step-by-step guide to building products that customers can’t stop using. It’s all about subtly influencing customer behaviour and creating an ongoing user cycle that gives products longevity, without overspending on marketing and advertising.

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What do you think?

What did you think about our list of must read books? Did we miss something? Share your thoughts in the comments. We’d love to know which books helped you in your professional development.

Product Manager job description: what does a product manager do?

Product manager job description: What does a product manager do?

What, exactly, does a Product Manager do? Actually, the Product Manager job description varies from company to company, even from job to job when you are a freelancer. But there is a common set of skills and responsibilities for all Product Managers. The following list of 10 guidelines about a Product Manager’s job description will give you a solid sense of how you may fit into this dynamic position.

1. Product Managers Must Understand the Problem

You must know what problem your new product is supposed to solve, and how.

No matter the market, no matter the customer, seldom does a product succeed that doesn’t address a real human need. As a PM, you must clearly and completely understand what problem your product is supposed to solve, and how it will solve it uniquely. If there are already other similar alternatives in the marketplace, why should people buy yours? What is the single, unique, compelling reason to buy your product instead of everybody else’s? Without knowing this, you cannot be a successful Product Manager.

But if you can research your product’s strengths and weaknesses, do the same for your competition, and communicate real customers’ needs to your design and production teams, you are on your way to delivering innovative, high-quality products that succeed. And that is the goal of the Product Manager: Successful product innovation and sales.

2. A Product Manager Is a Valuable Resource

Product Managers provide vision, design and production management, and user experience skills.

Product Managers thrive at the intersection of user experience, product development, and business. They love making new connections with customers, they love making new products, and they love making profits and growing brands.

One of the biggest roles of the Product Manager (PM) is to speak from the user’s standpoint. There are enough engineers, marketers, salespeople, and upper managers on the project already. Somebody needs to stand up for the customer’s needs and concerns. That’s one important part of the PM’s job. Through one-on-one interviews, surveys, product testing, social media, and anything you can think of, you need to get the customer’s viewpoint and make it a part of your product’s design process.

3. Product Management Requires Many Skills

Several personal qualities make up a good Product Manager.

Good Product Managers often come from a variety of disciplines or fields. Many times these areas and disciplines are related to the kinds of products they end up managing. There is a simple reason for this. A Product Manager has a hands-on role in the vision, research, design, development, marketing, sales, launch, support, and final wind-down of a product. In short, from concept to delivery to end-of-life, the PM is the product leader — some say the CEO — of the product.

The skillset of a good Product Manager includes:

  • Logical thinking
  • Strategic planning
  • Productive curiosity in research
  • Empathetic customer interviewing
  • Insightful market analysis
  • Creative problem solving
  • Visionary feature planning
  • Disciplined task scheduling
  • Hands-on production ability
  • Organized business habits
  • Proactive daily communications
  • Collaborative team building

That’s a lot to expect of one person. Almost nobody has everything. But a healthy sampling of these in your toolbox might make you an excellent candidate for a Product Manager position. Most of all you must be curious, organized, and communicative. You must be devoted to research, addicted to organization, and hooked on communication. These are the essence of a PM’s day.

4. The Product Manager Has Many Duties

Since the scope of the PM is broad, so is the range of responsibilities.

Here is a list of the many things a PM must do throughout their career:

  • Determine customer needs — understand their problems
    Survey, interview, and hold product focus groups with customers
  • Analyze customer data and distribute reports to relevant departments
  • Specify market research requirements
  • Review current product features and specifications
  • Compare competition’s products to company’s offerings
  • Define the vision of new products
  • Recommend future products and product lines
  • Prepare return-on-investment (ROI) analyses for new product proposals
  • Drive the direction of new products
  • Develop a Roadmap of the new product lifecycle, from concept to end-of-life
  • Define product development communications policies
  • Meet personally with everyone involved, including a selection of customers
  • Determine product pricing using all business data and projected sales
  • Plan marketing, advertising, and sales strategies with the appropriate departments
  • Review and adjust inventory production schedules and levels
    Define time schedules with engineering and production
  • Coordinate product testing and quality assurance
  • Assume a hands-on approach to any and all project tasks when necessary
  • Keep all teams fully informed on project status and all relevant data
  • Brief management periodically on status, budget, milestones, and business goal attainment
  • Assign and schedule employees and keep track of employment results
  • Manage personnel friction and problems as they arise
  • After launch, keep on top of analytics and keep all others informed
  • Maintain responsibility for the product through to the end-of-life cycle, as tasked
  • Repeat the process, or manage multiple products in parallel

5. The Product Manager Communicates With All Relevant Teams

The Product Manager joins all the product’s teams with the customer’s needs.

