Whether launching a startup or creating an organization within a growing or mature company, establishing structure within your product management team is required for scale.
The best way to start establishing that structure is by understanding the various types of product management roles as well as the hierarchy within the product management discipline. In this post, we’ll discuss the details of various product management roles so you can create a solid structure that works for the size and maturity of your organization.
Product Management Specialty Niche Roles
There are many areas of specialty a product manager can have. Below are some of the most popular and up-and-coming niche roles found in the product management world.
Technical Product Manager
Technical Product Managers have experience in engineering and product development, so they’ll be more hands-on with the technical aspect of the actual product. In larger organizations where specialization is possible, having a Technical Product Manager can help bridge the gap between product management’s business requirements and product engineering’s technical requirements to create a more effective system.
Data/Analytics Product Manager
Data or Analytics Product Managers are adept at data management and analysis, concentrating on user experience (UX) and working closely with data scientists. As data and analytics are quickly becoming the lifeblood of product success metrics, someone dedicated to accumulating numbers as the Data Product Manager can be an asset on your product management team.
Learn more: 7 Key Metrics & KPIs For Product Managers In A Product-Led Growth Model
Growth Product Manager
The Growth Product Manager focuses on specific product initiatives that drive the most growth for the organization. A Growth PM owns a certain metric or multiple metrics rather than a product itself, and those metrics can be virtually anything within the customer or product journey.
Growth PMs can focus on customer acquisition, lead generation, revenue growth, and more. Growth Product Managers typically conduct several short-term experiments to determine the most effective way to move the needle on their specific metrics.
Product Management Hierarchy Levels
These are some of the most common product management roles that establish structure and hierarchy within an organization. Keep in mind that some of these roles specifically focus on day-to-day product management, while others focus on team management. More senior product management roles do not always mean they manage individual product managers.
Associate Product Manager
Associate Product Manager (APM) is typically an entry-level position, usually occupied by a recent graduate or someone with little experience in product management. Associate Product Managers are usually trained and apprenticed into full-time Product Managers while on the job. Senior Product Managers are usually their mentors, overseeing a product while delegating tasks to APMs.
Junior Product Manager
A Junior Product Manager is another entry-level position within a product management team. A JPM is typically someone newer to the role, though with more experience than an APM. Junior Product Managers can operate independently within the team and may have responsibility over a smaller project. Junior Product Managers often report directly to a Senior Product Manager.
In organizations that have several complex products, having Junior Product Managers work alongside a Senior Product Manager can be an effective way to accelerate their maturation.
Product Manager is a broad umbrella term describing a wide range of experience levels, responsibilities, and skills. The Product Manager could be a standalone role in a smaller organization that may or may not have other Product Managers on the team. Alternatively, the Product Manager title could be applied to multiple individuals, each responsible for their own product, working under a Senior Product Manager or Director.
Learn more: Product Manager Job Description
Senior Product Manager
A Senior Product Manager is someone who either has considerable experience as a Product Manager, oversees a major product, supervises multiple Product Managers, or mentors Associate Product Managers.
If you are welcoming a new Product Manager to your organization with several years of experience and a track record of success, then it would be appropriate to title them, Senior Product Manager. Alternatively, if your organization has a team of Product Managers, promoting the most successful individuals to Senior Product Manager would add organizational clarity and direction for the team in the form of a career path.
Product Lead (or Principal Product Manager)
The Product Lead is similar to a Senior Product Manager but is less involved with leading others and instead focuses more on orchestrating the entire process of product management, including go-to-market activities. Product Leads are exceptional at managing products and have a history of successful products under their belt. Establishing a Product Lead in your organization is a great way to acknowledge a Product Manager’s tenure, experience, and skill when they aren’t interested in a management position.
Learn more: The Leadership Side Of Product Management – What Does It Really Mean?
Product Director (or Group Product Manager)
The Product Director is less involved with the day-to-day management of individual products and is more involved with managing a team of product managers. The Product Director is responsible for staffing, developing and coaching team members to strengthen the overall proficiency of the product management team.
Product Directors can benefit from a background in product management, but the primary strengths to look for in a Product Director are strong managerial skills, communication, empathy, and conflict resolution. These soft skills come in handy when building a strong, results-oriented team.
VP of Product
The VP of Product usually oversees one or more Product Directors and often has budget responsibility for a portfolio of products. The VP of Product is focused on overseeing the execution and delivery of products at every step. If you have a larger portfolio, a VP of Product can provide much-needed structure and direction for the directors managing the day-to-day tasks.
Chief Product Officer
The Chief Product Officer is usually the most senior product management position within an organization. The CPO usually sits in the C-suite and oversees multiple portfolios and teams. The Chief Product Officer takes a more holistic approach to product management, as they are responsible for making decisions that align all product initiatives to the company’s overall strategy. The CPO may also have responsibility for product engineering.
Within a startup organization, your Chief Product Officer might also be your main Product Manager or Senior Product Manager to start with the intent of growing the product organization under the CPO’s leadership. In larger companies, however, the CPO is the direct link between the C-suite and the product management team. This is necessary to ensure the connection between corporate strategy and product execution.
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Organizational Clarity Sets Other Disciplines Up For Success
By understanding the various types and hierarchies of product management roles, you can create a solid structure within your organization that is ultimately more effective at delivering high-value products on a consistent basis. It’s also the key to setting up engineering, product marketing, sales, and customer success teams for greater success with a foundation of market and customer knowledge. Your ability to build, market, sell and deliver products at scale starts in product management.
Investing in the skills of your product management team pays significant dividends in terms of giving your products a competitive edge. Product Management University offers courses for product managers of all stages, including:
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Become a Certified B2B Product Manager in 30 Days
- 5 Sections, 20 lessons, short videos, simple templates.
- Certification exam included.
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by John Mansour on October 26, 2022.