A Beginner’s Guide to Product Manager Responsibilities

Dr. Anneke Schmidt, Contributor to the CareerFoundry blog

If you’re planning to start a career in product management, you’ll need to understand what product manager responsibilities involve.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the demand for product managers (PMs) has been steadily increasing across all sectors, making product management an attractive career path to choose today. 

In fact, as a recent 2022 report on the future of product management reveals, 43% of companies are hiring more PMs to join their product teams. So, there’s never been a better time to launch your product management career!

To give you a better insight into the role, we’ve put together this beginner’s guide to product manager responsibilities, covering both key tasks and broader responsibilities. Just use the clickable menu to skip to the sections you’re most interested in.

  1. Product manager responsibilities: Key tasks
  2. Product manager responsibilities: Broader skills
  3. How to become a product manager
  4. Final thoughts

1. Product manager responsibilities: Key tasks

In essence, product managers are responsible for the success of a product and work to ensure that products meet customer expectations as well as business goals. As such, they:

  • conduct research to figure out customer needs
  • develop a product strategy
  • oversee product design and development
  • manage all aspects of the product’s life cycle

However, the tasks and responsibilities of a product manager can vary depending on many factors, such as the company’s size, the product type they are working on, and the industry. So, what you’ll be responsible for as a PM will depend on the specific role you take up.

If you want to learn more about different product manager roles, take a look at our comprehensive guide to product manager job descriptions. With that said, here’s an overview of the core responsibilities you’ll need to be prepared for if you become a product manager:

Product vision and strategy

One of the primary product manager responsibilities is to develop a product vision and strategy. 

Again, depending on the product type and company setting you’re dealing with, this vision could span from a single feature to an entire product roadmap. 

But as a general principle, product managers should continuously monitor product performance using metrics, customer feedback, and market trends to decide what product development strategies to pursue—a process also  known as “product lifecycle management.”

Market research and analysis

Product managers must stay up-to-date with customer needs, market trends, and industry changes. 

For example, PMs may need to review customer feedback and analytics to inform product development decisions. Or, they might have to conduct surveys or interviews with stakeholders such as customers, business partners, and internal teams to identify business opportunities or assess customer sentiment.

Roadmapping and agile delivery

Another vital product manager responsibility is product roadmapping—the process of defining product development goals and outlining the steps needed to reach them. 

To this end, PMs usually work closely with product design and engineering teams to create product roadmaps for each development cycle. These roadmaps should be flexible enough to adapt to changing customer needs or technical issues as the product progresses from concept to delivery.

Feature definition and prioritization

Deciding which features to implement and how to prioritize them is another key responsibility of product managers. 

Here, PMs analyze customer feedback and competitor offerings to determine which features to focus on. They also work with designers, developers, and other stakeholders to define user stories and product requirements so that the team can create an optimal product experience. 

Informed decision-making is, therefore, a core element of product management.

Product beta testing and user feedback

The goal of beta testing is to ensure that a product meets customer needs and expectations.

Therefore, it’s the responsibility of product managers to oversee the beta testing process and ensure that the product is tested thoroughly. To do this, they may need to review user feedback or coordinate with external testers to ensure that the product meets the desired specifications. 

This is a crucial part of product development, as it helps to ensure the success of a product when it launches.

Data collection and product analytics

Apart from doing market research before building a product, PMs need to monitor its performance after its launch. 

This entails tracking usage metrics such as user engagement and adoption rates as well as responding to user feedback. For this, product managers often use tools such as Google Analytics or Key Performance Indicator (KPI) dashboards to collect and analyze data, which allows them to make data-driven product decisions.

User experience (UX) design

UX is often overlooked as a product manager’s responsibility, but it’s just as important. 

Since PMs are ultimately responsible for creating a product that meets customer needs, they need to ensure that the user experience is intuitive and easy to access. This includes not just usability but also design considerations such as colors, layout, and typography.

By incorporating UX design principles into the product, PMs can create products that customers love.

Product marketing and launch activities

Of course, there’s more to releasing a product than just building it.

When the product is ready to launch, PMs must ensure that the sales and marketing teams are prepared. This could involve preparing sales materials, defining promotional campaigns, or crafting messaging to educate customers about the product. 

Product managers also often have a hand in tracking sales performance and customer feedback after launch.

Post-launch optimization

The last core responsibility to take into account when considering a product management career is post-launch optimization.

This involves updating the product with new features, bug fixes, or other optimizations to ensure it remains competitive in the market. For example, after launch, a PM might work with sales and marketing teams to come up with strategies for boosting sales or optimizing the product’s design for better customer engagement.

If you’d like to hear a bit more about the tasks and skills that make up a product manager’s responsibilities, check out this video of our own senior product owner Zöe as she explains what’s involved:

2. Product manager responsibilities: Broader skills

Having discussed the core tasks and responsibilities of the product manager role, let’s move on to three broader skills required for the job. 

Although these are less product-focused in nature, they are equally essential to a successful product management career.

Team coordination

A crucial skill any product manager should have is the ability to coordinate with multiple team members, such as designers, developers, marketing personnel, salespeople, and executives.

Cross-functional teams often have different perspectives and objectives, so it’s the product manager’s responsibility to ensure that everyone is in agreement with the final product vision. This requires strong interpersonal skills and the ability to negotiate and mediate between different stakeholders.

Effective communication

Strong communication skills are also essential for effective product management. 

Not only do PMs need to be able to articulate their vision and agenda to various teams, but they should also communicate customer needs and feedback to them constructively. 

This includes being able to present ideas and data in simple and compelling ways, as well as being able to clearly explain and defend decisions.

Risk management

Finally, product managers must be adept at managing compliance and risk issues. 

For example, to ensure compliance with laws, regulations, and standards, PMs must have knowledge of applicable compliance requirements like GDPR or HIPAA and be able to create mitigation plans for potential risks. 

As a consequence, product managers have to stay up to date with compliance regulations and be able to assess the impact of their product decisions on compliance.

If you’d like to learn some more abilities relevant to the role, check out our complete guide to product manager skills.

3. How to become a product manager

As discussed, product management is a complex and demanding role that not only comes with a lot of responsibility but also requires diverse skillsets.

Developing essential product management skills is, therefore, the most important step to becoming a successful PM.

Start by looking at PM job postings and understanding the requirements they list. This will give you a good indication of what skills employers are looking for in a PM. From there, consider a free introductory course in product management to get an understanding of the fundamentals.

Or, if you’re serious about landing a PM job and can commit resources to it, consider a professional certification program. Professional certifications provide more intensive learning of product management fundamentals and offer hands-on experience and guidance from industry practitioners.

And finally, the best way to practice product management is by doing it. You can get product management experience through internships, volunteer work, or freelance projects. Working with real-world product teams on actual products will give you a better understanding of the day-to-day responsibilities of a product manager.

No matter which route you choose, product management is an incredibly rewarding career path. So, if you’d like to learn more, check out our step-by-step guide on becoming a product manager.

4. Final thoughts

Product managers play a crucial role in product strategy and execution, which is why the job comes with a wealth of responsibility. 

If you want to break into the field, you’ll need to develop skills that span product visioning and design, project management, customer feedback analysis, compliance monitoring, and more.

Fortunately, there are many resources and training opportunities available to help you learn the fundamentals and develop the skills necessary for success. But if you’re unsure where to begin, why not check out these tips on choosing the best product-management training for you.

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