Guidance

Product manager

Find out what a product manager does and the skills you need to do the job.

This describes the role of a product manager and the skills required, including:

  • an introduction to the role, telling you what you would do in this role and the full list of skills
  • a description of the levels in this role, from associate product manager to head of product, specifying the skills you need for each level and the corresponding skill level (awareness, working, practitioner, expert)

This role is part of the Digital, Data and Technology Profession in the Civil Service.

Introduction to the role of product manager

A product manager is responsible for the quality of their products. In this role, you will be expected to use your knowledge of user needs and business goals to frame problems and set priorities for your delivery teams.

Skills required to be a product manager

You will need the following skills for this role, although the level of expertise for each will vary, depending on the role level.

  • Agile working. You know about agile methodology and can apply an agile mindset to all aspects of your work. You can work in a fast-paced, evolving environment and use an iterative method and flexible approach to enable rapid delivery. You are unafraid to take risks, willing to learn from mistakes and appreciate the importance of agile project delivery for digital projects in government. You can ensure the team knows what each other is working on and how this relates to practical government objectives and user needs.
  • DDaT perspective. You can demonstrate an understanding of user-centered design, technology and data perspectives. You understand the range of available technology choices and can make informed decisions based on user need and value for money. You understand the variety and complexities of digital contexts and can design services to meet them. You have knowledge of the wider digital economy and advances in technology.
  • Experience of working within constraints. You understand and can work within given constraints (including but not limited to technology and policy, and regulatory, financial and legal constraints). You know how to challenge constraints that can be changed. You can ensure compliance against constraints by adapting products and services where needed.
  • Financial ownership. You can secure funding for agile delivery through a business case and through delivering a good pitch in government. You can prioritise spending based on return on investment (ROI) and strategic intent: this may include contract ownership and accountability for realisation of benefits.
  • Life-cycle perspective. You understand the different phases of product delivery and can contribute to, plan or run these. You can maintain a product or process through the delivery phases, into live and then into retirement. You know how to lead a team through the different phases of the delivery product life cycle. You can maintain and iterate a product over time to continuously meet user needs. You understand incident management and service support so that products are built effectively.
  • Operational management. You can manage the operational process of designing and running a product or service throughout its entire product life cycle. You know how to implement best practice in new product or service development and know how to plan and put into operation the stages of new product or service development. You can overcome operational constraints to deliver a successful product or service. You know how to work closely with other operational delivery teams.
  • Problem ownership. You can understand and identify problems, analysing and helping to identify the appropriate solution. You can classify and prioritise problems, document their causes and implement remedies.
  • Product ownership. You know how to use a range of product management principles and approaches. You can capture and translate user needs into deliverables. You know how to define the minimum viable product and make decisions about priorities. You can write user stories and acceptance criteria. You know how to work with a range of specialists in multidisciplinary teams.
  • Strategic ownership. You can focus on outcomes, not solutions. You are bold and can develop ambitious visions and strategies. You know how to get the organisation and team to buy in. You can translate the vision into prioritised deliverable goals.
  • User focus. You understand users and can identify who they are and what their needs are, based on evidence. You can translate user stories and propose design approaches or services to meet these needs. You can engage in meaningful interactions and relationships with users.You put users first and can manage competing priorities.

Associate product manager

Associate product managers manage subsets of features or components of a product in either its prototype state or once it is live and being incrementally improved. This can be an entry-level role for civil servants who may be looking to progress to product manager or those on emerging talent schemes.

At this level, because you will be learning basic product management techniques, you will report to a more senior product manager.

