Are you a natural coach? A solid strategist? Great at communicating with all walks of life? If you answered ‘yes’ to the above, then a group product manager might be your dream job. It’s a step up from the more strategy-focused product manager role, but with a blend of team coaching and hands-on development work, it offers one of the most varied career paths out there.
What is a group product manager?
A group product manager (GPM) is a product leader who oversees the team responsible for a specific group of products. The role combines individual contribution with people management and coaching, bridging the gap between product and team leadership.
Unlike regular product managers (PMs) who focus on strategy and communication, GPMs guide product teams from concept to launch.
Typically, GPMs start as PMs and aspire to manage both products and people, often advancing to higher roles like head of product or VP of product.
Key responsibilities of the group product manager
- Developing strong relationships with prospects and vendors
- Collaborating with internal teams on competitive positioning and market development
- Conducting user surveys and focus groups to gather valuable insights
- Creating essential documents such as product requirement documents (PRDs), market requirement documents (MRDs), and business requirement documents (BRDs)
- Leading the entire product development lifecycle from initial concept to product launch
- Mentoring and providing guidance to junior members of the product team
- Motivating and coaching the product team to meet goals and deliverables
- Ensuring alignment with the organization’s strategic vision and objectives
What’s the difference between a product manager and a group product manager?
Product managers are primarily responsible for shaping the long-term vision and strategy of a specific product or service.
Their role is all about communicating and aligning this strategy with relevant stakeholders, overseeing tasks related to product development, and focusing on product features and market positioning. Notably, PMs do not typically manage people directly.
GPMs take on a broader leadership role and are far more people-oriented. Coaching, mentorship, and development all fall under their remit.
Product manager: The specialist
A product manager is like the captain of a single ship. They focus intensely on one product, steering it from conception through development to launch and beyond. Their world revolves around their product — understanding the market, defining features, and working closely with designers and engineers to build something that meets customer needs.
Group product manager: The strategist and coach
A group product manager, on the other hand, operates at a higher strategic level and manages multiple product managers who each are responsible for their own products. The GPM’s role is a blend of strategic oversight and people management.
PM and GPM: a side-by-side comparison
|Group product manager
|Focus on managing a specific product or service.
|Oversee a group of products or a product category.
|Set the long-term vision and strategy for the product.
|Balance strategy with leadership and management across products and teams.
|Typically, there are no direct people management responsibilities.
|Responsible for leading and mentoring product teams.
|Communicate and align product strategy with stakeholders.
|Engage in communication across products, teams, and senior leadership.
|Manage tasks and projects related to the product’s development.
|Guide the entire product development process from concept to launch.
|Market and Positioning
|Focus on product features, market positioning, and customer needs.
|Ensure product portfolio aligns with market needs and competitive positioning.
|May advance to senior PM roles or specialize in a specific domain.
|Typically evolve from successful PM roles and advance to higher leadership positions such as Head of Product or VP of Product.
|Emphasis on Leadership
|Primarily product leadership.
|Balance product leadership with team leadership and development.
The two types of group product manager
Group product managers (GPMs) vary in their approach and focus, depending on their strengths, interests, and the needs of their organization. Broadly, they fall into two main categories, each with its unique style and area of emphasis:
1. The hands-on strategist
These GPMs roll up their sleeves and get stuck into product details. They excel in conducting thorough market research, strategizing, and project execution and often play a significant role in the ideation and design phases of product development.
They often work alongside their teams, fine-tuning product features. This type of GPM thrives on being actively involved in the product’s journey, from conception to launch.
2. The team-focused leader
At the other end of the spectrum are GPMs who focus on people. They excel in building, leading, and nurturing their teams. They also develop the skills and careers of their product managers, making sure each team member is equipped to drive their respective products to success.
While they are involved in the development process, their strength lies in fostering a strong, collaborative team culture and aligning team efforts with the organization’s objectives.
A day in the life of a GPM
Ever wonder what a typical day looks like for a group product manager? It’s a blend of strategy, leadership, and collaboration, with a dash of problem-solving thrown in for good measure. Here’s a peek into their daily grind.
Morning: catch-up and strategy
- The day often starts with catching up on emails and messages. A GPM needs to stay on top of communications from various teams and stakeholders.
- Next, they might dive into reviewing performance metrics from the previous day or week. This helps them understand how different products are performing and spot any areas that need attention.
- Strategic product planning sessions tend to happen in the morning. These meetings focus on long-term goals and how current projects align with the overall business strategy.
Midday: team interactions and collaboration
- If it’s a working lunch, it might include informal catch-ups with team members. It’s a chance to connect on a personal level and discuss any immediate concerns or ideas.
- Post-lunch, GPMs often work with cross-functional teams. These sessions with marketing, sales, engineering, or customer support are crucial for keeping everyone aligned.
Afternoon: deep work and decision-making
- Afternoons are typically reserved for focused work. This might include preparing for upcoming launches, strategizing on market entry for new products, or working on risk mitigation plans.
- Decision-making is a critical part of a GPM’s afternoon. They might need to make calls on resource allocation, feature prioritization, or responding to competitive moves in the market.
