What is the role of a product portfolio manager?

If you’ve had any experience being a product manager, then like every other ambitious career-driven person, you’re probably looking to take on more significant tasks and responsibilities.

The desire to improve is perfectly normal, and you can find what you’re looking for in product portfolio management. It’s actually a very natural move for product managers to scale up to product portfolio management.

In this article, we discuss the all-important role of a product portfolio manager, how they contribute to organizational success, and the skills required to succeed in the role. 

Who is a product portfolio manager?

A product portfolio manager helps organizations productively manage their product mix and increase the value of their product offerings at various points along the customer journey, leading to increased revenue and profitability.

A product portfolio manager can be responsible for products wholly owned or partially owned by an organization, including manufactured goods, digital offerings, service-based components of an overall offering, etc. 

Because product portfolio management is concerned with a more broad and strategic outlook of product mix, product portfolio managers need to understand more information about various products. The role is typically filled by product management professionals who have a strong understanding of product lifecycles and the technical aspects of product development.

How product portfolio managers are different from product managers

A product portfolio manager is responsible for managing a product or product line, while a product manager looks after one specific product. 

The difference between product managers and product portfolio managers becomes more apparent as an organization scales up its business, leading to multiple products in different stages of their lifecycles.

Organizations with a good understanding of how portfolios relate to products and product managers tend to have a product portfolio manager that reports to the product management department.

What does a product portfolio manager do?

A product portfolio manager is not just responsible for implementing product strategy but also needs to identify and focus on key business objectives that will bring value to an organization.

The role of a product portfolio manager can include:

  • Identifying market opportunities across different customer segments and developing compelling new product ideas.
  • Working closely with product managers to ensure that product strategies and roadmaps align with the product portfolio’s goals.
  • Prioritizing product features based on business value and impact.
  • Ensuring a clear link between customer and product value at every stage of the journey.
  • Analyzing data from multiple channels, including research activities such as surveys, focus groups, or product usage analysis to determine product performance.
  • Collaborating with the business to define KPIs and success metrics for product portfolios. 
  • Developing a product portfolio management strategy, including mitigating risks by minimizing the overlap between products in the same market segments or within the organization’s product range. This can include eliminating existing products that are no longer aligned with product portfolio strategy.
  • Tracking product performance and adjusting product portfolios to bring products in line with overall business objectives. 
  • Identifying opportunities for cross-selling between different product lines ensures a clear link between individual product strategies and the overarching organization’s goals.

Many of these product portfolio management roles are clearly very similar to product management roles. The key differentiator is that product portfolio management concerns how well the company product offerings serve bigger organizational objectives. In contrast, product management is concerned with how well a single product is doing.

Product portfolio management also involves searching for new products to add to the product portfolio and not just new features to existing products.

Why product portfolio managers are integral to the success of the company

Product portfolio managers can help an organization remain competitive in an increasingly global market by productively managing product portfolios to deliver value along the customer journey.

A product manager with a sound understanding of how different product offerings fit into business goals can bring significant benefits to both sales and marketing activities through increased revenue growth and improved margin management

Product portfolio managers can also contribute to an organization’s success by identifying product opportunities that allow the business to expand into new markets, increase brand awareness, and bring more revenue online. 

By focusing on product portfolio management activities such as product lifecycle management (PLM) or product data quality initiatives, product portfolio managers can help organizations build a product catalog that can be used to drive product visibility and sales.

The hardest thing to do for product portfolio managers

The toughest challenge product portfolio managers face is prioritizing product investments across different markets, ensuring that products with high revenue potential or increased market share receive appropriate levels of investment while lower-performing products are rationalized. 

This requires a holistic picture of product performance across different customer segments, which can be achieved by looking at product usage data (for example, how many users are engaging with a product on an ongoing basis), market share, and revenue.

Thinking like a successful product portfolio manager

Successful product portfolio managers need to understand and spot opportunities across customer segments, having a solid commercial understanding that enables them to leverage the product catalog to maximize revenue. 

They also need excellent stakeholder management skills and an ability to build effective relationships with internal stakeholders such as marketing teams or sales leadership teams.

Final thoughts

Suppose you’ve gathered tons of experience in product management, and you’re confident you’re ready for a new challenge. In that case, it is absolutely the right time to make the jump to a role in product portfolio management.

As a product portfolio manager, you can build strong product portfolio management strategies that help you get your company close to its market growth and expansion goals.

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