What Is Product Management? Product Manager Responsibilities By Industry

When a company needs to build a new product or enhance an existing offering, a product manager can help them understand and represent users’ needs, monitor the market, develop competitive analysis, and define a vision for a product. Product managers perform various activities in industries like healthcare, human resources, and technology, advocating for users by building the best product possible. This organizational function guides all steps of the product life cycle, from development to market positioning and price setting.

Product managers play a key role in creating better products that revolutionize the market or improve customer access. With increasing competition and the growing number of savvy consumers, product managers are in demand in a variety of fields, and product management can provide a strong path to an excellent future career. Columbia Engineering Product Management Boot Camp can help you learn the skills needed to be a professional product manager, uncover the product management roles you’ll be able to qualify for, and provide career support to get employer attention.

What Does a Product Manager Do?

Regardless of their industry, product managers will likely need to conduct several common tasks. These may include driving strategic development, market launches, and market changes for a company’s products. It’s easy to think of project managers when product management is mentioned, but make sure you know the difference between project management and product management before you take the next step in your skills development.

An image that breaks down the differences and shared goals between project management and product management.

While project management focuses on bringing a project from beginning to completion, product management involves the ongoing vision of a company’s brands and products. The product management definition includes many strategic and tactical responsibilities for complete oversight of a company’s product pipeline and offerings.

Product manager responsibilities include:

Product managers gain expertise about the company’s users, market base, and competition.

Product managers create high-level strategic plans to implement goals and objectives for a product’s development and market positioning.

A product manager creates a roadmap for the product, presenting it to stakeholders and ensuring communication between all relevant teams.

Product managers continue to implement the strategic plan, communicating between involved teams for execution.

A product manager solicits feedback and engages in data analysis to determine the best path forward for the product in the market.

Product Manager Qualifications

People in product management roles come from a variety of backgrounds and bring unique skill sets to their work. In many cases, product managers provide a strategic vision to a company’s products and marketing, and can play a role in the tech industry that is not based primarily on active coding and development. The skills needed for product management vary from job to job, but below are some of the most in-demand product management skills.

Empathy

Empathy is a key skill that enables product managers to satisfy the needs of end-users. As a product manager, you do not want to remain stuck in your niche. Instead, explore your product as a beginner and consider the products outside your industry, what users may enjoy about those products, and potential improvements they may desire. Such insight can be instrumental to a product manager’s success.

Problem Solving

Product management is all about solving problems. Whether you are considering how best to bring a product to market, outflank the competition, or fulfill an unmet need in your users’ lives, problem solving is a key component to success as a product manager.

Leadership

Product managers must develop a strategic vision for the future of their product or brand — all while reassuring their teams of this direction through clear communication and proper delegation. Leadership skills are essential in creating cohesion and helping your team achieve its goals.

Organization

From communication to marketing, organization is a key part of the product management role — you should be familiar with all aspects of your product, brand, and overall vision. There are several software tools that help product managers excel at high-level organization.

An image highlighting the four qualifications of a product manager.

Product Manager Education

Product management is a relatively new role within various industries. As a result, existing and aspiring product managers may have a degree geared toward their intended industry or related work experience, and then move into the product management field. However, an intensive course and a reputable credential can give candidates a leg up, especially for roles that require product management skills reflective of your training and experience.

A product management bootcamp focuses on a concentrated curriculum that helps learners hone skills and qualify for a variety of management-driven careers. Successful learners who complete Columbia Engineering Product Management Boot Camp receive an Award of Completion to showcase their skills to employers and bolster their experience with a university-backed credential.

Product Management Roles by Industry

The type of product manager you become ultimately depends on the industry you’re interested in. Some industries’ products are traditional products that customers buy at a brick-and-mortar location (e.g. groceries, housewares, appliances). In contrast, product managers in tech companies may focus on the latest software-as-a-service (SaaS) products (e.g. Dropbox, Salesforce).

By understanding the different types of product management opportunities, you’ll be able to better identify the options that appeal to you for a future career. Below, we break down the various product management responsibilities from industry to industry.

You can gain experience building products like industry professionals at Columbia Engineering Product Management Boot Camp. Enroll today!

What Is Product Management in Tech?

Product managers in the tech industry play a leading role in setting the vision and strategy for their products, driving a diverse team of experts to bring the products to market. They develop a product roadmap that includes the requirements and features of the final product and indicators of market success, and work directly with engineers and software developers to build the final product that meets those specifications.

In tech, product managers are often subject matter experts with experience in development and coding, even if they don’t do much of it in their day-to-day work. Coding knowledge provides product managers with a thorough understanding of the possibilities, timelines, and work process involved. However, non-coders can also bring a different kind of subject matter expertise to the table, especially when they are marketing hardware products to users within the tech industry.

Even more important, however, is a user-focused approach to a product. Rather than viewing the product from a purely technical angle, product managers also focus on users’ needs and ease of use. They integrate business needs, technical interests, and user experience expertise into a final vision for a balanced product. Product managers within tech receive constant feedback for software improvement and are an important part of an agile, devops, or other fast-moving development processes, helping to ensure that user feedback is integrated into ongoing development and future versions.

What Is Product Management in Marketing?

Traditional industries have often looked at product management primarily as a marketing function, and marketing remains an important focus for many product managers. Product marketing managers are responsible for developing strategies that effectively communicate a product’s internally developed goals.