Evening: reflection and planning
- As the day winds down, GPMs often reflect on the achievements and challenges, planning for the next day or week.
- They might also spend time staying updated with industry trends, reading relevant articles, or engaging in professional development activities.
What skills and qualifications are important for GPM success?
Here’s what typically sets a successful GPM apart.
- Strategic thinking and vision: A GPM needs to see the bigger picture and understand how different products fit together within the broader business strategy. They should be able to set long-term goals and map out the path to achieve them.
- Leadership and team management: Effective leadership is key. A GPM should inspire, guide, and mentor their team of product managers, fostering a collaborative and productive environment. Misanthropes need not apply!
- Communication and interpersonal skills: Excellent communication skills are vital since they’ll be chatting with a range of teams and building metaphorical bridges between them. They need to be articulate, strong negotiators, and skilled mediators.
- Analytical and problem-solving abilities: Number crunching skills are a must, specifically, analysis. GPMs need to understand market trends and turn data into action.
- Experience in product management: A background in product management is essential. This includes experience developing and launching products, understanding customer needs, and managing product life cycles.
- Technical knowledge: It’s not always a requirement, but a good understanding of the technology behind the products can be a huge advantage, especially in tech-focused industries.
- Adaptability and resilience: The market can change rapidly, and a GPM needs to be adaptable and ready to pivot strategies when necessary. Resilience helps you roll with the punches.
- Educational background: Typically, a GPM will have a bachelor’s degree in business, marketing, engineering, or a related field. Advanced degrees like an MBA can be beneficial but are not always necessary.
Where does the GPM role fit in the product career path?
While routes differ, here’s the most common pathway to the group product manager role.
1. Entry-level product role
- Position: Junior product manager, associate product manager, or product analyst.
- Responsibilities: Gaining foundational knowledge in product development, understanding customer needs, and working on small features or segments of a larger product.
- Duration: 1-2 years.
2. Mid-level product management
- Position: Product manager.
- Responsibilities: Full responsibility for a single product or major product feature, including strategy, roadmap, and execution. Collaboration with cross-functional teams becomes more significant.
- Duration: 2-4 years.
3. Senior product management role
- Position: Senior product manager or lead product manager.
- Responsibilities: Managing more complex products or multiple product features, often with higher visibility or strategic importance. Leadership and mentoring of junior product managers may begin here.
- Duration: 3-5 years.
4. Transition to group product management
- Position: Group product manager.
- Responsibilities: Overseeing multiple product managers, each responsible for their own products. Strategic planning across a product line or category and more intensive team leadership and mentorship.
- Duration: Varies, depending on company and industry.
5. Advanced leadership roles
- Position: Director of product, VP of product, head of product.
- Responsibilities: Broad organizational responsibilities, strategic direction for the product portfolio, influencing company-wide policies and strategies.
- Duration: Indefinite, as these are typically the highest product roles in a company.
How to become a group product manager
Keen to give this career a try? Here’s how.
1. Start with a foundation in product management
Most GPMs begin their careers as product managers. Starting from here means that by the time you’re ready to take on the GPM challenge, you’ll already have a firm grip on the fundamentals, including product development, market research, customer engagement, and the product life cycle. It’s rare to jump straight in without first being a product manager.
2. Develop a broad skill set
This includes strategic planning, customer discovery, communication, and technical understanding.
3. Gain experience leading teams
Seek opportunities to lead projects or mentor junior team members. It’s great for your experience, as well as the CV.
4. Build strategic thinking and business acumen
A GPM needs to align product strategies with broader business goals. Developing a strong understanding of business operations, financial principles, and strategic planning is going to be a big help.
5. Brush up your communication skills
As a GPM, you’ll be coordinating with various departments and stakeholders. Strong communication skills and the ability to manage stakeholder relationships are critical.
6. Demonstrate success in your current role
To be considered for a GPM position, show excellence in your current role as a product manager. Successfully launching products, achieving business goals, and contributing innovative ideas can set you apart. Note your wins down and present them when the time comes for a step up.
7. Seek feedback and continue learning
Regularly seek feedback from peers and superiors, and be open to learning and adapting. Continuous learning through courses, workshops, and staying updated with industry trends is important.
8. Network and express your career goals
Build a strong professional network within and outside your organization. Let your superiors know about your career aspirations so they can consider you for future GPM roles.
9. Be patient and persistent
Climbing the ladder to a GPM role takes time and perseverance. Stay focused on your goal, continue to excel in your current responsibilities, and be open to new challenges and opportunities.
Backlog was made for group product managers
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just beginning your GPM journey, product management software offers the best way to streamline your processes.
For group product managers, the ability to oversee multiple projects, track progress, and collaborate smoothly is essential.
Backlog’s features, including task management, version control, and bug tracking, cater precisely to these needs. Its robust reporting tools allow GPMs to get a clear overview of all projects. Backlog also allows for real-time communication and feedback. This not only improves efficiency, but also enhances the quality of work, making it a must-have tool for any GPM looking to drive their team to success.