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?

Get what you’re worth. The product manager salary guide

Product Manager Salary Guide

From startups to the world’s major tech companies, who is offering product managers the best salaries, and how do you know what bracket you fall into? There are many factors that influence just how much you can earn as an associate, mid-level or senior product manager, but some are more important and impactful than others.

Product managers are rapidly becoming the rockstars of technology companies, constantly working to lead teams spanning everyone from developers to marketers, getting new products out to eager consumers as quickly as possible – before the next guy does it. With a growing need for this particular brand of talent, what can product managers expect to earn?

Does your primary geography really still count as much as it used to – should you move cities to chase a better product manager salary? Is the size of the company you’re working for still relevant, and which ones pay the best salaries? How should you expect your salary to grow as you progress through the ranks? And should you take non-monetary factors into account when you’re deciding which job offer to accept? We’re taking a closer look at these questions and how they apply to product managers.

The job

Before we talk money, let’s clear up exactly what we mean when we’re talking about product managers. In this case, we’re specifically talking about those people in technology companies, or the tech development divisions of a variety of companies, who are responsible for managing the entire product cycle, from concept to launch, and everything in between.

Your typical digital product manager has a technical, engineering or computer science background, along with a good understanding of and qualification in business, like an MBA for example. The reason product managers tend to be so highly qualified is because they need to be able to interact with everyone involved in the product development process, which means software and hardware people, component suppliers, manufacturing, marketing, company directors, customers… you get the idea, right?

Working up the ladder

Of course, there are various levels of product manager in any given organisation, and various sizes and levels of companies developing products. If you’re hoping to develop a career as a product manager, you’re going to need to choose your career path with some care and make sure that you always have the opportunity to grow and advance, whether it’s within the company, or by learning what you can from them.

Your first product management position could be as an associate product manager, where you work directly below the product manager for any given project or set of projects, and also interact closely with designers, engineers, marketers and various other people in the product development and launch chain. Of course, there is a world of difference between, for example, an associate product manager salary and a product marketing manager salary, but that’s why it pays to know whether there’s room for growth, and to have an idea of your career plan.

During your career as a product manager, you could find yourself in increasingly more responsible positions, from full product manager, to director or VP of product management to the chief product officer. Naturally, the extent of your company’s ladder could depend on just how many employees there are; a startup of five people is unlikely to have the full product manager hierarchy in place, and you just might find yourself wearing all the hats.

So, what can you actually earn?

Realistically speaking, if you are working in North America but outside of Silicon Valley, you can expect to earn the equivalent of around US$65 000 as an entry-level or associate product manager salary; approximately US$90 000 if you have five to ten years’ experience; and give or take US$120 000 as a senior product manager.

If, however, you’re looking at product manager salaries in Silicon Valley, you can easily add so good 20% to those figures. Here, an associate product manager could easily earn as much as US$100 000, an experienced product manager around US$130 000, and a senior product manager upwards of US$150 000.

Yes, these amounts can vary based on various factors that we’ll look at next, but these figures should give you a good starting point to put a value on your own time, experience and qualifications or, if you’re recruiting, they should give you an idea of what to offer.

Commanding the big bucks

If you Google product manager salary, you’re going to come up with a pretty wide range – anywhere between US$40 000 and US$200 000, or higher. Of course, such a broad search term takes into account everything from a junior product manager salary to a senior Google product manager salary. So where on the spectrum do you fall, and what salary should you be asking for – or, if you’re the company hiring, what salary should you be offering? There are several factors to consider.

Location, location, location

Global product manager salaries can vary wildly, depending on geography. If you happen to land yourself a job as a senior product manager for one of the big companies in Silicon Valley, you could expect to easily earn over US$150 000 per year.

Outside the Valley

Let’s see what the same job in other major cities could earn you per year, according to Glassdoor.com:

The primary geography of the company is important in working out what kind of salary you can expect to ask for or pay for a product manager job. Even though the world is becoming smaller, at least in terms of communication and ability to work cross-border, local economies and cost of living still have a significant impact on salaries and that’s not likely to change within the next few years.

That said, anything can happen, and as globalisation takes ever-firmer hold, we could see a much more even spread in remuneration around the world within the next few decades.

David vs Goliath

Let’s face it – your Atlassian product manager salary will, undoubtedly be much higher than if you work for a small startup. While the reasons may seem obvious, there are actually a few factors at play here.

