Let’s start with a definition of a Product.

A product is any good or service a company offers or sells to serve customer needs and wants. Products can be physical or virtual and users of the product can be internal company users or external users.

Now, let’s define the Product Management function. Here is the definition from Wikipedia:

Product management involves planning, developing, launching, and managing a product or service. It includes the entire lifecycle of a product, from ideation to development to going to market. Product managers are responsible for ensuring that a product meets the needs of its target market and contributes to the business strategy while managing a product or products at all stages of the product lifecycle. Software product management adapts the fundamentals of product management for digital products.

In a nutshell, Product Management is a business function responsible for delivering products that make customers happy and drive business growth. It’s a role at the very heart of an organization that must balance the need to deliver value to the company (usually profit) with what customers want and what’s technically and operationally possible.

Product Management is not something that’s clearly defined, and its process varies from company to company. It’s because Product Management is not a precise science - it’s a combination of Art and Science, with Art being a bigger portion of the mixture. Product Management responsibilities span from setting strategic objectives to tactical activities, including:

  • Setting a product vision and strategy that is differentiated and delivers unique value based on customer needs and wants.
  • Defining and prioritizing what the product team will deliver and the timeline for implementation, including creating a product roadmap and release plan, capturing actionable feedback and ideas, and prioritizing features.
  • Providing cross-functional leadership between engineering, design, sales, marketing, and support.
  • Communicating progress and keeping everyone informed.
  • Analyzing product success and tracking product metrics to determine the success of your offering.

Now that we discussed the Product Management process and activities let’s talk about the Product Manager - a mythical creature that has to manage all these activities.

Who is the Product Manager?

First thing first - Product managers are NOT people managers 1. Starting from Lead PMs and/or Group PMs, they would start managing other PMs, but in a nutshell, Product Managers manage Products, not People. They don’t have direct reports, and they don’t have authority over other product team members 2. They are also not “CEOs” of the product, but they are fully responsible for the success or failure of the product they are managing 3, and paraphrasing Andy Grove, a product manager’s output is the output of their team.

“Good product managers take full responsibility and measure themselves in terms of the success of the product.”

A Product Manager is a bridge, a connecting tissue between business, design and technology. They crisply define the target, the “what” and “why” and work with their product team to determine the “how.” PMs are also the voice of the customer, truly understanding the customer’s wants, needs, and pains. They use this knowledge to drive product decisions, maximizing the value to their customers and their company.

I love this visual from the Userlane Blog emphasizing the importance of PM being the customer’s advocate:

The Role of the Product Manager

A Product Manager together with the product team (UX Lead, Dev lead and devs) has to address the following 4 product risks:4

  1. value risk - whether customers will buy a product or users will choose to use it
  2. usability risk - whether users can figure out how to use it
  3. feasibility risk - whether our engineers can build what we need with the time, skills and technology we have
  4. business viability risk - whether this solution also works for the various aspects of the company’s business

Great PMs are top-class communicators with high emotional intelligence, influencing people without authority and managing the most challenging stakeholders.
Great PMs are experts in their domain, market and their product. They understand where the industry is headed and where they should invest their time to maximize the value of their product. When new to a domain, great PMs bootstrap this process by seeking the counsel of existing worldwide experts.
Strong PMs don’t just ship features, they deliver valuable outcomes for their users, teams and company. They are ruthlessly prioritizing to maximize the value their product delivers to their users and their company. As Steve Jobs famously said:

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.”

Good PMs make metrics-driven product decisions and expertly blend quantitative and qualitative data insights as warranted by each individual situation.

Product Manager Specializations

There are several PM specializations depending on the product or area PM is responsible for. Here are the most common ones:

Technical Product Manager

A TPM is like a regular PM, but the product they own is deeply technical, like Platform or API. As a result, they need a strong technical background. They most probably transitioned to product management from engineering.

The Analytics/Data Science/AI Product Manager

It’s a pretty self-explanatory title. These are more specialized TPMs, more adept at data management, analysis and AI. They are not only skillful at Python, Data Analytics, or SQL, but they also acknowledge the importance of their suggestions to affect business decisions. It is a great start for a data science engineer who wants to transition into Product Management.

Growth PM

The Growth-Focused Product Manager has a more direct commercial impact than other roles. A Growth PM works closely with other Product Managers to build growth flywheels to drive acquisition, activation, retention, revenue, and referrals. By owning a metric rather than an entire product, Growth PMs run a series of short-term experiments, working on a micro rather than a macro level.

Enterprise PM

Enterprise PMs typically manage a part of the big enterprise product. They need excellent communication and pitching skills to synchronize their efforts with other product managers and ensure they don’t step on each other’s toes and don’t create features that cannibalize each other. The pace of the enterprise product is slower than in the startup, but the scale of the product and the impact can be super rewarding.

Startup PM or Venture PM

Product managers in small startups are like the Ultimate Swiss Army knife – they do everything. They are exposed to multiple disciplines and the overall business running.


To summarize, Great PMs are experts in their domain, they are top-class communicators and master storytellers, they are simultaneously empathetic and analytical, qualitative and quantitative, have excellent attention to detail and think big, and are both creative innovators and rigorous optimizers. And most of all, they do whatever it takes to deliver valuable outcomes for their users, team, and company - whatever it takes to deliver business impact.

  1. The focus here is on Product Managers and not Managers of Product Managers, ie Group Product Manager, Dir of Product, etc 

  2. A product team is a core team that is working on a specific product. It usually consists of at least 3 individuals (Trifecta team) - Product Manager, UX/UI Designer and Engineering lead with engineering team (dev and QA). Depending on a product and its complexity it can include Data Analyst, AI/ML engineering, etc. This is a team that can work and deliver value to the customers at the end of the sprint. 

  3. I disagree with this definition - “A good product manager is the CEO of the product.” CEO means that the Product Manager has some authority over the product or the team. Nevertheless “Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager” by Ben Horowitz is a must-read. 

  4. Marty Cagan The Four Big Risks