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FAQs: Product Management

By Academy Xi

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We’ve compiled this list of questions most frequently asked about Product Management to help you understand what it’s like to start a new and dynamic career as a Product Manager.

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Product Management and why it’s important

What is Product Management?

When customers buy and use a product, it’s normally because it squarely addresses their needs. Product Management is an organisational function that prioritises the needs of the customer and uses them to guide the development of a new or improved product through every stage of its life cycle.

Product Managers are responsible for overseeing an end-to-end product strategy, from conducting customer research and identifying unmet needs, to finding viable solutions and rallying the teams that turn a product vision into a reality.

Typically, Product Managers are creative thinkers, excellent problem solvers and inspirational leaders. It’s no surprise that the current CEOs of Microsoft, Google and Yahoo all began their careers as Product Managers.

How do businesses use Product Management?

In today’s saturated markets, offering a product that satisfies the demands of customers is one of the surest ways for a business to set itself apart from the competition. 

When it comes to developing innovative new products and features that customers will love, Product Managers are always on the lookout for the next big thing. Maintaining a product-led approach means businesses are able to stay one step ahead of their rivals and increase profit by as much as 34%.

Modern businesses rely on Product Managers to make sure the customer’s voice is heard throughout an organisation. Working cross-functionally, Product Managers will align different teams around a product vision that’s shaped by the demands of the market, leading to products that solve customer problems, increased sales and a more profitable company.  

What does a Product Manager actually do?

Product Management is a multifaceted role, which normally comes with a wide range of responsibilities. Although no two roles will ever be the same, some of the day-to-day tasks that go into being a Product Manager include:

  • Performing market research
  • Collecting and analysing customer feedback
  • Prioritising product features
  • Defining a product roadmap
  • Coordinating different teams
  • Assigning and managing tasks
  • Managing stakeholders, both internal and external
  • Determining metrics for success
  • Collecting and analysing product data post-launch

Product Management essentials

What’s the difference between a Product Manager and a Product Owner?

There’s often confusion about what distinguishes a Product Manager from a Product Owner. Though these two roles do occasionally overlap, in organisations where both are working simultaneously their responsibilities will be kept separate and distinct.

While a Product Manager will be tasked with setting a product strategy, using market research, vision-setting, alignment and prioritisation, a Product Owner will collaborate more closely with the development team, working toward the goals set by the Product Manager.

Here are the two roles, broken down into day-to-day activities:

Product ManagerProduct Owner
Collaborates with outside stakeholdersCollaborates with internal stakeholders
Defines a product visionHelps teams execute a product vision
Determines what success looks likeBuilds a plan for achieving success
Owns vision, marketing and ROIOwns task assignment and management of team backlog
Strategizes at a conceptual levelInvolved in day-to-day activities

 

What is a product roadmap?

A product roadmap is a document that communicates the strategic direction of a new product or a product improvement. Forming a crucial part of the product strategy or product plan, it’s used to align stakeholders, teams, and sometimes even customers on what kind of a product will be delivered.

A product roadmap should be centred around the big picture and the problems a product will solve. Product Managers will often create internal and external roadmaps. 

  • Internal roadmaps are created for internal teams and will focus on specific outcomes, such as alignment with company goals, product details, or customer benefits.
  • External roadmaps are created for customers, and as such should highlight the benefits a new or improved product offers to customers. 

What is a go-to-market strategy?

If a business releases a new product without proper planning, it’s difficult to avoid appealing to the wrong audience, entering the market too early or too late, or targeting a market that’s saturated with similar products. 

In order to avoid wasting time and resources by launching a poorly positioned product, it’s crucial to develop a go-to-market strategy. A go-to-market strategy is a step-by-step guide used to support the launch of a product. This will involve considering:

  • Product-market fit: What problem will a product solve?
  • Target audience: Who’s experiencing that problem and how much are they prepared to pay for a solution? What are the pain points and frustrations that your product can remedy?
  • Competition and demand: Who already offers a similar product? Is there demand, or is the market oversaturated?
  • Distribution: Through what mediums will the product be sold? Will it involve a website, an app, or a third-party distributor?
  • Marketing: What marketing channels will be used to promote the product? What will the marketing messaging be?