First of all – unsurprisingly – a massive, established, international tech giant simply has more money to spend. That doesn’t mean they just want to throw it around, though – a company like Atlassian uses that money to attract the best possible talent, from recent graduates who show tremendous promise, to workhorses who have slogged away at the grind in smaller companies, proving their worth over and over.

Another factor that comes into play is people development – in other words, how much time, effort and money the company spends on developing any given employee and maximising their potential. Larger companies simply have more resources – and not all of them financial. A product manager salary could consist of more than simple take-home pay, and could include any number of perks. That’s not to say smaller companies don’t have their perks, though – your contract with them could include equity in the company which will pay off in the long run, especially if you’re doing your job as a product manager right.

For example:

  • Amazon employees in the USA have access to the Employee Assistance Program, flexible working hours for women returning to work after maternity leave, and stock in the company for eligible employees.
  • Atlassian offers staff above-market salaries, equity awards, flexible hours and the option to take paid leave to volunteer at a charity of their choice.
  • And, of course, Google is well known for its wide variety of employee benefits, both in-office and out, including on-site medical care, professional development and even personal development opportunities

So, where you could spend a few weeks here and there on training courses, work under an experienced mentor for a couple of years and have the time and opportunities to really grow into your role at a large multi-national, if you’re working for a startup you will have to learn on the fly, on the job and, often, in your own spare time – if you have any. Even then, your product manager salary may not reach those stratospheric Silicon Valley-esque heights, unless, of course, your startup breaks through and makes it big.

Education + experience

Yes, there are some people who get hired straight out of college into internships and development programmes that teach them everything they need to know using intensive training and mentorship. No, that doesn’t happen to everyone – not by a long shot.

Most aspiring product managers will have to go about it the long way around: completing their studies, taking extra courses wherever possible – often at their own expense – and working their way up from the bottom. The better educated you are, and the more relevant experience you have, the better salary you’re going to be able to command when you go looking for that promotion or new opportunity.

For this San Jose-based job at Supermicro, for instance, the minimum education requirement is a BSEE, plus three years’ experience and, according to indeed.com, this position’s salary hovers in the US$90k region.

This position at PayPal, also in San Jose, however, asks that you have a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree, and preferably a Masters or MBA, and while it doesn’t specify experience required, indeed.com lists it as a US$130k or higher job.

The extras

Now, this all may sound like we’re saying, go straight for the big companies, aim for the big money. That’s not the case, though, as there is plenty to be said for the non-monetary compensation you can get – some of which the bigger companies aren’t willing to give. So, when you’re weighing up your options and comparing a senior product manager salary at a small startup, with an Amazon product manager salary, for instance, take the time to consider whether there’s more to the job that speaks to you than just financial compensation.

Flexibility

Flexibility in the workplace is one of the most important things to consider when weighing up product manager job opportunities. That flexibility includes flexible working hours and the option to work remotely, either part-time or full-time, but it also includes the flexibility to learn as much as possible at one job, then move on to the next without any animosity between you and your former employer.

Purpose

Another factor you might consider is, does this job provide a sense of purpose? What types of products are you working on? Is what you are helping to create going to make people’s lives easier, or improve the world in some way? Will the person managing the product development feel that they have contributed something to their company, society, themselves?

Many people are quite happy to choose the position that gives them a greater sense of purpose, even at a lower salary – although there are limits – simply because they will enjoy a higher level of job satisfaction.

Good, old-fashioned benefits

This one is important to just about everyone, regardless of generation, experience or company. People want their benefits, like health insurance and retirement plans, and when faced with two similar offers will be more likely to choose the one with more benefits, even if they don’t translate directly into cash in hand.

The upshot? When trying to gauge the right salary for a product manager position, whether you’re the job-seeker or the employer, take the time to look at all the factors involved. Do your research on what other product managers are earning – ask yourself if the money is acceptable for the work that needs to be done, for the area in which the company is located, for its size and market position, and taking into consideration any non-financial gains the job may hold.

The Product Manager Salary Survey 2016

Product manager salary survey

Whether you’re Product Management industry veteran or perhaps just beginning to consider a career in product development as a Product Manager – ‘How much does a Product Manager earn?’ is always a relevant question to ask. Searches on this site show it’s one of the topics that’s always top of mind. We’re all curious; are we being paid what we’re worth, or not?

Searches on this website for Product Managers show it’s one of the topics that’s always top of mind; we’re all curious; are we being paid what we’re worth, or not?

For the first time, we’re running a Product Manager salary survey, there are 8 questions and it’ll take you just 2 minutes to complete. We’ll contact you by email to share the results as soon as we’re done.

Thanks for taking part

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