Product Management

What is product management?
What are the main stages in the product life cycle?
What does a product manager do?
What skills does a product manager need?
How to become a product manager

What is product management?

In a business or organization, the product management department oversees the conception, development, and launch of a product or service. Those working in product management are responsible for the overall success of the product, guiding it through every stage in the product life cycle. 

Product management is a strategic function. It involves creating a vision for the product and devising a plan for how that vision will be realized. This requires close collaboration with business stakeholders, as well as all those teams involved in the actual development and delivery of the product. 

Imagine a startup creating an app to help dog owners find local dog sitters. You’d have a design team to take care of the UX and UI of the app (i.e. the overall look, feel, and function) and an engineering team to actually code the app. You’d have sales and marketing experts to advertise the app and create brand awareness, and you’d have customer care agents managing any end user queries and issues. 

And, coordinating all of these moving parts to ensure the app is successful at every stage, you’d have a product management department. 

For those working in product management, the primary goal is to drive growth for the business while meeting customer needs—and staying within the realm of technical feasibility. It’s a varied and multidisciplinary field, spanning business, technology, and user experience (UX).

The product management department makes decisions about the direction of the product or service, and prioritizes the investment of time and resources. They decide what should be built and when, developing and adapting the product roadmap accordingly as the product evolves.

Ultimately, you can think of product management as the product hub, coordinating all the moving parts that bring a product to life and make it successful. Product management is critical to business success, keeping everybody aligned and working towards a common goal. You can learn more about what product management is (and where it comes from) in this complete introductory guide.

What are the main stages in the product life cycle?

Product management is all about effectively guiding a product or service through the product life cycle. The product life cycle encompasses all the different phases a product goes through over the course of its existence—from initial idea to development, launch, and its success on the market. 

The product life cycle can be divided into five main stages as follows. 

1. Discovery and development

All products start with an idea, and the discovery phase is all about discovering and prioritizing the right idea to move forward with. This involves conducting market and user research, coming up with ideas, and testing and validating them. 

Once an idea is deemed viable, it moves to the development phase. At this stage, the product manager will define an overall vision and strategy for the product, and oversee the design and development process. 

2. Introduction to market

Once the product has been built and tested, the next step is to launch it. At this stage, the product management team works closely with sales and marketing to generate demand for the product and communicate its value to the target audience. They will also decide on the price of the product, and monitor its performance post-launch. 

3. Growth

Following a successful launch, the product will enter the growth phase. This is when demand for the product booms, together with sales (or subscriptions) and profit. At this stage, the product management department wants to keep the product riding high, so they’ll focus on maintaining their competitive edge, improving and iterating on the product, and, if possible, scaling up. 

4. Maturity

The maturity phase sees the initial demand for the product stabilizing and slowing down. Here, product managers will focus on retaining existing customers and ensuring the product remains profitable. This may involve investing in new features or add-ons, and optimizing internal operations to reduce costs.

5. Decline

If demand for the product consistently drops, or if the market changes drastically, the product may enter the decline phase. When the product is in decline, the product manager must decide whether to keep the product alive or to withdraw it from the market completely.

That’s the product life cycle in a nutshell, with a glimpse of what product managers do at each stage. Keep reading to learn more about what a career in product management entails. 

What does a product manager do?

Product managers are the in-house product experts. They have a deep understanding of both the business goals and the needs of the end user, and they balance both to oversee the delivery of successful products. 

It’s the product manager’s job to develop a strategic vision for the product, and to coordinate all the different resources and stakeholders who are involved in bringing that vision to life. Ultimately, they ensure that everybody is aligned and working towards the same goal, acting as the bridge between strategy and execution.

The role of the product manager is extremely varied, relying heavily on collaboration at every turn. Product managers are in constant communication with leadership and business stakeholders, designers, developers, marketing, sales, and customer care teams throughout the product life cycle.

The exact tasks and responsibilities of a product manager will vary depending on the size and setup of the organization, as well as the nature of the product. But, generally speaking, product managers are responsible for:

  • Conducting market and competitor research, and commissioning user research
  • Gathering and prioritizing ideas from different sources
  • Defining an overall vision and direction for the product which directly relates to business goals
  • Writing product specifications to set out the requirements of the product, as well as key success metrics
  • Creating a product roadmap to set out a plan of action for how and when the product will be developed
  • Overseeing the design, development, and launch of the product in collaboration with the relevant teams
  • Analyzing product performance and identifying opportunities for improvement and growth

As you can see, the role of the product manager is primarily a strategic one. You can think of product managers as the captain of the ship; they ensure the product is heading in the right direction, and that all the moving parts work in harmony to keep things running smoothly and efficiently. 