Skills needed for this role

  • Agile working. You know about agile methodology and the ways you can apply the principles in practice. You can take an open-minded approach; you know why iteration is important and can do it quickly. (Relevant skill level: awareness)
  • DDaT perspective. You can demonstrate a basic understanding of design, technology and data principles. You understand the range of available technology choices. (Relevant skill level: awareness)
  • Experience of working within constraints. You understand the value of policy, legislative, regulatory and operational constraints and can find the simplest, shortest and fastest solution for users. (Relevant skill level: awareness)
  • Financial ownership. You can handle numbers confidently and collate information ensuring accuracy of financial and performance data. (Relevant skill level: awareness)
  • Life-cycle perspective. You understand how the needs of the team and the product vary across the stages of the product life cycle. (Relevant skill level: awareness)
  • Operational management. You understand the operational processes of running and maintaining product or service. (Relevant skill level: awareness)
  • Problem ownership. You can initiate and monitor actions to investigate patterns and trends to resolve problems. You know how to consult specialists where required. You can determine the appropriate remedy and assist with implementation of it. You know how to determine preventative measures. (Relevant skill level: working)
  • Product ownership. You know about the tools, terms and concepts used to deliver a product. (Relevant skill level: awareness)
  • Strategic ownership. You know how to get buy-in from the team. (Relevant skill level: working)
  • User focus. You can identify needs and engage with users or stakeholders to collate user needs evidence. You understand and can define research that fits user needs. You can use quantitative and qualitative data about users to turn user focus into outcomes. (Relevant skill level: working)

Product manager

A product manager defines, owns and solve problems. At this level, you:

  • will manage a product through discovery, alpha, beta and live states
  • will support lead and senior product managers
  • may line manage associate product managers and support their professional development
  • will be developing expert skills in and knowledge of product management techniques
  • may be involved in recruitment

This can be an ‘entry-level’ role for new product managers who have been working in other digital roles or civil servants with sufficient experience across other competencies.

Skills needed for this role

  • Agile working. You can identify and compare the best processes or delivery methods to use, including measuring and evaluating outcomes. You know how to help the team to decide the best approach. You can help teams to manage and visualise outcomes, prioritise work and work to agreed minimum viable product (MVP), print and scope. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • DDaT perspective. You can demonstrate a working understanding of design, technology and data principles. You understand the variety and complexity of users’ digital needs and how the product will meet those needs. You know about assisted digital support and can explain why it’s important. You can design services and make decisions to meet users needs. (Relevant skill level: working)
  • Experience of working within constraints. You can identify constraints and can communicate about these and work within them. You know how to challenge the validity of constraints. You can ensure standards are being met. (Relevant skill level: working)
  • Financial ownership. You understand the marketplace, realising the benefit and persuading others that a product is the right one to use. You know how to integrate a product with other services. You can ensure that products get used. You can realise benefits by linking work in progress back to the business case. You can build business cases based on user needs. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Life-cycle perspective. You recognise when to move from one stage of a product life cycle to another. You can ensure the team is working towards the appropriate service standards for the relevant phase. You can manage delivery products and services at different phases. (Relevant skill level: working)
  • Operational management. You know how to design operational processes for the running and maintenance of products or services throughout their product life cycle. You can redesign operational processes, amend existing processes, and plan and put into operation the stages of a new product or service development. You can act as the escalation point for operational issues and can fix complex operational issues. You know how to overcome operational constraints to deliver a successful product or service. You can work closely with operational delivery teams in digital, data and technology (DDaT). (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Problem ownership. You know how to ensure that the right actions are taken to investigate, resolve and anticipate problems. You can coordinate the team to investigate problems and implement solutions and preventative measures. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Product ownership. You know how to apply tools, terms and concepts in a variety of ways. You can be flexible, consider new ways of working and adapt to change. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Strategic ownership. You know how to get buy-in from the organisation. You can work with scant information and explain it in abstract terms. You can develop a strategy. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • User focus. You know how to collaborate with user researchers and can represent users internally. You understand the difference between user needs and the desires of the user. You can champion user research to focus on all users. You can prioritise and define approaches to understand the user story, guiding others in doing so. You can offer recommendations on the best tools and methods to be used. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)

