What Does a Product Manager Do?

Extensive corporate product portfolios, rapidly evolving technology, and advancements in healthcare and science are driving an ever-growing need for organizations to recruit qualified product managers — especially in  the technology, healthcare, and marketing sectors.

In this article, we’ll explore product manager responsibilities and qualifications, types of product managers, and leading educational pathways, such as product management bootcamps, which can lead to a rewarding career in this growing field.

Product Management Responsibilities

Product managers shepherd concepts through the product development life cycle, ensuring products function to specifications, look great, and meet customer needs. In the tech sector, for example, product managers are responsible for overseeing the development and launch of everything from the next hot video game to cutting-edge wearable tech.

Though they may work in different industries, product managers often share key responsibilities and job descriptions. Examples include:

  • Idea creation
  • Strategic planning
  • Market research
  • Product roadmapping
  • Design and development
  • Product testing
  • Budget development, management, and accountability
  • Communicating with stakeholders and team members
  • Sales and marketing

A Sample Product Manager Job Description

Here’s what you can expect to find in a typical product manager job description: 

The product manager is responsible for overseeing all phases of research, design, development, and marketing for our exciting line of products. The product manager will engage with a cross-functional team to determine customer requirements, define the product’s vision, drive its strategy and roadmap, and meet customer satisfaction and revenue goals. The product manager will also work with key stakeholders to identify new markets and product opportunities and communicate progress to leaders.

What Are the Different Types of Product Managers? 

A quick browse of job sites will return a variety of roles related to product management. The job responsibilities can be similar overall, but key factors such as industry, technical complexity, product type, and consumer base can create specializations or “types” of product managers within the overall field.

Below are some examples of the different types of product managers.

One distinction to understand about product managers is that while some descriptions characterize product managers as a “mini-CEO” of a product, this role isn’t quite that authoritative. While product managers may resemble CEOs in that they pilot a product’s development through its entire life cycle and work with various teams, they have little authority. A better analogy might be between product managers and musical conductors. Both are guides, leading a team of developers and engineers (or musicians) to create a great product (or symphony).

Product Manager Qualifications

Product management requires numerous skills. Generally, product managers must balance three areas of development: business KPIs, user experience (UX), and technology. In addition, most managers should be familiar with agile product management, including the Scrum framework.

What else should you know about becoming a product manager? Here are some of the key product manager skills and qualifications:

  • Exceptional people skills (e.g., engage diverse groups in shared goals, gain cooperation, resolve conflict, have influence without authority)
  • Strong knowledge of industry-specific business fundamentals, particularly relating to organizational KPIs and business processes
  • Knowledge and experience in execution of market research
  • Proficiency with product road mapping, sprint planning and execution, product analytics, budgeting, and A/B testing
  • Communication skills (written and oral), helping translate business needs for technical staff, explaining product specifications and usage to marketing, communicating tasks and deadlines to team members clearly, and updating stakeholders effectively
  • Decision-making savvy and ability to balance resource usage among departments while weighing the needs of each
  • Strong leadership instincts with a keen sense of empathy
  • Attention to detail, ability to juggle multiple projects, and the will to remain positive through challenges

Product Manager Education

Many product manager job descriptions will call for a bachelor’s degree in a business, technology, economics, or marketing discipline. Product managers often move into their roles from another position, acquiring the necessary skills and experience in other fields.

Though certification is not required to be a product manager, obtaining a credential can demonstrate proof of your skills to prospective employers. One way to acquire these skills is through a product management bootcamp.  The Product Management Bootcamp at Texas McCombs, which is completed in just 18 weeks, delivers a concentrated curriculum focusing on the essentials of adopting a product mindset, solving customer problems, and influencing without authority.

This bootcamp also covers agile methodologies, workflow management, sprint planning and execution, and data management using SQL. Upon completing the product management bootcamp curriculum, learners will have the skills and practical experience to guide a product through its entire life cycle.