There are several teams involved in the creative design and successful deployment of a new product. They must all be brought into the loop from the very beginning of the process and kept up-to-date throughout the lifecycle of the product. They must all stay in sync and on task.

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Engineering, IT
  • Design
  • R&D
  • Customer Service
  • Quality Assurance
  • Operations
  • Management
  • Finance
  • Customers and Users

6. There is Not Just One Kind of Product Manager

Every product requires a different product management strategy.

While mostly associated with technology products these days, the role of Product Manager has been around for a long time. There are various levels of seniority available, providing a clear career path.

  1. Junior Product Manager: Definition varies widely throughout the various industries, as does pay. Assists in the hand-on management of the product. Reports to the Senior Product Manager. Acts as a buffer between the Senior Product Manager and the rest of the team. 1-4 years of experience required.
  2. Associate Product Manager: Assists and reports to the Senior Product Manager. Generally has wide creative latitude and a certain degree of decision making authority. 3-5 years professional experience usually required. There is a great deal of overlap between an Associate Product Manager and a Junior Product Manager, sometimes just the title is different.
  3. Senior Product Manager: Head product manager. Considered the CEO of the product. Often makes a six-figure salary. Takes responsibility for the entire project. Extensive successful experience required.

If you want to find out if this career is worthwhile (in terms of money), read our salary guide and discover how much a product manager makes.

7. All Industries Need Product Managers

Any company that produces a product has to manage that production.

Realistically, any industry that produces a product needs Product Managers. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Not all industries have a history of using PMs, though. Technology, as stated above, is a teeming source of PM jobs. IT Product Managers, Website Product Managers, Technical Product Managers, the list goes on and on.

The entertainment industry has become a hotbed of product management jobs.  As the decades long demise of the Hollywood studio system continues and the grip of cable television disintegrates, more independent news, streaming video, music, and social media production requires vast numbers of individual projects to manage. Each needs a Product Manager.

Healthcare, banking, finance, and the growing Internet of Things (IoT) are more examples of industries that are producing product after product into the marketplace. Jobs are plentiful, if you are ready.

8. Product Management Has a Future

There is no chance that companies will stop developing products for sale.

If you’re looking for a future in Product Management, creativity will still be required in 2020 and beyond. So will people management, complex problem solving, and critical thinking, according to a World Economic Forum report. These are all defining parts of a Product Manager’s day. Investing in your product management skills now will help you build a stable, rewarding, and long lasting career.

9. Product Managers Don’t Always Do It All Themselves

Not every Product Manager is a lone wolf. Often there are teams of PMs.

Every company has a unique way of doing business. Not every company gives a PM the autonomy that other firms give. Many times the role of Product Manager is divided between multiple people. For example, there may be a Product Marketing Manager, a Product Development Manager, and a Product Launch Manager, all on the same project. These must coordinate and keep each other informed of their unique research, goals, and all other product information, in addition to maintaining a unified front to the other departments, the management, and the customer base.

Sometimes decision-making power is not granted to the Product Management team. This decision makes it necessary to give presentations more often to upper management, and to justify the PM’s positions more thoroughly than if they had the authority to go ahead without seeking permission. This requirement is neither bad nor good, it is simply a business control decision based on the structure of the company. It can slow down production, but the upper management knows this, so it is not an issue the PM needs to worry about.

10. The Product Manager Develops the Product Roadmap

The vision, features, and feature definitions are laid down by the PM.

How your product goes from concept to profitable release, then all the way to end-of-life, is described in detail by the product Roadmap. The PM is responsible for developing this roadmap.

The Roadmap tells not only the story of design and production but details how the product and the process will maximize bottom-line business value for the company. It’s not enough to innovate.

The product must be profitable, too, if that is the business goal of the product. If you are a Product Brand Manager and the purpose of the product is to raise brand awareness, then the product must be measurably successful in that category. This achievement determines your success or failure as a Product Manager.

Summary

Some believe that Project Manager is the most exciting job on the planet.

What excites you in a job? Is it constant action, never-ending learning, continuous interaction with customers, engineers, marketers, salespersons, management and everyone else involved in new product development? How about shepherding an innovative new product from concept to delivery and beyond? Then the Product Manager Job Description is what you are looking for, and you’ve found it here.

What do you think?

Is the Project Manager job description for you? Do you have the qualities it takes? Did this post move you to take action towards a Project Manager Job?