Keen to learn more? We take a closer look at what a product manager does in this guide.

What skills does a product manager need?

Product managers occupy a unique role, spanning business, technology, user experience, research, and project management—and that’s not an exhaustive list! Unsurprisingly, product managers must possess a broad and diverse skillset. 

If you want to work in product management, you’ll need to be business-savvy, strategic, and have the ability to think critically. You’ll also need some technical expertise. You don’t need to be able to code, but it’s important that you’re able to collaborate effectively with developers and engineers—and to understand the technology behind the products you’re responsible for. 

At the same time, you’ll need to be well-versed in user experience principles. This, together with a strong dose of empathy, will allow you to collaborate with UX designers and advocate for the user throughout the product life cycle. 

The best product managers are also skilled researchers, adept problem-solvers, and effective storytellers. And, perhaps the most important product manager skill of all: communication. This is one of the most collaborative, people-facing roles in business—if you’re not holding meetings or presenting to leadership, you’ll be syncing with designers or developers, or fielding questions. Excellent communication skills are an absolute must (and that includes being an active and engaged listener, too). 

The great thing about product management is that it calls upon a broad variety of transferable skills—skills you’ve likely already acquired throughout your life so far. You can learn more about the most important product management skills (and how to master them) in this guide.

How to become a product manager

Product managers come from all walks of life and professional backgrounds—there is no one set pathway to a career in the field. And, with demand for product managers growing, there has never been a better time to become a product manager.

Start by building up a solid foundation of background knowledge. Learn as much as you can about what product managers do, the tools they use, and the concepts and principles that underpin their work. Make the most of free resources like blogs and podcasts, and consider a free introductory product management course.

From there, you’ll want to focus on learning the core product management skills—that’s essentially what you’ll need to get hired. If you’re a complete beginner, the most effective route is through a recognized product management certification. This will provide a structured learning path and, ideally, a hands-on curriculum that will see you transition from theory to practice. The best courses will also show you how to build your product management portfolio and even provide career coaching, helping you to land your first job in the field. 

However you get there, a career in product management is varied, fast-paced, and allows you the opportunity to really make an impact. For more advice on how to become a product manager, take a look at this step-by-step guide

What is product management?

In a business or organization, the product management department oversees the conception, development, and launch of a product or service. Those working in product management are responsible for the overall success of the product, guiding it through every stage in the product life cycle. 

Product management is a strategic function. It involves creating a vision for the product and devising a plan for how that vision will be realized. This requires close collaboration with business stakeholders, as well as all those teams involved in the actual development and delivery of the product. 

Imagine a startup creating an app to help dog owners find local dog sitters. You’d have a design team to take care of the UX and UI of the app (i.e. the overall look, feel, and function) and an engineering team to actually code the app. You’d have sales and marketing experts to advertise the app and create brand awareness, and you’d have customer care agents managing any end user queries and issues. 

And, coordinating all of these moving parts to ensure the app is successful at every stage, you’d have a product management department. 

For those working in product management, the primary goal is to drive growth for the business while meeting customer needs—and staying within the realm of technical feasibility. It’s a varied and multidisciplinary field, spanning business, technology, and user experience (UX).

The product management department makes decisions about the direction of the product or service, and prioritizes the investment of time and resources. They decide what should be built and when, developing and adapting the product roadmap accordingly as the product evolves.

Ultimately, you can think of product management as the product hub, coordinating all the moving parts that bring a product to life and make it successful. Product management is critical to business success, keeping everybody aligned and working towards a common goal. You can learn more about what product management is (and where it comes from) in this complete introductory guide.

What are the main stages in the product life cycle?

Product management is all about effectively guiding a product or service through the product life cycle. The product life cycle encompasses all the different phases a product goes through over the course of its existence—from initial idea to development, launch, and its success on the market. 

The product life cycle can be divided into five main stages as follows. 

1. Discovery and development

All products start with an idea, and the discovery phase is all about discovering and prioritizing the right idea to move forward with. This involves conducting market and user research, coming up with ideas, and testing and validating them. 

Once an idea is deemed viable, it moves to the development phase. At this stage, the product manager will define an overall vision and strategy for the product, and oversee the design and development process. 

2. Introduction to market

Once the product has been built and tested, the next step is to launch it. At this stage, the product management team works closely with sales and marketing to generate demand for the product and communicate its value to the target audience. They will also decide on the price of the product, and monitor its performance post-launch. 

