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Product management is an organizational function in business that centers on the development of products and brand extensions. This method is typically focused on the internal aspects of a product’s life cycle, while project marketing functions on the outward aspects of the same product. While some parts of product management apply to existing projects, the majority of these methods are used on new products or to extend the company into new areas.
The techniques of product management begin long before a product is developed. Managers look at the existing markets and find locations where their company is poorly represented or where gaps exist for new products. The viability of creating projects to address these problems determines whether the company will modify an existing product line, begin a new line or simply decline to enter that market.
Before the company enters into a new or modified operation, product management specialists conduct studies to determine the exact direction of the line. These studies center on two areas, market viability and individual interest. Market viability mostly focuses on similar products currently in the market and attempts at similar projects that have failed in the past. By questioning these areas, product managers can determine if the market is missing a segment or if the market can’t support the segment.
Individual interest usually revolves around panel groups. A group of people is exposed to the idea of the product. They rate their individual interest in the product, how much they would pay, what the product makes them think about, etc. Between the results of the two areas, companies know if they should continue with product development and the direction in which they should go.
The next step in product management is development. This stage is the first step that contains an actual product. In this step, teams of people work together to create and develop the new line. This culminates in a prototype, or alpha, version. This version is circulated among testers to get their opinions, which are then used to create a series of updated prototypes.
This is typically when product management and product marketing split. Teaser information related to the new product is released, whetting the appetites of the customer base. This is typically common only with new products; line modifications rarely generate enough public interest to warrant a full-blown ad campaign. While it is unusual for a product to be scrapped at this point, it may still happen.
The last phase is release. The product is placed in stores and broad-base customer feedback starts coming in. While after-release functions like costumer support and product extension are important concepts, a typical product management team doesn’t deal with them. The feedback the project generates is used to reexamine the market place for new gaps, and the cycle begins again.