Product Management Process

The product management process involves the steps that product managers take to guide product development towards high-quality products that achieve success in the market.

Creating a product isn’t just about transforming ideas into design and code. The whole infrastructure of management needs to refine the vision of the product, ensure that development is aligned with high-level goals, as well as spearhead marketing efforts. This is where the product management process comes in.

In this article, we walk you through the steps of the product management process and its importance to a well-performing product.

What is the Product Management Process?

The product management process, also sometimes referred to as the product life cycle management process, includes the development of the product, conducting market research, business development, and stakeholder management. It represents the complete process of managing the creation and marketing of a product from the start of the product lifecycle to the end of the product’s lifespan.

What Are the Stages of the Product Management Process?

There is no formal and universal product management process because not all products are alike. However, many companies follow a similar management lifecycle that consists of six stages. The stages in this process are often in the following order, but can also be rearranged. 

You should also know that they may go by different names, depending on your team and managers.

1. Product Vision

At the very start of the product management process is the vision of the product. This vision defines the role that the product will play in its audience’s lives, and also what constitutes a success for the product. At this stage, the product likely doesn’t exist yet. It’s simply an idea with a high-level problem that the product aims to solve.

One such way to identify your product’s goals, as well as the target audience, is with a marketing tool like a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) Statement. This helps to differentiate your product from competitors and make it stand out.

Fill in the blanks of this formula to write your own USP Statement: 

For (customer) who (needs something), the (product) is a (product category) that (provides these benefits). Unlike (the main competitor), our product (is differentiated in this way).

This simple statement should be short, simple, and also ready to be delivered in a 30-second pitch. If you can’t simplify it to those terms, it may not yet be ready.

For example, for Userwell part of this statement could look something like this:
“For Product Managers Userwell is the software that helps companies be the best version of themselves for their customers.”

2. Market Research

Customer expectations are growing faster than ever. In fact, 66% of customers want companies to know what their needs are. In order to identify these needs and expectations, you have to engage in extensive market research. The output of this research will help you define a unique problem that your product aims to solve.

In the product management process, market research involves several data points:

  • Creating target audience personas, or representations of the ideal users, including their backgrounds and characteristics
  • Discovering customer requirements
  • Knowing how users behave in your selected audience cohorts
  • Identifying industry trends that your company can take advantage of

3. Product Strategy

Once you have an idea for your product and research to back it up, it’s time to create a product strategy. The product strategy outlines how your business will approach the creation of your product. It aligns the product development process with business goals and describes how the ideal product will influence the market.

There are several types of product strategies, each of which can be implemented depending on your business goals. Some of the most common ones are:

  • Cost leadership: Making a product at a minimum possible cost. This can allow you to price your product lower than your competition, or use the savings on production costs to spend on marketing efforts.
  • Differentiation: Using non-cost ways that enable your product to stand out. For example, your product might have higher performance, innovative features, or premium construction.
  • Focus: Targeting a unique buyer persona or niche to provide a personalised product experience. This can create a loyal customer base that chooses your brand over the competition because your unique selling proposition targets their niche.

One such example is the iconic chocolate brand, Hershey’s. In 1908, they released their famous chocolate bar with almonds. Not only did it save money (since almonds are cheaper than cocoa), it also gave their product a new feature. 

Whichever strategy you use, the resulting roadmap provides guidance for future aspects of product development, including sprint planning as well as backlog grooming.

4. Product Development

After extensive planning, you’re ready to bring your product to life. The product development process consists of all the steps required to build a product from start to finish. This includes:

  • Idea generation
  • Idea screening
  • Concept development and testing
  • Strategic business analysis
  • Product development
  • Testing and validation
  • Commercialisation

The product manager is on top of ensuring that the product aligns with the roadmap and high-level goals. They also implement the chosen Agile framework that the organization is working with, running Kanban or Scrumban boards, or working on sprint planning as required.

5. Marketing 

In this stage, you create a go-to-market strategy for your product. This includes building your brand identity, raising awareness, determining your pricing, as well as running marketing campaigns, all in support of your product launch.

Product marketing is a large-scale effort that may include running your campaigns across multiple channels. Some aspects of this involve developing evergreen content marketing ideas, and also optimizing your product marketing for SEO. All of this will be informed by your vision and market research stages.

6. Analytics

With your product launch in full swing, it’s time to look at the performance of your product. 

Tracking analytics for your product involves tracking multiple goals and organizing all the sources of your data. For example, you could use social media listening and product review sites to identify user satisfaction. You can also employ product analytics to get more in-depth information about how your users are engaging with your product and their retention rate. 

It’s important to establish KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and other metrics of success before committing to your analytics efforts. Simply looking at the raw numbers is not enough to derive meaningful insight.

You need to look at your results and then measure your progress towards certain objectives. If you don’t, you can’t make confident business decisions and you’ll miss out on opportunities to grow and scale your company.

Product Management Process: Spanning the Lifecycle of Your Product

The product management process is the complete picture of your product’s lifecycle, from the moment you develop an idea to the time that you retire it. It’s an ongoing process that fluctuates depending on the future iterations of your product and the ways in which your business pivots, adapting to market demands. Products achieve long-term success from continuously interative processes that are always improving and adapting.