Product Management

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This article provides a practical explanation of the term product management. After reading, you’ll gain a better understanding of the marketing of a product’s entire life cycle.
The goal of product management is to maximise sales, market share, and profit margins.

What is Product Management?

Product management is determining a product strategy, as well as developing and marketing products and services in such a way that they fit perfectly with the target audience. In other words, product management is a combination of strategy, technical development, and product marketing.

For companies, product management may have various meanings. There are two main roles: the technical product manager and marketing product manager. It is the product manager’s responsibility to translate the organisation’s mission and vision into business activities within a certain product family.

Product management has two important components. These are product development and marketing.

Product development is the process of developing products to be consumed by others. Product managers often collaborate with engineers, designers, and other stakeholders to perform tasks such as:

  • Testing products
  • Identifying new product candidates
  • Considering new candidates
  • Collecting customer feedback
  • Defining product requirements
  • Determining the business case and feasibility
  • Developing and defining products at a high level
  • Evangelising new products within the company
  • Compiling roadmaps for products, in particular technological roadmaps
  • Developing all products according to schedule, working on a critical path
  • Guaranteeing that products are within optimal price margins and specifications
  • Ensuring products are manufacturable and optimising the costs of components and procedures.

As the name suggests, product marketing is the process of bringing a product to the market. This includes communication and determining the position of the product, launching the product, and ensuring sellers and customers understand it. The goal is to stimulate the demand for and use of the product.

Responsibilities within product marketing include:

  • Product Life Cycle considerations
  • Product differentiation
  • Branding and product naming
  • Product positioning and outgoing message exchange
  • Promoting the product externally to the press, customers, and partners
  • Implementing and using customer feedback (pre-production, beta software)
  • Introducing new products to the market
  • Monitoring competition

The product life cycle is governed by two processes: product creation and product life cycle management. The first process is about creating new products. The second is about optimising existing products and ultimately terminating the delivery of a specific product.

Why Product Management?

The role of product management includes many activities, from strategic to tactical, and varies based on a company’s organisational structure. In order to maximise the impact and benefit for an organisation, product management must be an independent, individual function.

Although it deals with the entire life cycle of a product, product management focuses primarily on promoting the development of new products. According to the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA), improved and diverse new products (products that offer unique benefits and have added value for the customer) are the most important success factor and offer the greatest product benefit.

Depending on the company size and history, product management has different functions and roles. For instance, in some situations, the role of product manager may be shared by other roles. The Profit and Loss (P&L) responsibility is often an important measure for evaluating the performance of product managers. Nevertheless, in certain companies the product management position is also the focal point of many other activities regarding the product. In addition, it is one of the many things that need to be done to bring a product to market and actively monitor and manage it. In major companies, the product manager usually has effective control over shipping decisions for customers whenever system specifications aren’t met.

What Type of Product Managers Are There?

The product manager is responsible for the success of a certain product and has control over its development, production, and marketing. In this context, the product manager monitors the product from the start, and is therefore in the possession of a lot of product information. It is the product manager’s task to keep an eye on the commercial, long-term goals, and to sell the product in the best possible way.

Different product managers can be classified according to product type, manager experience, or branch.

Classification by Product Type

Products consist of assets or services. As a result, product managers may also be referred to as asset or service managers..

Classification by Manager Experience

Throughout their careers, most managers continue to move into higher positions.
For example, product managers are appointed titles such as: junior product manager, assistant product manager, and senior product manager.

Classification by Responsibility

There are certain organisations that use the term ‘product owner’. Since the product owner has a less broad range of duties, this role is not the same as that of a product manager. There are also situations in which product managers are only responsible for technical elements. These managers are sometimes referred to as ‘technically responsible’ or even ‘technically accountable’. In addition, there are also product managers who are only responsible for commercial aspects. These are called ‘commercially responsible’ or ‘commercially accountable’. If a product managers is ultimately responsible for both aspects, he/she is usually referred to as a portfolio manager, business manager, brand managers, or category manager.

Classification by Sector

In some sectors, the term ‘product manager’ is not common. Here a different term is usually used. One example of such a sector is education; a teacher is a domain manager of a knowledge domain.
However, the position is sometimes difficult to compare and, in addition to the tasks and responsibilities of a product manager, the position includes other duties and responsibilities. An example is in SMEs, where the owner of the company is often also responsible for ‘the product’.

Getting Started With Product Management

The product manager controls the entire product life cycle and innovation process.
It is especially important to balance time and priorities in the following three areas:

  1. Strategy of the business as a whole (while preparing a portfolio plan or product road map)
  2. Tactical management of the life cycle per product-market combination (during the phasing in or phasing out of a product)
  3. Operational management of the value chain (while answering a customer’s question or giving an order to replenish a stock)

Steering with Deliverables

Deliverables are important decision-making documents, which include:

Product Management : relationships with Other Fields

Important concepts within product management are: brainstorm, business-model, intelligence, Abell’s PMT model, portfolio management, product-market combination, roadmap, scenario planning, and SWOT analysis.

Now it’s your turn

What do you think? Are you familiar with the explanation of product management or do you have anything to add? When do you think this model is effective? What do you believe are success factors that contribute to the practical application of this theory?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

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More information

  1. Asomi Ithia (2019) Product Management: Mastering the Product Role. Troubador Publishing Ltd.
  2. Brian Lawley & Pamela Schure (2017) Product Management For Dummies. For Dummies; 1 edition (January 24, 2017).
  3. Matt Lemay (2017) Product Management in Practice: A Real-World Guide to the Key Connective Role of the 21st Century. O’Reilly Media.
  4. Steven Haines (2011) Managing Product Management Empowering Your Organization to Produce Competitive Products and Brands. McGraw-Hill Education.

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Jessie Sari
About the Author

Jessie Sari is a content writer at ToolsHero. Jessie studies Trade Management in Asia at the Hogeschool van Rotterdam. As part of her education, she focuses on building fundamental skills, including marketing, importing and exporting products and services in Asia, economy, finance, management, consultancy and project management.

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