Take a second to visualize one of your all-time favorite products.

Maybe it’s a kitchen appliance, a pair of designer shoes, an adjustable standing desk or a car so fast it’ll make you blush. Every time you use this favorite product of yours, it makes your life a little bit better; you use it so often you can’t imagine not having it.

That product you’re thinking of is the result of one thing: product management.

Someone out there thought of a product that would solve a specific need or pain point — a challenge you faced before you owned the product. A team of people came together, brainstormed designs for the product, created prototypes and released that product to the public.

That product changed the world when it was released, but it wasn’t perfect. Someone on the product team monitored the product after it was released. How did customers use the product? What did customers enjoy/not enjoy about the product? Product teams performed tests and made modifications to that product, to make it even better and preserve its value over time.

Product management is a broad field with a wide-range of responsibilities and specializations; at its core, it enables companies to ideate, prototype, launch and continuously improve their products for consumers. 

What is product management?

Product management — sometimes referred to as product lifecycle management — is the process of overseeing a product’s entire lifecycle.

It combines customer-focused service, business intelligence and technological expertise to ensure the best possible product is built, a product that helps make customers’ lives easier.

This form of management strategically directs every stage of the product’s development, from the initial phases of research, drafting and pricing to the final stages of development, testing and the official product launch.

In today’s digital-first era — where products are constantly uprooted in the blink of an eye by newer, better products — it’s more important than ever to understand the importance of product management, and to integrate product management strategies across your organization.

What are the stages of the product lifecycle?

There are four stages to a product’s lifecycle: introduction, growth, maturity and decline.

Stage #1: Introduction

Introduction is the first stage of the product management lifecycle. After a company identifies a need that customers face, and have created a product, it’s time to introduce that product to the marketplace.

Stage #2: Growth

Growth is the second stage, when a product has gained traction in the market and sees an increase in demand from customers. During this stage, product management teams are hard at work to make that product more accessible, even to customers who might have a harder time getting their hands on it.

Stage #3: Maturity

Maturity is the third stage. During the maturity stage, a product has officially become profitable. During this portion of the product lifecycle, product teams work to increase the longevity of the product in the marketplace. As other companies create rival products, your organization should honestly identify how your solution compares to others — and add additional features that help your product stand out amid the noise.

Stage #4: Decline

Decline, the last stage of the product lifecycle, is when a product recedes. Whether due to a lack of demand, heightened competition or changes in market demand, the product no longer provides the same value to customers. The decline stage is a clear indication that your product no longer represents the solution of choice for your core customer demographics.

Having a clear understanding of each of these stages enables a product manager and their team to make data-driven decisions, to ensure the product performs well over time.

Why is product management important?

Product management is the glue that holds the product vision together across your entire organization. As each department contributes to the viability of a product, product management helps teams maintain collaboration, segment responsibilities and share in the success that a particular product or service might offer your customers.

Think of how many software updates your phone receives on a yearly basis. Each update is the result of ongoing product management. Monitoring and analyzing phone performance, and upgrading when necessary — that’s product management in action.

Without proper product management, products become obsolete. In worse cases, products are launched without ever offering value to customers.

What are the benefits of product management?

Deployed correctly, product management can mean the difference between a successful and a failing organization.

The most important benefits of proper product management include:

  • Strengthened, team-first collaboration with other departments
  • Clearly defined goals and expectations
  • Improved customer experience and product usability
  • Optimized, accelerated product development
  • Reduced risk of product collapse

Proper product management is absolutely vital for creating a successful product. When companies work together to identify customer needs, and pair those needs with helpful solutions, it’s a major step toward creating a future-proof business.

At the center of a well-oiled product management process is a product manager — a critical professional who contributes to product success at virtually every stage.

What is a product manager?

Since product management is such a broad field, the exact duties of a product manager will vary slightly per company. For example, a smaller company might have a single product manager who does a little bit of everything. By contrast, a larger company may have different tiers of product managers, each with a specific role and specialized duties.

There are, however, several key product manager responsibilities that are standard across the board.

Some of these functions include:

  • Staying connected to consumer needs
  • Monitoring the market and conducting competitive analysis
  • Creating a roadmap for product execution
  • Keeping in touch with stakeholders and other investors
  • Supporting and empowering the product development team

These responsibilities and others keep product managers busy on a daily basis, as they help usher customer-first products toward release and optimization.

