80 to 95 percent of new products fail to sustain in the market. They either fall short of customer expectations or the market is not ready for them. On the flip side, there may be a situation where the product is selling fast but the company is not ready to support the growth. All these examples highlight the flaws in product life cycle management. Not having a plan for the product you are about to launch can prove costly for a business, both in terms of money and reputation.
In this blog, we will discuss the product management process in detail and also give you a peek into a product manager’s role. So, read on to answer your pressing questions about this emerging field of work and its key requirements.
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What Is Product Management?
Product management is an established procedure of bringing a new product to the market. It primarily involves tasks like ideating, planning, launching, and growing a product. But it does not end there. When the product has run its course, the activities are directed towards retiring the product without disruptions.
Following this systematic approach brings customer-centricity to the offerings and enables better managerial decision-making at different stages of the process. This way, the organisation reduces the risk of product failure and subsequent losses. Studies have shown that implementing product life cycle management can result in a 34.2 percent jump in profits.
Let us now look at the steps contained in the end-to-end product management process.
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Stages Of The Product Lifecycle And The Process
Product management lifecycle comprises 8 key stages that apprise you of what you need to do and when. Let us dive deeper to understand how they play out in real-world scenarios.
This stage deals with capturing and managing product ideas in a way that the organisation does not stray from its strategic objectives. Ideas can come from external sources like customer data, competitor activities, supplier interactions, public portals, etc. Or you can collect them from internal channels, such as trend analysis, brainstorming sessions, product reviews and feedback.
After gathering relevant ideas, it is best to manage them over time using the following method:
- Maintain a backlog to capture ideas.
- Merge duplicate ideas on a regular basis.
- Assess new ideas against current goals.
- Promote feasible ideas to the product roadmap.
- Communicate the status to the ideator.
Idea backlogs can help companies improve their products by providing justifications for do’s and don’ts and establishing transparent practices.
At this stage, product managers determine which ideas should feature in the final product roadmap. And to arrive at a decision, they have to address the following questions:
- Does the product solve a problem?
- What is the current and potential size of the market?
- How much is the return on investment?
- Can the solution be built with the resources at hand (people, money, and time)?
The solution may not get validated if the proposed idea is retrofitting a problem instead of solving it, or if the operational costs of keeping the product in the market are too high. Product teams typically engage in various activities to choose the right course of action, including:
- Creating a hypothesis;
- Mapping out assumptions;
- Conducting research on competitors;
- Utilising qualitative and quantitative data to proceed.
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The planning stage encompasses strategy formulation for what needs to be built. The product strategy document should ideally throw light on information, such as:
- The problem and target audience;
- Market competition in the area;
- Vision for the product;
- High-level concepts (how the product addresses specific goals);
- Forecast of users and revenue (or the financial model);
- Delivery milestones.
It is recommended to start with a simple business model and iterate on it as you gain more customers and insights.
4. Design & Development
With this stage, you enter into the delivery phase of product life cycle management. A product manager has to coordinate with numerous teams to decide which features would go into the product. Once the stakeholders sign off on the technical specifications and experience designs, the product delivery tasks are sequenced depending on priority. (In tech-based products, the agile methodology may be adopted.) Finally, release notes and documentation are put in place to meet tracking needs throughout the lifecycle.
A go-to-market strategy serves as a guide map for product managers in many ways. They can identify what kind of support they would need from marketing and other departments before the actual launch. They can also work with the organisation’s leaders or project managers to set different launch phases. While some bugs and issues can be addressed during the launch, others can be reserved for later to bring down company risks.
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6. Finding Market Fit
You would have achieved a ‘product-market fit’ when customers are getting value from your product and the usage is growing. Conversely, there can be a situation where your market offering is receiving poor reviews and usage is sub-par. Product managers work to ensure that the product continues to meet market needs and satisfy customers. In case of new products, iterations keep happening until this market fit is accomplished.
7. Maintaining Saturation
As the product matures, the growth slows down and developing new features takes more time. Therefore, product managers have to closely monitor customer retention metrics. To maintain market dominance, they can choose to:
- Focus on specific initiatives that balance acquisition, engagement, and retention.
- Learn from competitors about harnessing the advantages of scale and reliability.
- Undertake product improvements that reduce costs and boost efficiency.
8. Keep, Kill, Reboot
Product managers also need to plan for the final stages of a product’s life. Being prepared means knowing when to keep, kill, or reboot the product.
- Keep: If the product is stable and does not require additional investments, pump up marketing and distribution.
- Kill: If the product is not succeeding in the market, try transitioning users to an alternative, or terminate the product altogether.
- Reboot: If the market needs have evolved and the product is still solving the same problem, rediscover how new technologies and user experiences can amplify the offering.
With this, we have given you an overview of the product management process. Now, let’s explore what the day-to-day work of a product manager entails.
The Role Of Product Manager
Product managers are at the helm of nurturing the germ of an idea with suitable features, launching a product, and delivering value to customers. For this reason, modern-day organisations view them as leaders and key differentiators.
As a product manager, you would engage in several inbound and outbound activities, taking action towards:
- Vision development;
- Market research;
- Customer understanding;
- Strategy development;
- Execution and testing;
- Marketing and sales;
- Tracking product metrics.
These tasks would further allow you to effectively navigate the product management lifecycle, which may be faster or slower depending on the product and industry. Familiarity with the best practices and recommended courses of action can help product managers deliver value at every stage of the life cycle.
In small organisations and early-stage companies, they may be responsible for a broad range of tasks, including pricing, marketing, and sales. Larger organisations usually offer distinct positions with a narrower functional scope. As the business grows and multiple products are added, rules like “Chief Product Officer” start to emerge.
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Product managers work at the intersection of User Experience (UX), Technology, and Business. This requires functional expertise, design thinking capabilities, and some knowledge of core management concepts. The Post Graduate Certificate in Product Management by Duke Corporate Education can help you develop these in-demand skills.
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Q1. What is meant by software product management?
Software product management essentially includes each and every aspect of a particular software application in its entire lifecycle from conception to release in production. Software product managers are responsible for bridging the gap between the organization’s strategy and the client’s requirements through the software product. They have to evaluate market opportunities to design and define the product accordingly. They also need to ensure that through this function, the company is also able to attain its strategic goals while resolving the client's problems and fulfilling their needs. So software product management involves managing user experience, product engineering, financial and legal aspects, client support, and product marketing and sales.
Q2. Is product manager a sales role?
The roles of a product manager and sales manager are pretty much different in any organization, even though both of them need to have knowledge about the market and clients. However, the product manager is more likely to work closely with the sales team. The product manager is in charge of the long-term health and realization of the product. And in order to do so, they need to work in close ties and complete transparency with all other cross-functional teams. So actually, the role of the product manager comes with a pretty broad scope that involves many areas and groups of business, including sales, marketing, and development.
Q3. What are the responsibilities of a technical product manager?
A product manager is chiefly responsible for creating product strategies and product roadmaps. They are also in charge of visualizing features for creating a product that exactly fulfills all requirements of the customer. A technical product manager is a product manager who possesses strong technology or technical expertise; they typically hail from a strictly technical work background. They are in charge of supervising the overall technical aspects that go into product development. A technical product manager functions closely with the engineering and product development teams, more than marketing, business or sales departments.