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What Does a Technical Product Manager Do?

The growing need for product managers has created opportunities for specialization within the field. As a result, for highly technical products, technical product managers are preferred.

Technical product managers use their knowledge of software, programming, APIs, etc. to help build the best products. Technical product managers aren’t usually involved in the design or engineering phase of software or app development, but their expertise is heavily relied on to lead the product-creation strategy.

Technical product managers understand the technology behind the products they’re building. They interact with engineers and developers to help them maintain schedules, troubleshoot problems, and sharpen the product to meet customers’ needs as well as technical specifications. They can also translate those technical elements effectively for sales, marketing, and business stakeholders at all organizational levels.

Technical product managers focus on the customer acceptance and usage of their products. If they launch a product with a clever user experience that meets no consumer need, the product is likely to fail. Technical product managers succeed when a product’s technology serves its entire mission.

What Does a Product Marketing Manager Do?

What makes a product unique, compelling, and necessary? While marketing communicates a product’s story, the product marketing manager serves as the lead storyteller.

The product marketing manager is responsible for branding the product, positioning it in a crowded marketplace, and assuring that its messaging accurately represents the product and engages the right audience. Marketing managers, sometimes called promotions managers, study their company’s products and the customers they’re intended to reach; seeking to raise both product awareness and sales within that customer base.

Product marketing managers have three essential goals: acquiring customers’ interest, engaging with them regarding their products, and turning them into loyal customers. Exceptional communication skills are fundamental, as is knowledge of the competitive marketplace.

Product marketing managers perform a variety of tasks to accomplish these goals:

  • They work with design and business units to manage product naming, messaging, and marketing cycles.
  • They conduct customer research to gain insight into buying trends, then incorporate those insights into a marketing strategy.
  • They become experts in competitors’ products to determine positive points of differentiation for their product, while capitalizing on competitor product weaknesses in their strategy (e.g., higher price, less functionality, weak consumer ratings).
  • They determine the type and placement of content (web, social media, TV, radio, etc.) to best position their products.

What Does a Software Product Manager Do?

Software development is a team pursuit and software product managers help guide those teams.

The software product manager works closely with the business, design, development, and marketing teams to manage software from ideation to release. Software product managers can ascend to their roles from development backgrounds, though they likely won’t perform any design or coding duties as managers. Instead, software product managers oversee the day-to-day, as well as long-term activities of creating software and mobile applications. As with other product management roles, research is a crucial component in software product management. Software product managers know the chief competitors in their industry and keep up with the key features and necessary updates their products will need to stay at the forefront of the marketplace.

Software product managers help determine the vision for their software, clearly define its requirements, perform benchmarking analysis, create and guide the product roadmap, and oversee production. While they also  contribute to pricing and marketing decisions, these areas are usually led by other teams. The software product managers also write product manuals, oversee software release, and follow usage trends to improve customer satisfaction.

What Does a Data Product Manager Do?

Every product manager uses data to develop products. But data product managers view data as the product.

Data informs every step of the product-management process — from market research and product creation to pricing, sales, and marketing. Companies collect an enormous amount of data, both internal and external, that helps them generate insights. 

Data product managers build and implement the project’s data roadmap. They determine the right metrics to track, create the data models used to enhance a product’s content and user experience, and maintain a catalog of product data. 

Data product managers also communicate with other teams (finance, design, marketing, etc.), ensuring that everyone has access to appropriate, high-quality data. Data product managers usually have a strong background in data science or analysis and are experts in the business data related to their field. Large product teams without a data product manager risk accessing incomplete or disorganized data, potentially harming their product outcomes.

What Does an AI Product Manager Do?

According to the World Economic Forum, at least 80 percent of companies in healthcare, digital communications, engineering, finance, and transportation expect to adopt artificial intelligence technologies by 2025. As more companies invest in artificial intelligence, they also are investing in AI product managers. 