Senior product manager

Senior product managers manage multiple products or a single product that is especially complex, high-risk or sensitive. At this level, you:

  • will line-manage associate product managers and product managers
  • have expert product management skills.
  • may be involved in elements of programme management activity
  • will be involved in hiring associates, product managers and contractors

Skills needed for this role

  • Agile working. You know how to coach and lead teams in Agile and Lean practices, determining the right approach for the team to take and evaluating this through the life of a project. You can think of new and innovative ways of working to achieve the right outcomes. You are able to act as a recognised expert and advocate for the approaches, continuously reflecting and challenging the team. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • DDaT perspective. You can demonstrate an advanced understanding of design, technology and data principles. You know how to identify and implement solutions for assisted digital. You can apply knowledge to work with other job families. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Experience of working within constraints. You can work with and challenge senior stakeholders. You know how to prioritise and mitigate constraints and can turn them into an advantage. You can adapt the approach depending on the constraints. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Financial ownership. You understand the marketplace, realising the benefit and persuading others that a product is the right one to use. You can integrate a product with other services. You can ensure that products get used. You know how to realise benefits by linking work in progress back to the business case. You can build business cases based on user needs. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Life-cycle perspective. You know how to successfully lead teams through the full product life cycle. You can identify which tools and techniques should be used at each stage. You can develop sustainable support models. You can identify and deal with potential risks across or between all stages of the product life cycle. You know how to coach others. You can contribute to the assessment of other teams, providing guidance and support as they move through the stages of the product life cycle. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Operational management. You keep abreast of industry best practice and can cascade ways of working. You know how to make operations efficient. You can act as the escalation point for major operational issues and champion operational management across the community. You can work closely with leaders of operational delivery teams in digital, data and technology (DDaT). (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Problem ownership. You know how to anticipate problems and how to defend against them at the right time. You understand how the problem fits into the larger picture. You can articulate the problem and help others to do it. You know how to build problem-solving capabilities in others. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Product ownership. You can start to define and create approaches. You know how to coach others. You can implement new ways of working. You are aware of what other sectors are doing. You understand what is most important and applicable. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Strategic ownership. You know how to get buy-in from the organisation. You can work with scant information and explain it in abstract terms. You can develop a strategy. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • User focus. You know how to give direction on which tools or methods to use. You are experienced in meeting the needs of users across a variety of channels. You can bring insight and expertise in how user needs have changed over time to ensure these are met by the business. You know how to apply strategic thinking in how to provide the best service for the end user. (Relevant skill level: expert)

Lead product manager

A lead product manager is the lead for the product team in their programme or service. At this level, you will:

  • be as interested in managing people as managing products
  • work closely with the head of product (where they exist as a separate role) to provide leadership and direction to all products in a programme or a local product community
  • maintain the high-level roadmap.
  • be involved in a range of programme management activities in support of the service owner or programme lead
  • be involved in hiring associate product managers, product managers, senior product managers and contractors
  • provide leadership in their programmes and across the local community

