Product School

Becoming a Digital Product Manager

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Author: Product School

March 6, 2024 - 8 min read

Updated: March 6, 2024 - 8 min read

Digital product managers conceptualize digital products and design strategies to make them available to users. 

Have you ever heard the phrase, “There’s an app for that!” and felt a small wave of relief wash over you?

It happened to me recently when I was procrastinating about making an appointment with a new dermatologist. I have nothing against my old dermatologist, but I changed medical insurance recently and have to find new healthcare providers. This is always a headache, and I was just settling in to complain to my coworkers about it when one of them asked why I hadn’t downloaded the app. 

The app?? My old insurance didn’t have an app! The fact that my new one does—and that it’s good enough quality that my coworker recommended it—is due in no small part to the work of some dedicated digital product managers. My skin thanks you!

In this article, we’ll talk about what digital product managers do, the skills they need to carry out their responsibilities, and the role they play in digital transformation. Then, we’ll cover how to get a job as a digital PM, how much you’ll make, and where to get started, including some free resources.

Understanding the Digital Product Manager Role

Digital product managers specialize in products that are software-based, web-based, or involve digital services. Their role encompasses a wide array of responsibilities, from the initial idea to the product's end-of-life, ensuring a seamless journey through the product life cycle.

What Defines a Digital Product Manager:

  • Strategic Vision: Digital PMs craft the product vision, turning innovative ideas into tangible products that resonate with users. They are visionaries who anticipate market needs and user expectations.

  • User-Centric Approach: At the heart of their role is a deep commitment to enhancing user experience. They leverage user stories and feedback to refine products, making user satisfaction a top priority.

  • Technical Acumen: While they may not be developers, their understanding of technology allows them to communicate effectively with the product team and contribute to the technical aspects of product development.

  • They are plugged into the digital zeitgeist! They keep their ear to the ground (or to the social media network) for grumbling about pain points and turn those complaints into the next great digital solution.

Digital Product Manager vs. Product Manager:

Essentially, we have a square vs. rectangle situation. All Digital Product Managers are Product Managers, but not all Product Managers deal with digital products. That being said, the proliferation of technology in every industry and the importance of digital transformation to drive growth means that most product managers have to be thinking about the digital realm.

Digital PMs operate exclusively within the digital realm, dealing with software applications, online platforms, and digital services. Product managers can work with any type of product.

  • Agile Methodologies: Digital PMs often employ agile methodologies to adapt quickly to changes in the digital landscape, ensuring the product remains relevant and competitive.

  • Cross-functional collaboration: Digital product management requires close collaboration with cross-functional teams, including UX/UI designers, developers, and marketers, to bring digital projects to fruition.

Just like you might have heard that today all companies are tech companies, it's safe to say that most product managers are digital product managers. Thus, in order to stay relevant, product managers need to stay agile and collaborate cross-functionally alongside their other responsibilities that we'll cover now.

Diving Deep into the Digital Product Manager Job Description

The digital product manager role encapsulates a blend of technical, strategic, and leadership responsibilities. These professionals are pivotal in guiding digital products through their life cycle, from ideation to launch and beyond.


Core Responsibilities

  • Strategic Planning: Crafting a comprehensive product roadmap that aligns with the organization's goals and market demand.

  • Market Research: Conducting thorough market research to identify user needs, market trends, and potential challenges.

  • Cross-Functional Leadership: Leading cross-functional teams, including designers, developers, and marketers, to ensure cohesive product development and execution.

  • Product Vision: Clearly defining the product vision and ensuring that every aspect of the product developed supports this vision.

  • Lifecycle Management: Overseeing the entire product life cycle, from concept through development, launch, and eventual retirement.

Essential Skills for Excelling in Digital Product Management

Success in digital product management requires a unique set of skills that blend technical knowledge with soft skills.

  • Technical Expertise: A solid understanding of digital project management tools, software development processes, and the latest technological trends.

  • Analytical Abilities: Proficiency in analyzing data, interpreting user analytics, and leveraging these insights to make informed decisions.

  • User Experience Focus: A keen eye for user experience, ensuring that the product meets the highest standards of usability and satisfaction.

  • Communication and Collaboration: Exceptional communication skills to articulate product vision, negotiate with stakeholders, and foster collaboration among team members.

