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GuidesProduct developmentWhat does a digital product manager do?

What does a digital product manager do?

Last updated

30 January 2024

Author

Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Mary Mikhail

Digital product managers are the unsung heroes of the internet. While specific responsibilities vary with each company, they are essentially the architects who shape our online experiences.

Let's define the role of a digital product manager and look at what it takes to become one.

What is a digital product manager?

A product manager leads the development of a physical product from concept to success. They’re responsible for the entire lifecycle of a product, from conception to launch and beyond.

As the name implies, a digital product manager does the same for digital products like apps, software, and websites.

This mastermind leads a team of experts through digital product development, from ideation to measuring the product's performance and making decisions about its future.

The digital product manager focuses on product vision, major goals, and market fit. Their role varies from a digital project manager. A project manager oversees the steps and resources needed to complete a project on time within the allotted budget.  

What are the responsibilities and job description of a digital product manager?

The job description of a digital product manager includes wearing many hats. Planning, delegating, tracking, reviewing, and measuring the success of digital initiatives are all part of the job.

Main responsibilities of digital product management include:

  • Defining the "why" and "what" of a digital product, including setting goals and ensuring the product can meet user needs and business objectives

  • Leading the development of the digital product or suite of products

  • Analyzing the market to ensure the product continues to offer advantages over its competitors

  • Continually improving the product to increase retention rate and improve customer lifetime value

  • Creating and prioritizing a strategic product roadmap, including breaking down product development into actionable steps, setting deadlines, assigning tasks, and prioritizing features

Digital product managers must lead and motivate teams of designers, developers, marketers, and other stakeholders to achieve product goals. 

They are responsible for facilitating clear communication, keeping everyone informed, managing expectations, and resolving conflicts.   

What are the skills required for a digital product manager?

An effective digital product manager needs a diverse skill set to navigate the complex world of building successful digital products. 

Not every digital product manager will be an expert in all facets of the role, but continuing to refine their skills will improve their overall effectiveness.

Here are some of the key skills of a digital product manager: 

Strategic planning, vision, and leadership

A digital product manager must be able to see the big picture to set plans and goals for the entire team while balancing business goals and focusing on the user experience. 

They are responsible for keeping the team inspired and motivated throughout the project to reach product goals.

Market discovery and competitive analysis

A successful manager will have excellent research skills. They must be capable of finding and analyzing relevant data and turning it into information that can improve their products. 

This involves the analysis of market trends, user behavior, and product performance to inform roadmap decisions and measure success.

Product and process conception

Succeeding as a digital product manager requires conceiving a product that is yet to exist and understanding the manufacturing process for that product. 

Because the user experience is an essential component of a digital product, creating an intuitive product experience is required for the job.  

Managing execution and delivery

A digital manager must work closely with designers, engineers, marketers, and other stakeholders to ensure the smooth development and launch of the digital product.  

This includes prioritizing tasks, tracking development, and making adjustments to ensure deliverables are on time and on budget.

Communication and collaboration

Effectively communicating product vision, priorities, and current status to all stakeholders is paramount in a digital product manager's job. 

They must be capable of building strong work relationships to foster collaboration within cross-functional teams. Negotiation and conflict resolution skills are necessary for smooth product development and launch.

Pricing and go-to-market strategies

Once the company has built the product, there’s still work to do. Defining the pricing strategy for a product can be a tricky but crucial part of a product’s marketing strategy. In addition, crafting a launch plan requires careful preparation and coordination to maximize the likelihood of success.

Additional soft skills

The ideal digital product manager will have technical knowledge and possess:

  • Creativity and innovation to think outside the box and come up with unique solutions

  • Organizational and time management skills to manage deadlines and work efficiently 

  • Adaptability and resilience to deal with challenges with a positive attitude

Depending on the company, product, and industry, additional skills may be required. The required depth of these skills may also vary. Some companies may prefer their digital PMs to be quite technical, whereas others may value collaborative skills more.

How to become a digital product manager

Digital product managers make users' lives easier. Someone interested in developing technology who enjoys teamwork and has leadership skills may be a good candidate.

The following are crucial to entering the field:

1. Acquire the basic qualifications

A digital product manager must have the proper educational qualifications. That looks like a bachelor's degree in computer science, product management, business, or other related field. 

Some organizations may prefer a master's degree in a similar field, while others don't require it. Some larger companies like their employees to have MBAs.

2. Learn the required skills

Regardless of qualifications, it’s essential to master product-related hard skills. 

This could pertain to: 

  • Customer research

  • Product modeling

  • Roadmapping

  • Identifying market opportunities

  • Understanding software development skills

  • Writing effective user stories

3. Become certified

It's wise to gain digital product management certifications in one or more areas to build credibility. Examples include:

  • Digital product management fundamentals

  • Product strategy

  • Agile methodologies

  • Specific certifications, like design thinking fundamentals

Live classes, pre-recorded videos, YouTube videos, and blogs are good resources for finding courses and activities to boost your skills. 

4. Apply for an internship

Many large companies take on interns who are interested in learning the business. 

This may involve compensation but is more likely to be unpaid positions that help companies fill in gaps while offering work experience to candidates. This presents the chance to get your foot in the door of a desired workplace.

5. Network

Digital product managers thrive in digital communities, so get involved in a few. LinkedIn and product management blogs are good places to start. 

Observe what's happening and contribute to conversations. Network and make friends with those who interest you. This is one of the best ways to learn about job opportunities.

6. Build a digital product manager-specific portfolio

A digital product manager portfolio tells the story of your impact and value through concrete examples of your work. 

Beyond the basics, you must be able to show that you are capable of: 

  • Problem-solving

  • Doing customer research

  • Building a go-to-market strategy

  • Conducting user interviews

Find opportunities in your career history when you might have played these roles and build a portfolio around them.

To discover digital product opportunities to include in your portfolio:

  • Analyze the usability of an app on your mobile phone

  • Identify ways to transform and improve a company's digital products

  • Identify consumer trends

  • Build digital proof of concepts

  • Learn about cutting-edge technologies and how they might impact future products

Curate your content and structure your portfolio with a strong introduction, a showcase of your projects, and a call to action. Focus on projects where you strongly impacted positive outcomes, providing evidence in data, metrics, and user testimonials. 

If you can, be sure to exhibit a range of skills across different industries, product types, and stages of development. Remember to balance storytelling with data. Engaging narratives are great, but you need concrete data and measurable achievements to back them up. 

FAQs

Do digital product managers work directly with customers?

All digital product managers must interact directly with customers to learn about their pain points with existing products. 

Larger organizations may have dedicated teams for customer research for a digital PM to collaborate with. Smaller organizations may not have such a team, with research falling solely on the PM.

Most organizations have a dedicated team for customer support, dealing with daily customer issues, such as unclear functionality or an inability to log in. 

It’s good practice for a digital PM to track any trends from support to look for improvements to the product that could reduce the number of customer calls.

What degrees are needed to be a digital product manager?

While there’s no specific digital product manager degree, several relevant bachelor's degrees can provide an edge:

  • Computer science

  • Information systems

  • Business administration

  • Marketing

  • Design

  • Any degree related to technology or user experience

Not all companies require candidates to have a master's degree, but it can definitely help you get hired, especially by a larger organization. 

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