Although each product will be unique, a good go-to-market strategy will always be structured around the customer’s problem and position a new product as a much-needed solution.

How is agile used in Product Management?

Agile is an iterative approach to product development that enables product teams to deliver projects faster and with fewer headaches. Instead of putting all their efforts into a “big bang” launch, an agile team will deliver a product in smaller, more manageable portions of work that are usually referred to as ‘sprints’. 

An agile sprint is a short predetermined period of time when a team performs a set amount of work. Agile sprints ensure product teams are able to complete tasks systematically, helping them sustain even the most complex projects.

A product is evaluated continuously when using the agile methodology, giving teams greater flexibility and a natural mechanism for responding to change. This means a product can be adjusted and improved as new discoveries are made throughout the development phases. 

Product Management Skills & Software

What skills does a Product Manager need?

A successful Product Manager will draw on a variety of hard and soft skills when completing their day-to-day work. The most in-demand skills that any aspiring Product Manager should aim to develop include:

  • Commercial acumen 

Product Managers need to understand the target market, customer demographics, market demand and value proposition. Commercial acumen helps Product Managers create popular products that meet specific customer needs.

  • Analytical skills

Product Managers rely on market research and SWOT analysis to make product decisions. Analytical skills help Product Managers build sound, well-informed product strategies that are based on data insights.

  • Project management

Developing products often involves coordinating input from multiple teams. A Product Manager relies on project management skills to facilitate collaboration and ensure team members complete tasks within set timelines and budgets.

  • Problem-solving

A Product Manager always aims to create products that solve specific problems for specific customers. A Product Manager with a problem-solving mindset can brainstorm product ideas and uncover the best possible solutions.

  • Communication

Product managers work cross-functionally, collaborating with anybody from engineers and data scientists, to designers and marketers. Strong communication skills enable Product Managers to secure stakeholder buy-in, nurture meaningful work relationships and keep teammates updated on an evolving strategy.

  • Leadership

Product Managers leading a product development project are expected to break ideas down into actionable items, prioritise tasks and allocate responsibilities to teammates. Product Managers use their leadership skills to motivate colleagues, offer guidance and give constructive feedback, ultimately keeping a project on track.

  • Strategic thinking 

From the identification of lucrative market opportunities, to the development of the product portfolio and its go-to-market execution, Product Managers are often required to think strategically. Product Managers also rely on their strategic skills to ensure that all teams, infrastructure and resources are aligned with a product vision.

  • Financial acumen 

Companies create products with the ultimate aim of generating more revenue. A sound grasp of financial acumen enables a Product Manager to forecast the cost of creating a product, budget for each phase of development and make cost effective decisions at every stage.

  • Decision-making 

Inevitably, a range of choices have to be made when leading a product development project. Product Managers have to be able to weigh-up options, anticipate probable outcomes and make smart decisions that positively impact a finished product.

What software do Product Managers use?

There are a wide range of platforms that offer Product Managers the tools needed to quickly and efficiently develop products. While these platforms are primarily used by Product Managers and product teams, other departments can also use them to keep track of a product’s progress.

Some of the most powerful platforms that today’s Product Managers rely on include:

  • Jira

Jira is part of a family of products designed to make managing team projects easier. Product Managers use Jira to create roadmaps, product backlogs and sprint boards, which can be accessed and worked on by an entire team. Jira also helps Product Managers:

    • Assign and manage tasks
    • Estimate workflow 
    • Create project reports
    • Perform project analytics
    • Assign user permissions

Offering a range of functions for collaborative working, Jira allows Product Managers to plan, track and coordinate an entire team’s work using just one tool.

  • Miro

Product Managers also use Miro, a virtual whiteboard platform that helps a team to work creatively and visualise the progress of a project. 

