Product Manager Roles & Responsibilities

A product manager is the connection point between business strategy, design, and project optimization. These professionals use their technical expertise, project management ability, and people skills to realize new and innovative products.

Product managers were once exclusively sequestered away in the world of marketing, but as product launches and technology in general became more complex, product managers came over into the development side of things.

By bringing product managers on board, they were able to streamline the production and development process, increasing profits for their companies by maximizing their returns on investment as early in the product development process as possible.

What Does a Product Manager Do?

Product managers’ jobs are similar to that of a project manager, but they must also have the technical knowledge required to make specific decisions about the project during development. Beyond technical knowledge, there are a few skills every product manager must have.

Coordination and facilitation of a project

Building a new product from the ground up involves hundreds of moving parts at every given moment. A competent product manager sits at the nexus of this problem-solving nightmare and gives their team all of the resources and guidance they need.

Managing feature releases

Release management is the process of building a schedule, design, and deployment plan of all of the relevant product features required to successfully meet design specifications at the end of the development process.

Functionality specification

Functionality specification and scope management go hand in hand. By creating a concrete functionality specification plan at the beginning of product development, a product manager is able to confidently and easily manage any feature creep or scope mismanagement as it arises.

Building and managing releases

A solid roadmap is one of the most crucial tools available to a product manager. Strong deadline management, clear time management goals, and successful delivery strategies will make or break a product manager’s career.

Product outcome responsibility

Product managers are at the helm of all of their projects. They take on many points of failure as they arise, and they must be ready to bear the responsibility of their position. A good product manager understands the gravity of their position, and works every day to ensure their team is equipped to produce the best possible version of the product in question.

How to Become a Product Manager

Product managers are best understood as specialized project managers. This means the path to product management is broadly similar to the project management path, with a few crucial details. 

Build a foundation of technical skills

A product manager doesn’t have the luxury of directing traffic from afar. A product manager needs to have the knowledge base to back up their decision-making process.

Job listings for product managers will ask for particular knowledge and skills that are directly relevant to the position being filled. Product managers without the technical skills to back up their project management skills will very quickly find themselves failing the skill checks required to make it to the end of the hiring process.

Aspiring product managers should also seek out education in design to supplement the relevant technical skills. A product manager without design knowledge will quickly find themselves floundering during the ideation phase of any product pitch. Design work is crucial to the development of any product’s inception.

Product managers building their skill set should also seek out product management classes that will teach them the basics of manufacturing, discovery, and business development. There are short courses across the U.S. that will cultivate these basic hard skills.

Seek project management credentials

Project management skills will go a long way for a product manager. While product management certification courses will adequately prepare an aspiring product manager, project management skills will put these candidates one step ahead of the competition.

A solid understanding of scope management, conflict resolution, and project facilitation will never fail to serve a fresh-faced or veteran product manager.

Stay curious

Product managers have to be lifetime learners. This skill is softer than many of the others that a successful product manager will cultivate on their career path, but it is equally important. As a leader of product production, a product manager will need to have an innovative mind throughout their lifetime in the position.

Product managers have to creatively facilitate production in high-pressure workplaces, they have to have the design chops to create innovative and successful new products, and they need to meet the complicated needs of their clients.

Continued mastery of their industries and the foresight to learn from others will build outstanding product managers. Product managers need to cultivate this curiosity early and often to keep their résumés and minds fresh and enticing for workplaces throughout their careers.

Dale Jakes

Dale Jakes is a writer for TechnologyAdvice.com, Project-Management.com, and ITBusinessEdge.com. In addition, he writes about technology, games, and music on sites all across the internet, as well as being a social media manager. Dale's willing to try anything once.