Product management is a broad role with many different opportunities in many different industries. In this guide, we are going to first look at what a product manager does from a high level and then dig into different industries and roles for product managers so you can fully understand the opportunities available. A career in product management is an exciting one and a great hybrid for someone who is creative but also organized and technical.
We will start off this guide looking at some of the tasks that a product manager does in his or her role.
Key deliverables are things that the stakeholders will see delivered. I am putting the deliverables into three groups:
In addition to the deliverables that product managers produce for their key stakeholders, they are also responsible for three major things that help them formulate the key deliverables. You may not always see these things being done if you are not involved in working on them, but they are part of ensuring the deliverables are completed.
The three key responsibilities that contribute to the deliverables are:
Let’s break each of these down to understand exactly what they mean.
What is the strategy? It is something very important that a product manager needs to be able to explain for their product, however, it varies greatly depending on the size and structure of the company. When we talk about strategy, it could mean the strategy of the product, company, or product line. It really depends on the size of the company and whether the strategy is focused on a particular product or the company as a whole. If the company is larger, the strategy will be more focused on the product or product line. If the company is smaller, then the strategy may be at a broader, company level.
What is a product road map? A product roadmap is a golden source that outlines the vision, direction, priorities, and progress of a product over time. A golden source is really defined as the truth for a subject. It's a plan of action that aligns the organization around short- and long-term goals for the product or project and allows you to measure deliverables for the product and when they will be achieved.
Key features tie into the road map because, quite simply, they are part of the road map as we look to product development. Key features are things that the product will do—features that set the product apart from the competition. Some questions to ask about key features are:
Product managers can often manage more than one product, depending on the size of the company or the portfolio. If it’s a large company, there are often products that are related or depend on each other, and in that case, it makes sense to assign one product manager. In a smaller company, there may be one product manager for the whole organization rather than a department.
Now that we have discussed the key deliverables and responsibilities, we will look at technical vs. non-technical product managers. As a broad generalization, product management roles tend to be mostly in technical companies, but they do exist in non-technical companies as well.
Non-technical product managers deliver what the name implies: non-technical products. They need to understand what the product does but don’t always have to fully understand the science behind it, and engineering may be a smaller part of the deployment in a non-technical product. Their job is to define the product they are bringing to market and bring it through the product road map and lifecycle. An example of a non-technical product is clothing, where a feature that might change is the fabric or adding colors or sizes instead of specific functionality. However, functionality could also be added, as many of these non-technical products have become technical over time. For example, perhaps a better cushion comes out that enhances the way the foot fits in a shoe The product is not a technical product, but that feature is a little technical.
Technical product managers often manage software or hardware products. They have to understand more about what the product does from a technical viewpoint as well as how it does it. Technical product managers work very closely with engineers, so this is an important piece of their role. For example, a product manager for a software program may not need to understand how to program a piece of software, but they do need to understand how and why it works the way it does. After all, it is their job to do the discovery of the product and why they are bringing it to market.
Not only do product management roles span from technical to non-technical, they also span across industries, such as:
There are many more industries that employ product managers, but this small list shows the variety and span of product management roles.
There are so many different opportunities for people interested in product management. While the deliverables remain similar, it is important to note that there is not just one industry that requires product management skills.
Product managers span across many different industries and vary from non-technical to very technical. As a product manager, it’s very important to speak the language of the stakeholders no matter the industry or the technical vs. non-technical nature of the product.