At an ideation phase, Miro is useful for brainstorming, sharing possible design ideas and making decisions as a team. As a project progresses, a visual management system like Miro has a number of advantages over to-do lists and other written project management documents:

    • It simplifies even the most complex projects. 
    • It helps people understand at a glance what tasks need to be done and when.
    • It creates open, real-time lines of communication.
    • It gives the whole team visibility of what each team member is working on and the project timeline. 
    • It enables Product Managers to identify where work has slowed or stopped and take the necessary steps to fix it.

Jira and Miro combined help Product Managers ensure that the work carried out by digital teams is synchronous and collaborative. Behind every great product is a great product team, and behind every great product team are the platforms that facilitate teamwork.

  • monday.com

monday.com is an online product management platform that helps teams of all sizes plan, track and schedule their daily tasks. From large-scale product roadmaps to daily iterations, monday.com enables teams to define clear ownership of tasks, track productivity, manage sprints and effectively collaborate. 

monday.com is popular among Product Managers because it offers complete clarity over a project’s status. A static checkbox marking a task as “complete” or “incomplete” doesn’t provide enough information for team members to know where things really stand. Team members can provide detailed status reports in monday.com, indicating exactly what stage a task has reached, or even documenting any blockers that have stemmed the workflow. 

  • Productboard             

Used by the likes of Microsoft and Apple, Productboard is a product management system that helps teams understand what target users need, prioritise which features to build (and when), and unify teammates around a product roadmap.

Productboard has the tools to aggregate customer research, with the customer feedback portal allowing teams to gather customer insights from multiple inboxes. It can even be used to produce detailed automated reports that can be used to determine product features. For Product Managers who are keen to work with an ongoing feedback loop, Productboard is the perfect platform.

Careers in Product Management

There are a wide variety of reasons to choose a career in Product Management. Most obviously, it’s a profession that’s in high demand. These days, businesses in every industry understand that great companies are built on great products.

Before you embark on becoming a professional Product Manager, it’s useful to have a clear picture of what the average career path might look like. 

What does a career path in Product Management look like?

Here’s an example of a typical Product Management career pathway, broken down into roles of increasing responsibility and seniority: 

Associate Product Manager

The entry-level position that will kickstart many careers is an Associate Product Manager. Larger organisations with big product teams will often hire Associate Product Managers, who are often freshly qualified in the field. 

Some of an Associate Product Manager’s responsibilities include: 

  • Assisting product managers with their duties
  • Conducting market research
  • Gathering product requirements

Junior Product Manager

The next step in your career might entail landing a role as a Junior Product Manager (although in some cases, this role will be interchangeable with an Associate Product Manager). To distinguish between the two, a Junior Product Manager is more hands-on, works more closely with the product team and has greater ownership of the product.

Some of a Junior Product Manager’s responsibilities would include:

  • Collecting and reporting on customer feedback
  • Helping to define a product vision and roadmap
  • Working with developers to design product features

Product Manager

After gaining a few years of industry experience, you’ll be well placed to apply for Product Manager roles. Being a Product Manager is more strategic and relies on your ability to coordinate the efforts of different teams across a business. 

A Product Manager’s responsibilities might include:

  • Determining customer needs
  • Setting the final product vision and roadmap
  • Assigning tasks and workflow within the product team 
  • Coordinating cross functional teams

Senior Product Manager

Once you’ve accumulated roughly 3-5 years of experience as a Product Manager, you’ll have the chance to move up to the role of Senior Product Manager. At this level, you’ll be taking on more serious responsibilities, which include:

  • Managing the work of your company’s Product Managers
  • Leading collaboration across cross functional teams
  • Leading a company’s product strategy
  • Managing interactions with internal and external stakeholders

Product Leader

Depending on your organisation, before you reach the role of Chief Product Officer or VP of Product role, you may need to hold the role of a Product Leader. One of the key differences between this role and a Senior Product Manager is that the Product Leader tends to be less involved in people management and more focused on the product itself. 