3. Growth

Following a successful launch, the product will enter the growth phase. This is when demand for the product booms, together with sales (or subscriptions) and profit. At this stage, the product management department wants to keep the product riding high, so they’ll focus on maintaining their competitive edge, improving and iterating on the product, and, if possible, scaling up. 

4. Maturity

The maturity phase sees the initial demand for the product stabilizing and slowing down. Here, product managers will focus on retaining existing customers and ensuring the product remains profitable. This may involve investing in new features or add-ons, and optimizing internal operations to reduce costs.

5. Decline

If demand for the product consistently drops, or if the market changes drastically, the product may enter the decline phase. When the product is in decline, the product manager must decide whether to keep the product alive or to withdraw it from the market completely.

That’s the product life cycle in a nutshell, with a glimpse of what product managers do at each stage. Keep reading to learn more about what a career in product management entails. 

What does a product manager do?

Product managers are the in-house product experts. They have a deep understanding of both the business goals and the needs of the end user, and they balance both to oversee the delivery of successful products. 

It’s the product manager’s job to develop a strategic vision for the product, and to coordinate all the different resources and stakeholders who are involved in bringing that vision to life. Ultimately, they ensure that everybody is aligned and working towards the same goal, acting as the bridge between strategy and execution.

The role of the product manager is extremely varied, relying heavily on collaboration at every turn. Product managers are in constant communication with leadership and business stakeholders, designers, developers, marketing, sales, and customer care teams throughout the product life cycle.

The exact tasks and responsibilities of a product manager will vary depending on the size and setup of the organization, as well as the nature of the product. But, generally speaking, product managers are responsible for:

  • Conducting market and competitor research, and commissioning user research
  • Gathering and prioritizing ideas from different sources
  • Defining an overall vision and direction for the product which directly relates to business goals
  • Writing product specifications to set out the requirements of the product, as well as key success metrics
  • Creating a product roadmap to set out a plan of action for how and when the product will be developed
  • Overseeing the design, development, and launch of the product in collaboration with the relevant teams
  • Analyzing product performance and identifying opportunities for improvement and growth

As you can see, the role of the product manager is primarily a strategic one. You can think of product managers as the captain of the ship; they ensure the product is heading in the right direction, and that all the moving parts work in harmony to keep things running smoothly and efficiently. 

Keen to learn more? We take a closer look at what a product manager does in this guide.

What skills does a product manager need?

Product managers occupy a unique role, spanning business, technology, user experience, research, and project management—and that’s not an exhaustive list! Unsurprisingly, product managers must possess a broad and diverse skillset. 

If you want to work in product management, you’ll need to be business-savvy, strategic, and have the ability to think critically. You’ll also need some technical expertise. You don’t need to be able to code, but it’s important that you’re able to collaborate effectively with developers and engineers—and to understand the technology behind the products you’re responsible for. 

At the same time, you’ll need to be well-versed in user experience principles. This, together with a strong dose of empathy, will allow you to collaborate with UX designers and advocate for the user throughout the product life cycle. 

The best product managers are also skilled researchers, adept problem-solvers, and effective storytellers. And, perhaps the most important product manager skill of all: communication. This is one of the most collaborative, people-facing roles in business—if you’re not holding meetings or presenting to leadership, you’ll be syncing with designers or developers, or fielding questions. Excellent communication skills are an absolute must (and that includes being an active and engaged listener, too). 

The great thing about product management is that it calls upon a broad variety of transferable skills—skills you’ve likely already acquired throughout your life so far. You can learn more about the most important product management skills (and how to master them) in this guide.

How to become a product manager

Product managers come from all walks of life and professional backgrounds—there is no one set pathway to a career in the field. And, with demand for product managers growing, there has never been a better time to become a product manager.

Start by building up a solid foundation of background knowledge. Learn as much as you can about what product managers do, the tools they use, and the concepts and principles that underpin their work. Make the most of free resources like blogs and podcasts, and consider a free introductory product management course.

From there, you’ll want to focus on learning the core product management skills—that’s essentially what you’ll need to get hired. If you’re a complete beginner, the most effective route is through a recognized product management certification. This will provide a structured learning path and, ideally, a hands-on curriculum that will see you transition from theory to practice. The best courses will also show you how to build your product management portfolio and even provide career coaching, helping you to land your first job in the field. 

However you get there, a career in product management is varied, fast-paced, and allows you the opportunity to really make an impact. For more advice on how to become a product manager, take a look at this step-by-step guide

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