Product Management: Main Stages and Product Manager Role

What do you need to create a product? First, an idea of how it will look in the end. Then follows a long process of product creation that takes a lot of time, effort, a team of professionals, and a team leader. To transform any idea into a profitable product, a company has to go through several stages to set a vision, define a strategy, develop a product, and sell it to the right people. This article examines the details of product management, describing its main stages, and a product manager’s responsibilities in this process.

What is product management?

Product management is a process that focuses on bringing a new product to market or developing an existing one. It starts with an idea of a product that a customer will interact with and ends with the evaluation of the product’s success. Product management unites business, product development, marketing, and sales.

Product management is led by a… product manager. Don’t confuse the role with a project manager. A project manager is responsible for a single part of a product lifecycle – product development, while a product manager’s responsibility is to lead a product from the germ of an idea to launch, focusing on features, business value, and the customer.

Roles in product management

Every product team consists of several players, including those at the management level. Usually, there are three: a product manager, a project manager, and a product marketing manager.

Each manager has one’s own responsibilities, limited to his or her sphere of concern. The product manager’s role is much wider and includes activities on every level. Let’s define the responsibilities of the first two to understand a product manager’s role better.

Project manager. This person coordinates the internal process of product development making sure that the project follows a timeline and fits a budget. The project manager tracks progress and coordinates all internal resources and members of the team (engineers and designers) to deliver the product on time.

The product marketing manager is the person responsible for commercialization, branding, and positioning of the product. The Product Marketing Manager provides market research, packaging, sales team training, and planning of promotional activities and events. This person is responsible for:

  • Communicating the product’s value to the market
  • Defining user persona and learning about the customers
  • Developing sales tools for a product
  • Creating the product’s marketing strategy

Stakeholders. These are the people who have an interest in the final product, can influence the process of product management and development, and are involved in decision-making. In product management, stakeholders can be clients, investors, even users of a product, or all of them combined.

Their responsibilities are to:

  • Provide feedback on product ideas
  • Describe the requirements in details
  • Contribute new features to the product development
  • Approve or disapprove product features
  • Influence decision making and timeline
  • Identify potential risks and issues in product management
  • Provide necessary resources for product development
  • Stay informed about the lifecycle of the product

The product manager is the person who creates internal and external product vision and leads product management from scratch. The product manager develops positioning strategy while working with stakeholders and teams throughout the process. The main responsibilities of the product manager are:

  • Understand customer experience
  • Develop vision
  • Prioritize processes and activities
  • Develop product pricing and positioning strategies
  • Negotiate with stakeholders
  • Build and follow a roadmap
  • Arrange product testing groups
  • Drive product launch
  • Participate in the promotion plan development
  • Build and maintain product awareness on all levels among product teams

Shared responsibilities with Project manager: develop project documentation, communicate with stakeholders and clients, report the stages of the work to the clients and/or stakeholders.

Shared responsibilities with Product marketing manager: pricing, customer feedback collection through interviews, surveys, focus groups; market research, development of sales tools, analysis of sales data.

Marty Cagan, the author of Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love defines the goal of a product manager the following way: “to discover a product that is valuable, usable and feasible.” So, a product manager has to be knowledgeable in three main spheres: business, technologies, and user experience.

The first thing that a product manager does is see the opportunity to develop a new successful product or improve an existing one, adding necessary features to it. The product manager must be aware of current trends to make the right decisions when a company decides how to build or improve the product.

The product manager’s skillset includes:

  • understanding a product and related needs of the customers
  • market knowledge
  • innovation awareness
  • strategic thinking
  • technical knowledge
  • expert communication skills
  • relationships management
  • user behavior understanding and empathy
  • ability to explain business and technical requirements to all members of a team
  • ability to measure the success of a product