A Product Leader’s responsibilities include:

  • Owning the product vision and direction
  • Hiring for roles in the product team
  • Owning the process for product development

Chief Product Officer/ VP Of Product

At the top of the career ladder is the role of Chief Product Officer, or VP of Product. Depending on organisational structure, your company may have one or both of these roles, the responsibilities of which include:

  • Owing the overall product strategy of the organisation
  • Aligning the product team with the rest of the business

Industry demand for Product Management

How high is the demand for Product Managers in Australia?

Delivering the products customers need is one of the best ways to drive sales and build long-term business value. It’s no surprise that Product Managers are highly sought after in most industries. Demand for Product Managers in Australia is steadily rising, with national employment rates set to increase by 10.3% in the next five years

Currently, over 6,000 Australian Product Manager roles are available on Seek (August 2022). It’s worth remembering that a Product Manager’s capabilities are in demand globally, so wherever you find yourself living, you’ll have work experience and a CV that employers are hunting for. 

How much do Product Managers earn in Australia?

The pay opportunities for Australian Product Managers are representative of a profession that’s in high demand across a number of industries. 

Talent.com records the average Product Manager salary in Australia at $136,500 per year (or $70 per hour). Even entry-level positions start at $113,247 per year, while more experienced Digital Marketers make $170,000 per year on average.

There’s also a good chance you’ll find being a Product Manager highly rewarding, with the profession scoring a healthy 4.1 out of 5 for job satisfaction.

Becoming a Product Manager

How hard is it to learn Product Management?

Even for a complete beginner, picking up Product Management is not as hard as you might think. That said, it’s important you begin with a strong motivation to connect with customer needs, solve problems and think creatively. 

It takes time and dedication to grasp the theory that underpins an effective product strategy, and you’ll also need to learn how to manage the product life cycle from end to end. Additionally, you’ll need plenty of hands-on practice to get the most out of the industry’s latest tools.

If you’re aiming to get a foothold in the profession, you should consider earning a formal certification in Product Management. It will be difficult to secure your first role without this, since so many other candidates will have a certified skillset.

Where can I study Product Management?     

There are many options when it comes to qualifying as a Product Manager. In the past, many Product Managers have taken Bachelor’s degrees in a related field, which take 3-4 years, before specialising in Product Management.    

There’s less of an expectation for Product Managers to be university qualified these days, with most employers favouring skills, experience and a good portfolio over formal degrees. 

As a result, more people are enrolling in condensed bootcamp-style courses, which leave graduates industry-ready in a much shorter period of time. These courses focus on the hands-on techniques and tangible skills that today’s Product Managers need to make an impact in the industry.

What Product Management courses does Academy Xi offer?

Academy Xi offers practical, industry-recognised training that’s designed for digital careers. 

Whatever your starting point, our Product Management courses will give you managerial, analytical and creative skills needed to take an amazing new product from idea to market.

Whether you want to venture into a new profession as a Product Manager, or upskill and test the waters of a Product Management career, Academy Xi has a course that’s perfectly suited to your goals and lifestyle. 

  • Product Management: Transform – For those who want to kickstart a new career as a Digital Marketer, including 24 weeks of access to a Career Support Program that helps over 97% of graduates straight into industry.
  • Product Management: Elevate – For those who want to boost their career with in-demand Product Management skills.
  • Product Management: Elevate (self-paced) – For those who want to boost their career with in-demand Product Management skills, while also enjoying the flexibility of self-paced learning.

Both courses have been built in collaboration with industry professionals from top digital companies, including Deloitte, PwC Digital, and MYOB, offering you the chance to:

  • Ideate and plan a launch from end-to-end by building a new product strategy, while also improving an existing product.
  • Walk away with in-demand skills, from creating product backlogs with Jira to running Agile sprints.
  • Hear first-hand anecdotes, battle stories, case studies and tips from the frontlines of the industry.
  • Master crucial soft skills like communication and collaboration to manage a team project, sell a vision and influence the best outcomes.
  • Devise your very own digital product, either for yourself or your organisation, and graduate with a comprehensive, executable strategy. 

Not sure which course is right for you? Chat to a course advisor and we’ll help you find the perfect match. 

Not sure which course is right for you? Chat to a course advisor and we’ll help you find the perfect match.

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