Skills needed for this role

  • Agile working. You know how to coach and lead teams in Agile and Lean practices, determining the right approach for the team to take and evaluating this through the life of a project. You can think of new and innovative ways of working to achieve the right outcomes. You are able to act as a recognised expert and advocate for the approaches, continuously reflecting and challenging the team. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • DDaT perspective. You know about the wider digital economy and advances in technology. You understand agile working at an organisational level. You can create the environment for success. You know how to initiate and support working with other digital, data and technology (DDaT) roles, job families and professions. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Experience of working within constraints. You know how to influence, challenge and coach. You can anticipate how constraints might change and know where to challenge or remove constraints. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Financial ownership. You understand the marketplace, realising the benefit and persuading others that a product is the right one to use. You know how to integrate a product with other services. You can ensure that products get used. You can realise benefits by linking work in progress back to the business case. You can build business cases based on user needs. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Life-cycle perspective. You can apply experience of multiple parts of the product life cycle. You can recognise when it is right to move forward and when it is right to stop. You can recognise the appropriate deliverables and the right people to meet these. You are able to work with other agile delivery operations throughout the product life cycle. You can plan and engage with the appropriate stakeholders at a particular stage in the project. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Operational management. You keep abreast of industry best practice and can cascade ways of working. You know how to make operations efficient. You can act as the escalation point for major operational issues and champion operational management across the community. You can work closely with leaders of operational delivery teams in digital, data and technology (DDaT). (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Problem ownership. You know how to anticipate problems and how to defend against them at the right time. You understand how the problem fits into the larger picture. You can articulate the problem and help others to do it. You know how to build problem-solving capabilities in others. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Product ownership. You can start to define and create approaches. You know how to coach others. You can implement new ways of working. You are aware of what other sectors are doing. You understand what is most important and applicable. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Strategic ownership. You can develop a long-term vision and objectives. You are discerning and disciplined in focusing on what is important and most relevant. You know how to develop the capability of others. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • User focus. You know how to give direction on which tools or methods to use. You are experienced in meeting the needs of users across a variety of channels. You can bring insight and expertise in how user needs have changed over time to ensure these are met by the business. You know how to apply strategic thinking in how to provide the best service for the end user. (Relevant skill level: expert)

Head of product

A head of product management provides support to all product managers in the organisation. At this level, you will:

  • have expert product management skills
  • be required to coach others to increase professionalism
  • work with other communities and organisation management to represent community interests
  • oversee every member of the community, their role, their assignments, development, pay and performance
  • manage hiring, development, moves and exits from the community, covering civil servants and contractors
  • line-manage senior and lead product mangers

Skills needed for this role

  • Agile working. You know how to coach and lead teams in Agile and Lean practices, determining the right approach for the team to take and evaluating this through the life of a project. You can think of new and innovative ways of working to achieve the right outcomes. You are able to act as a recognised expert and advocate for the approaches, continuously reflecting and challenging the team. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • DDaT perspective. You know about the wider digital economy and advances in technology. You understand agile working at an organisational level. You can create the environment for success. You know how to initiate and support working with other digital, data and technology (DDaT) roles, job families and professions. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Experience of working within constraints. You know how to influence, challenge and coach. You can anticipate how constraints might change and know where to challenge or remove constraints. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Financial ownership. You understand the marketplace, realising the benefit and persuading others that a product is the right one to use. You know how to integrate a product with other services. You can ensure that products get used. You can realise benefits by linking work in progress back to the business case. You can build business cases based on user needs. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Life-cycle perspective. You know how to successfully lead teams through the full product life cycle. You can identify which tools and techniques should be used at each stage. You can develop sustainable support models. You can identify and deal with potential risks across or between all stages of the product life cycle. You know how to coach others. You can contribute to the assessment of other teams, providing guidance and support as they move through stages of the product life cycle. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Operational management. You keep abreast of industry best practice and can cascade ways of working. You know how to make operations efficient. You can act as the escalation point for major operational issues and champion operational management across the community. You can work closely with leaders of operational delivery teams in digital, data and technology (DDaT). (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Problem ownership. You know how to anticipate problems and how to defend against them at the right time. You understand how the problem fits into the larger picture. You can articulate the problem and help others to do it. You know how to build problem-solving capabilities in others. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Product ownership. You can start to define and create approaches. You know how to coach others. You can implement new ways of working. You are aware of what other sectors are doing. You understand what is most important and applicable. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Strategic ownership. You can develop a long-term vision and objectives. You are discerning and disciplined in focusing on what is important and most relevant. You know how to develop the capability of others. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • User focus. You know how to give direction on which tools or methods to use. You are experienced in meeting the needs of users across a variety of channels. You can bring insight and expertise in how user needs have changed over time to ensure these are met by the business. You know how to apply strategic thinking in how to provide the best service for the end user. (Relevant skill level: expert)

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Published 7 January 2020