What are the top product management careers?

Product management is a wide, still-developing field. Below, we’ve broken down several of the most sought-after product management careers — and some of the features that make each career choice unique.

Associate Product Managers (APM)  fill a standard, entry-level product management role, one that’s ideal for college graduates looking to begin careers in product-related fields. An APM typically reports back to product or group product managers in reference to communications and progress with product lines.

Product Managers fulfill the most common job in the product management field; this means that their job descriptions, responsibilities and salaries can vary quite a bit. On average, a product manager is responsible for overseeing the entire product lifecycle, from the initial ideation phase through product execution and its public launch.

A Technical Product Manager is a product manager with a streak of technical genius. They understand development software, as well as how to communicate and work with the engineering team to create the product in the present and continue to update it or correct glitches in the future.

Product Marketing Managers are a harmonious blend of traditional marketing and product management professionals. They are in charge of discovering and implementing strategies that will not only grab and hold the attention of customers, but successfully represent the product’s value to them.

The Director of Product Management is a senior position that requires substantial experience in product management and strong leadership skills. A product management director will oversee the product roadmap, collaborate with the directors of other teams (including sales, engineering and marketing), and stay connected to the product team especially to ensure everyone remains committed to the shared product vision.

The Vice President of Product (VP of Product) is a position reserved for exceptional professionals with extensive experience in the field, often a minimum of 12 years. The VP of Product is responsible for reinforcing marketing strategies with the team, managing the budget and keeping different teams aligned. As a Product VP, you’ll help make decisions that influence the organization as a whole.

If you’re aiming for the highest position in the product management world, you’re aiming for the Chief Product Officer (CPO) role. It’s not enough to have a decade of experience to become a CPO — you’ll also need to have a track record of success that spans across those years. 

CPOs must possess strong leadership and managerial skills, having mastered every level of product management and its technical aspects.

How do I establish myself in product management?

When it comes to beginning a product management career — and implementing product management best practices across your company — education is your first step.

Foster the proper product management skills

While you don’t necessarily need a relevant degree, it might be very worthwhile to improve your product management skill set through online education.

To be4gin a career in product management, you’ll, be expected to possess the following skills:

  • Industry and product knowledge
  • Understanding of customers, competitor, and market trends
  • Strategic and critical thinking
  • Strong communication and decision-making
  • Close attention to detail

Product managers are connected to multiple departments within a business, and will be expected to possess a variety of cross-functional skills to communicate and collaborate with other teams.

Build positive work-relationships

Part of your job as a product manager is to lead a multidisciplinary team of people who all possess different skills and strengths. In addition to working and leading these individuals, you’ll also be expected to collaborate and communicate with other teams that are part of the product development process.

To maintain smooth and efficient operations, keep employees in good spirits. To foster a healthy, positive work environment, make sure teams are on the same page and working toward shared product goals.

Stay open to change

Effective product management keeps teams laser-focused on positive product outcomes. With the right approach, you’ll soon identify the parts of the product management process that are going smoothly — and the stages which might need some attention.

In a world where products can be quickly overshadowed, flexibility is more important than ever. It’s important to be able to change with the needs and demands of your customer base. Committing to engaging in nothing less than excellent product management, and don’t be afraid of change when it arrives. The right change — even if you’re changing products or team leaders — can empower not only your team but the entire organization with a new sense of focus, clarity and vision.

Enroll in a product management training program

One of the fastest, most effective ways to master the art of product management is to simply enroll in a training program.

The right product management training can remove the pressure on sales leaders to create, schedule and host ongoing product management education. More importantly, training helps teach aspiring product management leaders the skills they need to thrive in any product-based environment.

These programs are a viable way for young and established professionals to fine-tune their understanding of product management and learn to integrate product management practices into organizational workflows.

That’s exactly what the Pace Product Management Bootcamp was created to do.

Pace exists to help exceptional professionals in a variety of fields find long-term success in their careers through dynamic curriculums, hands-on labs, and mentor-led sessions.

Our Product Management Bootcamp is one of the premier ways we empower and equip learners to elevate and expand product-based careers. This bootcamp provides accelerated product management education to help professionals in all stages of their career implement the latest and greatest strategies and practices at their own organizations.

To learn exactly how our Product Management Bootcamp can strengthen your understanding of product management, fine-tune your skills and streamline every phase of your organization’s product lifecycle, contact our Admissions team today.