  • Adaptability: The agility to adapt to changing market conditions, user feedback, and technological advancements.

The Critical Role of Digital Product Managers in Digital Transformation

Digital Product Managers (DPMs) are pivotal in steering organizations through the waves of digital transformation. By pioneering innovative digital products and strategies, they not only contribute to the digital landscape but also ensure businesses stay competitive and relevant.

Pioneering New Digital Products from Concept to Market

The journey of bringing new digital products to the market is complex and multifaceted. DPMs play a crucial role in:

  • Identifying Opportunities: Leveraging market research to pinpoint gaps and opportunities in the digital realm. Honing in on what a business already does well to identify unique selling points (USPs).

Unique Selling Point glossary
  • Conceptualizing Products: Transforming ideas into actionable product concepts that align with user needs and business goals.

  • Product Discovery: Engaging in product discovery processes to validate assumptions, understand user problems, and define the value proposition of new products.

Product discovery 101 infographic
  • Prototyping and Testing: Developing prototypes and conducting user testing to refine the product based on real feedback.

  • Creating Product Roadmaps: Developing clear, strategic roadmaps that outline the progression of a product over time, factoring in milestones, features, and user feedback.

  • Leveraging Digital Twins: Creating digital replicas of physical systems to simulate, predict, and optimize product performance in the digital space. As per McKinsey, virtual replicas of products are poised to be worth a whopping $73.5 billion by 2027

Leveraging Analytics and User Experience for Digital Success

Analytics and user experience (UX) are critical in shaping the success of digital products:

  • Data-Driven Decisions: Utilizing analytics to make informed decisions, understand user behavior, and predict market trends.

  • Enhancing User Experience: Prioritizing UX to ensure products are intuitive, engaging, and meet the users' needs.

The Career of a Digital Product Manager

Launching a career as a Digital Product Manager requires a blend of education, networking, and continuous learning. Below are some concrete steps to get you started. But first, let's talk finances. How much do DPMs earn?

Digital Product Manager Salary Range

The salary for Digital Product Managers can vary widely depending on factors such as experience, location, and the industry in which they operate.

According to Glassdoor, the salary range for Digital Product Managers in the U.S. spans from $129K to $198K per year. According to Zippia, the average entry-level salary for Digital Product Managers in the U.S. is around $70,000 annually.

First steps: Joining Online Communities for DPMs

One of the first steps in your journey should be to immerse yourself in the digital product management community. Online communities provide invaluable resources, including networking opportunities, industry insights, and peer support.

  • Participate and ask questions: An excellent starting point is the Product School’s communities, where you can connect with both aspiring and seasoned product managers.

  • Watch and learn: Follow leading product leaders on LinkedIn to stay updated on industry trends and gain insights from experienced professionals.

What to watch: Industry Trends and Market Research

Keeping abreast of the latest trends and market research is crucial for success in digital product management.

  • Read the research: Get Product School’s latest annual Future of Product Report for cutting-edge insights and forecasts.

  • Product School Newsletter: Subscribe to the Product School newsletter to receive regular updates on the evolving landscape of product management.

Get your feet wet: Advancing Your Skills with Micro-Certifications

Continuous skill development is key to advancing your career in digital product management. Product School offers free micro-certifications that are perfect for budding digital product managers, especially the Product Strategy Micro-Certification.

Enrolling in Comprehensive Certification Programs for In-Depth Product Experience

If your head is already buzzing with ideas and you’re ready to fully commit to a career in digital product management, then a comprehensive certification program might be the way to go.

The Product Manager Certification (PMC)™ by Product School is designed and led by some of the most successful Product Managers in Silicon Valley and beyond. This certification provides the support and knowledge needed to succeed as a Product Manager. The program is taught online, live, and in small groups, offering personalized instruction and interaction.

The digital world is your playground, and your ideas are the seeds of tomorrow's must-have products. Remember, every great product started as a flicker of thought in someone's mind. With the right mix of skills, knowledge, and community support, there's no limit to what you can create and achieve. So why wait? Dive into the vibrant community of digital product management, arm yourself with the latest industry insights, and start shaping the future one product at a time.

Your journey starts now. Take that first step with enthusiasm, and who knows? The next digital marvel could be yours. Let's make the digital world a little more innovative, one product at a time.

Updated: March 6, 2024

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