AI product management is a new and unique role gaining heightened market focus due to increasing corporate investment in AI. To be successful, AI product managers must be equipped to evaluate the usefulness of leveraging AI in product development. They are generally well-versed in data science and algorithms, but digging through the coding architecture, they help bring balance between what is possible and what the consumer needs. For instance, AI can be essential in software that analyzes millions of financial transactions to detect fraud.

What Does a Product Manager Do in Healthcare?

People are essential to good healthcare, but products also matter. Drugs, medical devices, and insurance policies are all essential for proper care. In addition, healthcare providers have digitized so much of their operations (e.g., medical records, billing, telehealth) that those elements are also considered product-based.

Healthcare product managers are critical in helping medical and pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and healthcare providers develop new drugs, therapies, and devices to treat patients. As with other product management roles, understanding market research, cost-benefit analysis, and business objectives are essential. Healthcare product managers also must be familiar with medical requirements and regulatory standards to ensure their products are compliant. 

What Does an API Product Manager Do?

API (Application Programming Interface) refers to the connection allowing one piece of software to interact with other software. If you’ve bought a plane ticket, booked a hotel room, or rented a car through a travel website, you have used APIs. An article in Forbes Magazine even referred to the API economy as “the next big thing.”

API product managers oversee the production and development of APIs and deliver them to the proper markets. They also manage troubleshooting and version schedules to ensure that APIs work consistently. The API product manager serves as the subject-matter expert on the API and must communicate the API’s technical specifications, key benefits, and target consumer audience. 

What Does a Machine Learning Product Manager Do?

At its highest level, machine learning refers to the science of teaching computers how to learn. Companies apply machine learning to the process of building their products in addition to the products themselves.

However, as Wired Magazine writes, machine learning still requires a human element. Machine learning product managers contribute to that necessary human chain. Like other product managers, machine learning product managers work on the product’s roadmap and development process, but they do so with a data-centric view. Machine learning product managers understand and evaluate data, know when to apply machine learning to solve a problem, and know when ML isn’t applicable.

McDonald’s is among the many companies hiring machine learning product managers, crafting a job description that mixes product management and data science.

What Does a Growth Product Manager Do?

Growth product management is a relatively new but rapidly expanding tech role. According to the Product-Led Growth Collective, average monthly interest in searches for “growth product manager” has increased 425 percent over the past five years. 

Companies are hiring growth product managers to grow their brands. The growth product manager works to boost specific business metrics related to products such as acquisition, activation, conversion, churn prevention, retention, and monetization.

Growth production managers oversee roadmaps, conduct demographic testing, and develop long-term initiatives to locate, onboard, and retain product users. This is another cross-functional position — one that works with design, engineering, and marketing teams. Ultimately, growth product managers ask and answer the question, “How do we best position this product for our business?”

What Does a UX Product Manager Do?

In software and app design, UX refers to the user experience. A product can be unique and have innovative technical bones, but if customers reject it because of a clunky design, the product won’t be successful.

UX product managers lead design teams in creating products that are easy and intuitive to use, look sharp, and draw customers back to them. They conduct the research, develop a prototype, and then iterate the product’s design and user interface.

UX product managers can be coaches and mentors, guiding designers through challenges and roadblocks. They have design experience, but they also serve as team leaders who establish design strategies and guidance. The role blends the designer’s creative vision with the manager’s holistic product view.

Begin Your Product Management Journey Today

Product managers work at the fascinating intersection of business, technology, and customer experience, blending the requirements of all three disciplines. They must possess a strong work ethic, understand business fundamentals, have a sense of tech and design, and be energetic problem-solvers. Product managers with these skills, as well as strong communication and people skills, can thrive in this rewarding career path with significant growth potential.

To start your career as a product manager, consider enrolling in a product management bootcamp. The Product Management Boot Camp at Texas McCombs can help you turn your ambition into reality. Begin your future in product management today!

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