Beginner’s Overview of Product Managers and Product Management

Nov 14, 2022 | Product Management

As the Co-Founder of the Association of International Product Marketing & Management (AIPMM) and a Master Instructor of product management coursework, I often work with experienced product managers looking to acquire certification. 

However, I am increasingly working with those aspiring to move into product management as a profession. For the latter group, I have written this article as a beginner’s high-level overview of product management and the role of a product manager.

According to my informal research, 90% of product managers say their job is challenging–but only 40% feel prepared for their role.  That’s a big disconnect!  Many new PMs struggle with the concepts and terminology of product management at first because it’s such a complex job.  Even experienced professionals can find it difficult to break down the specifics of product management as a profession.  We’ll review the qualities that make someone an excellent product manager and some essential skills needed to succeed in this field.  Read on to learn more about product managers and the process of product management.

Defining Product Management

Put simply, product management is the process of planning, creating, and managing a product’s lifecycle.  That includes everything from understanding your audience, coming up with a product idea, and overseeing a product’s launch and development to ensuring it’s profitable, gathering customer feedback, and making strategic product decisions.  Product managers are responsible for a product’s overall success, which contributes to the company’s bottom line.  In other words, PMs have a huge responsibility on their shoulders.  Product managers wear many different hats.  They have to be creative, analytical, and strategic all at the same time.  The role is multifaceted and complex, which is why it’s often one of the most challenging jobs in the business world and why I have tremendous respect for those in the role.

What qualities make someone a great product manager?

PMs need a broad skill set with a few key areas in particular.  The first is an understanding of the customer journey and their needs throughout the purchase process.  Along with that, PMs need a strong knowledge of the product, including the core features and benefits and how the product will be used.  Of course, product managers also need a healthy dose of creativity to be successful.  After all, they’re responsible for dreaming up and executing new product ideas.  A great product manager must also be a strong communicator, particularly with people outside their immediate team.  PMs need to be able to break down complex business problems and find creative solutions to problems using the product.  They are tasked with understanding the customer’s needs, identifying how to best meet those needs with a product, and then bringing that product to market.  Overall, product managers need creativity, analytical thinking, and communication skills to bring their ideas to life and see them through to launch.

The skills needed to be a great product manager:

  • Strategic thinking – Product management is a profession that requires a tremendous amount of strategic thinking.  You’re tasked with identifying new ways to use existing products and creating new products that solve old problems in new ways.
  • Customer empathy – Product managers often work directly with customers to identify needs, wants, and pain points.  A successful product manager understands what customers want and can “translate” that to the product level.  You’ll need to communicate what you learn from customers in a way that makes sense to the rest of the team.
  • Business acumen – Part of bringing a product to market involves understanding the financial implications of your decisions.  You need to be able to understand the numbers behind your product so that you can make intelligent, data-driven decisions.
  • Problem-solving skills – This is another core skill that every PM needs.  You’ll need to solve various problems, ranging from how to use your product to solve a customer need to how to bring a new product to market.  Problem-solving skills are also helpful when it comes to understanding the needs and motivations of your team members.

The process of product management

First, a product manager needs to understand the problem their product aims to solve.  Then, they need to brainstorm ideas for solving that problem.  During this stage, PMs need to be aware of their budget, audience, and competition.  Once the product manager has a few product ideas, they must pick the best one.  This is where their creativity and big-picture thinking come into play.  Let’s say the product manager has narrowed down the idea that warrants moving forward.    Once the PM understands the customer needs, they must create a mock-up of the product.  This is when the PM puts all of their ideas together and begins visualizing how the product will look.  They need to consider things like the product’s name, design, content inside, and the price they want to charge for it.  Once the product is designed, built, and ready to be released, the product manager must identify the best way to market and sell the product.  They need to understand their target customers and the best ways to reach them.  They need to understand what other companies in their industry are doing and what has worked for them in the past.

Summing Up

Now that we’ve covered the definition of product management, what qualities make someone a good product manager, the skills needed to be a great product manager, and the process of product management, you should have a better understanding of what product management is.  This article is a great starting point for anyone considering breaking into product management.  With so many different skills and qualities needed for the job, it can be challenging to know where to begin. 

The BEST place to begin is with a course on product management from Gray Global Consulting LLC delivered by an experienced instructor like myself, the Co-Founder of the Association of International Product Marketing & Management (AIPMM), the issuing body of the Certified Product Manager credential.

With over 20 years of working with product managers across the globe, I would love to share some of my insights to get you started on the tremendously rewarding career of Product Manager. Check out the calendar of upcoming courses at Gray Global Consulting LLC