The Diversity of Product Manager Roles

Michal Pařízek
4 min readAug 10, 2021

There are numerous articles about different types of Product Managers. I've read a lot of them. But none of them reflects the way I've been looking at it.

In my eyes, it's more diverse.

Every PM comes from a unique background, takes care of a unique product and has unique skills and experience.

So, it's very difficult to cluster all PMs to a definite set of types.

The way I've been thinking about is represented by this simple scatter plot.

There are two axes:

  1. Area of focus. It goes from improving the core product (increasing value for users) to improving the growth (increasing value for business).
  2. Personality. It goes from being very analytical to being very organisational.

I believe that these 4 directions are fundamental and every PM can find themselves somewhere on the chart above.

First, let's dive into the two directions which are defined by the area of focus.

The direction of a Core product

In the beginning, let me briefly explain what I mean by the core product.

It's the core functionality of the product. For analytical software, it includes different features, reports, navigation, and a UI. For a social network, it includes sorting of posts, finding friends features, privacy issues etc.

They have one in common — the goal is to increase the value for their users.

As a Core PM, you are obsessed with making the product as good as possible. And not so much about making money.

How to measure whether you're successful? I believe there is one metric which is universal and that's Net Promoter Score (NPS). If folks are likely to recommend your product further, it means it's very good.

The direction of Growth

In contrast to a Core product, Growth PMs focus on business impact. The goal is to increase the value of a business. To make more money.

Smart companies know having a great product isn't enough.

Users' onboarding, engagement, and retention are key to every product's success. Also, choosing the right monetisation model and setting up growth loops mechanisms have a tremendous business impact.

Growth is also about continuous optimisation efforts. Across the whole product. From a sign-up form, upgrade flows, checkout, all the way to a forgotten password flow (read how an Uber's growth team makes a ton of $ for the company by focusing on this underestimated flow).

Let's now have a closer look at the directions of PM personality.

The direction of a Project manager

Strong communication, organisation and presentation skills define this direction.

Such PMs usually don't enjoy being immersed deep in a project. I am not saying they're not capable of doing it. But they feel more impactful when they're on top of the project.

Making sure the feature is aligned with the company's vision. Developed in time, and a good shape. Communicated well both internally and externally.

It's important to say loud and clear that a Product manager doesn't equal a Project manager. Product managers must have other PM skills and knowledge like strategic and analytical thinking, product thinking, fundamentals of UX design etc.

CPOs, Heads of Product must be strong in a Project manager direction.

The direction of an Analyst

In contrast to the previous direction, analytical PMs are usually more solitary and detail-oriented.

They fancy looking at issues from several angles. Making their hands dirty by immersing in a project.

Analytical PMs usually work closely with designers, analysts and devs than Project manager PMs. They have strong analytical skills. And a deep knowledge in a product vertical.

Same as with the Project manager direction, a Product manager can't be purely an Analyst. They must have also some organisation and communication skills.

This is my few bits on the topic of PM types.

PM is a complex role and when you're hiring one, it's essential to narrow it down and define who exactly you need right now.

If you're or aspire to be a PM, it is vital to think thoroughly about what your strengths and weaknesses are. And, what you're enjoying doing the most.

PS: The idea for this blog post was sparked by gifted Michala Gregorová who invited me, my partner, and our son :-) to her podcast Cinkátko (CZ) where we talked about the Product Manager role. Thanks, Míša!

.

--

--