Product management is an integral part of supporting products to succeed in the market. It is a business process that involves planning, developing, launching, and managing a product or service, from ideation to development and go-to-market. In this blog, we will dive into the core competencies required of a product manager to ensure a successful product management approach.
Product management is an incredibly broad and varied role. Product managers hold strategic responsibility for developing successful products and achieving specific goals. How they achieve these outcomes is entirely up to them. Usefully, key responsibilities can be grouped under logical core competencies that every product manager needs to succeed.
Product vision and strategy
A product vision helps to create a clear path for product development, with tangible and specific artifacts that provide teams with guidance towards customer-centric outcomes. It serves as the foundation for all product decisions and ensures stakeholders remain aligned on the goals and objectives of the product.
Customers, senior management, sales executives, support teams, developers – everyone has an opinion on product. Successful product managers must be capable of crafting and communicating a shared vision to a broad range of stakeholders. Due to conflicting priorities, a product vision should provide a clear anchor point and be communicated often to keep everyone on the same page.
Product life cycle management (PLM) is the process of managing the entire life cycle of a product from when it is first introduced to the market, through the growth and maturity phases, until it is eventually phased out. The product manager is responsible for overseeing the entire product life cycle – from design and development to delivery and post-release support. This includes understanding customer needs, market trends and competition, defining strategies and managing product releases.
The product manager’s focus and strategy will shift based on what stage in the product life cycle it is in – from identifying the target market, value proposition and positioning, to scaling and expanding the product, maintaining market share, and eventually developing the end-of-life strategy. Product managers must be capable of determining appropriate goals for their stage of the life cycle and reassessing and responding as a product matures.
Product strategy and market research
Products exist to serve specific audiences. Successful product strategy should incorporate focus towards a niche group of users, while still broad enough to enable the achievement of sales/user goals. Research enables market segmentation, a deep understanding of target users, articulation of a compelling value proposition, and distinctive positioning in a competitive marketplace.
Every idea and assumption about the market should be tested with meaningful research, incorporating both qualitative and quantitative methods like problem interviews, direct observations, and minimum viable product releases. Product managers won’t succeed without making decisions supported by data, collecting and analysing meaningful metrics to feed into strategy.
Business model and financials
Product managers must understand the value a product creates for users and the best way to monetise that value. Without well-formulated and prioritised revenue, growth, or profit goals, a product can’t deliver an investment incentive for a business and won’t achieve sustainable growth. Goals might expand beyond specific financial targets to outcomes such as entering new markets and managing costs, accompanied by break-even and profitability forecasts.
Given the range of contributors required for the success of a digital product, comprehensive visibility for everyone involved is a must. A roadmap provides a comprehensive execution plan that product managers create, review based on market feedback, and modify to keep teams on target as circumstances change.
The roadmap will include realistic product goals and benefits, key metrics to monitor success, release dates and timeframes, and critical feature and outcome deliverables. Because product strategy and go-to-market are so closely linked, product managers contribute directly to growth plans and incorporate go-to-market strategy in the roadmap.
User experience and product backlog
Great product managers put their users at the core of everything they deliver, using a thorough understanding of customers to deliver a strong user experience (UX). This process includes identifying buyer personas, capturing user interaction, optimising the functional and non-functional aspects of a product, and visual design – all while coordinating inputs from a cross-functional team.
Critical tools available to product managers include creating scenarios, user stories, storyboards, workflow diagrams, user interface sketches, mockups and more. ClearPoint Design Studio supports clients to design experiences and products that people love. Our integrated design approach ensures rapid delivery to market while focussing priorities on delivering the most valuable experiences.
Product managers are also responsible for managing and prioritising a product backlog to select sprint goals. Developing a product with optimal features and UX involves collecting relevant feedback and data from users, using product demos, solution interviews, usability tests, A/B tests, and direct observation. Analytics tools are also critical to organising, retrieving, and implementing relevant data, allowing ongoing refinements to a product backlog incorporating new insights.
Comparing product managers and product owners
Product managers can be broken into three types, distinguished by their stakeholders.
- Internal product managers build tools for other people inside an organisation.
- B2B (Business to Business) product managers, or software-as-a-service product managers, develop tools for other organisations. Sales teams are the key source of information for B2B product managers regarding what the market wants and needs.
- B2C (Business to Consumers) product managers develop products for consumers, a role that requires both huge vision and creativity as well as ongoing feedback data capture from users to adapt product and inform strategy.
For the common B2C scenario, product managers will be responsible for multiple products and may be supported by a product owner to deliver outcomes on a specific product.
Where a product manager oversees every core competency outlined above, a product owner looks after a subset of these tasks. While a product owner will take full responsibility for internal responsibilities like the product backlog and managing engineering teams, the product manager will be primarily responsible for external responsibilities such as vision, strategy, and roadmap.
At ClearPoint we support clients to fulfil the responsibility of a product manager and/or product owner to oversee execution of product strategy and goals through our Digital Professional Services. We can support you to deliver amazing experiences and products for your customers. Our product owners and product teams work alongside engineering and design to ensure you’re delivering true customer-centric software and experiences. Get in touch with us today if you need support alongside your product teams.