Product management in marketing usually entails creating a strategic vision for both new and existing products, as well as an understanding of the product life cycle. Long-time favorite products can be refreshed and new products launched through skilled product marketing management that brings together marketing, sales, and engineering or production to understand how to tell the product’s story and differentiate it from competitors. A product marketing manager directs the storytelling and vision for selling the company’s product, and presenting an overall plan for sales, advertising, and placement.

What Is Product Management in Software?

Software product management focuses on building, implementing, and developing digital products, software, and online services. It focuses on how the software’s development can meet business needs while simultaneously balancing them with users’ needs. Through constant awareness of the market’s changing needs and responses, staying ahead of competitors, and measuring customer feedback, software product managers help to ensure a software product is constantly improving.

Software product managers work on a particular product or initiative from inception to any eventual phase-out, collaborating with teams across engineering and development, sales, marketing, and finance to create a successful product. Product managers in software are often part of agile development teams, devops teams, and scrums, bringing a user perspective and a strategic vision to the next development steps.

What Is Product Management in Data?

A data product manager provides the oversight and strategic approach to an organization’s data use. While similar to that of a general product manager, data product managers treat data as a product, looking at how data (e.g. customer data ,personally identifiable information) is used or unused within the company and create a strategic plan for how best to use, protect, and expand on that data.

As data experts, they often have backgrounds in both data science and product management, and bring together teams of engineers, executives, and data analysts with a customer perspective to create an overall approach to data management. Without a data product manager, a company may have confusing approaches to data processing with decisions made by different teams. The product manager develops a vision that fits with the company’s overall approach and determines the metrics to measure the success of a company’s approach, including assessing responses in the market and improving a company’s data literacy.

What Is Product Management in AI?

An AI product manager focuses on using artificial intelligence (AI) technologies like machine learning (ML) and deep learning to improve products, enhance user focus, and shape the product development. AI product managers often have a background in statistics or data science that they bring in to enhance their product management skills and fully understand the possibilities of artificial intelligence technology.

In many cases, an AI product manager may work on products like those created by Google, machine learning initiatives for translation and photo processing, recommendations for online shopping, automated driving vehicles, security technologies, and other advanced AI applications.

AI product managers look at how AI can help innovate a business model and advance machine learning applications. By determining how to effectively use key data to design an innovative, customer-friendly product that meets user needs, an AI product manager can help their company to carve out a new space in a growing field.

What Is Product Management in Healthcare?

Healthcare and product management may sound worlds apart, but quality healthcare depends on a range of products and services including technologies, devices, medications, insurance policies, and even the types of care provided by a particular hospital or medical center. Many people with a background in healthcare, such as nurses, doctors, or administrators, may find a new strategic approach to their industry as a healthcare product manager.

A product manager in the healthcare industry is responsible for determining patients’ needs and wants through focus groups, surveys, and other forms of market research. They then use this knowledge to shape the products offered by the company to ensure that they meet the needs of patients and other users. They may propose new approaches that are better at serving users and coordinate the efforts of large teams, including scientists, medical professionals, and executives. Product management in healthcare also requires a sensitive approach to data and legal requirements, as it is a heavily regulated industry with key rules to protect patient privacy.

What Is Product Management in Machine Learning?

Machine learning is a key part of artificial intelligence technology that is reshaping software development. A machine learning product manager works with data scientists and engineers to develop a vision for how machine learning can be integrated into a company’s products and future strategy. Many tech companies are looking toward the coming horizons for machine learning, and a product manager can have an overall vision for how that integration can help to meet users’ needs. A background in data science, coding, and artificial intelligence can help create success in this position and help you ask the needed questions to reach the strategic answers to benefit your company and consumers.

Since machine learning is still evolving, product managers in this field should be ready to switch gears and explore new options when making plans for new AI initiatives.

What Is Agile Product Management?

Agile gained popularity in software development, and agile product management makes use of agile approaches that are now widely used across a variety of industries. Agile focuses on constant improvement and maximum productivity by using multiple iterations of development for ongoing change and offers opportunities for product managers. Agile methodology prioritizes individuals over processes, software over documentation, customer collaboration over contracts, and responding to change over implementing a plan.

Product managers may no longer focus on lengthy requirements lists. However, an agile product manager can make great use of the focus on individual user needs, the development of stories, and the integration of feedback into the iterative development process. Rather than building a final product and then taking it to market, the agile product manager focuses on a strategic vision that includes ongoing development and improvement. This is especially well-suited to subscriptions and other cloud-based technologies.

What Is Product Management in UX?

User experience (UX) designers and product managers may cover similar territory, however while both bring a user voice to the development conversation, their differing objectives and skills create a balance between the two roles. UX specialists advocate for the user, focus on user research and testing, and emphasize user-focused design to build the best environment for users. Like product management, UX is a major growth field in the tech industry. For those interested in a UX career, a UX/UI bootcamp can provide actionable education for the workplace.

On the other hand, product managers work with the UX designers to understand customer needs and meet them through the overall product roadmap and plan. They also align and collaborate with other team members like executives, accountants, and engineers to develop a complete strategic vision for product development, implementation, launch, and marketing.

What Is a Product Manager? Learn More Today

Product management is a great career with diverse responsibilities and opportunities for dedicated people of different educational backgrounds. With a great deal of growth potential across various fields, product management can be a path to a leadership role with strong opportunities for upward growth and major responsibilities. Columbia Engineering Product Management Boot Camp offers skills and training to guide you to future success in the product management field.

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