What Makes a Great Product Lifecycle Manager

Arthur Charbit
March 24, 2020
8 min read
Flagship.ioRelease ManagementWhat Makes a Great Product Lifecycle Manager

We usually only see a product or service when it’s ready for consumption. 

But to get it to the shelf—both physically and virtually speaking—an all-encompassing process must take place. Even once a product or service is fit for consumption, there are a number of key considerations to make to ensure its success and market stability.

Effective product lifecycle management (PLM) is integral in almost every sector imaginable. It’s the product lifecycle manager’s job to spearhead the entire process, from development to decline.

But what makes a great product lifecycle manager? 

Well, we’re going to find out. But before we do, let’s delve a little deeper into the importance of PLM and the core duties of a modern product lifecycle manager.

Why Is Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Important?

Product lifecycle management is the glue that holds the entire process together, from ideation and development to production, promotion, and beyond. Without an effective PLM process, it’s unlikely that any production or service would ever see the light of day.

When it comes to realizing a product, service, or innovation, there are several processes and entities involved. It’s the responsibility of the product lifecycle manager to bring all of these elements together and ensure that every stage of the journey is optimized for success.

The role of the product lifecycle manager is as varied as it is vital, and there are a wealth of responsibilities involved.

What Is Expected from a Modern Product Lifecycle Manager?

No two days in the life of a great product lifecycle manager are ever quite the same. But for your reference, the core functions of a project lifecycle manager include the following:

  • Introduction: Adopting the role of market or subject expert to get the product or innovation fit for the market. At this stage of the journey, extensive market research is required and it’s also the product lifecycle manager’s duty to ensure that every department is working together cohesively for development, production, and launch.
  • Growth: Once the product is fit for public consumption, it’s the product lifecycle manager’s duty to promote healthy market expansion and scalability, supporting the necessary departments or entities in optimizing sustainable growth.
  • Maturity: At the point where the product in question is scaling and gaining momentum, the product lifecycle manager must work with internal and external stakeholders to sustain a market share and evolve the product’s commercial journey, thus securing a sustainable return on investment (ROI).
  • Decline: When a product or innovation reaches its decline, a great product lifecycle manager will assume the role of a solution seeker. At this stage, it’s the lifecycle manager’s job to formulate the best strategic outcome for the product—whether it’s a case of resurrection and redevelopment or phasing out.

Product Lifecycle Manager: Key Attributes for Success

Being a product lifecycle manager is challenging to say the least, but if you have the skills and talent to be great, it is a career path that will offer endless rewards.

Do you want to know what it takes to be a great product lifecycle manager? Here are the key attributes required for PLM success. 

Qualifications and Credentials

While there is no clear cut path to becoming a great product lifecycle manager, to perform every facet of the job effectively you will need relevant experience and qualifications related to product management and development.

It’s also imperative that you are digitally savvy. As such, to be a great product lifecycle manager you should be certified or well-versed in the technology, tools, and platforms that are standard within the sector. 

If you work in a specific product niche, conduct extensive research and gain every relevant credential possible. Not only will this make you more credible, but it will also provide you with a level of working knowledge that will give you an all-important edge on the competition—the kind of edge that will empower you to streamline and optimize every initiative you undertake.

Continual Adaptability

In the age of information, technology evolves at a rapid rate. That said, every great product lifecycle manager should be completely adaptable to change—evolving with ever-changing methods, innovations, and concepts on a continual basis.

As a product lifecycle manager, it’s vital that you invest ample time in developing your skills and keeping your finger on the pulse. A lifecycle manager must be robust and innovative, and to be an ongoing success must adopt a mindset of lifelong learning.

If you read regular industry publications, attend expos and webinars, and enroll in courses that will help you refine your existing skills (or learn new competencies), you will propel yourself from good to great.

Analytical Skills

We live in an age rife with digital data. In fact, by the end of 2020, almost every person will generate 1.7 megabytes in a single second.

That said, to be an exceptional product lifecycle manager, it’s important to possess a sharp eye and analytical skills to match.

At every stage of the production journey, data will empower you to spot emerging trends, identify weaknesses, and make informed decisions that will accelerate the success of the process. Moreover, by harnessing data analytics to its fullest potential, you will be able to work with key performance indicators (KPIs) to set success benchmarks and foster smooth collaboration between departments. 

As a guide, here are the three key metrics you should know in great detail (these are particularly pivotal during the early launch and development stages):

  • Traffic to product pages: An indicator of engagement and product interest
  • Conversion rate: The percentage of users or consumers that take the desired action
  • Adoption rate: The rate at which a product is acquired and used in certain marketplaces

By developing a deep understanding of essential PLM metrics and learning how to extract every last drop of value from the data while working with dynamic business intelligence (BI) tools, you will gain a level of insight that will make you an incredible product lifecycle manager.

A Way with Words

When it comes to product lifecycle management, this is an attribute that people often overlook. But to become great, having a confident, articulate way with words is essential.

Almost every day in the working life of a product lifecycle manager is crammed with conversations, both in person and via project management platforms, remote conferences, and email exchanges.

As a product manager, it’s your duty to share and deliver a wealth of product-related information to a variety of stakeholders, both internally and externally. That said, you need rock-solid interpersonal skills, excellent public speaking abilities, and writing attributes that will allow you to adjust your tone or language depending on your point of contact.

Every great product lifecycle manager has an extensive way with words—in every situation and across all platforms. Work on these skills and you will accelerate your success in the fast-paced world of PLM. 

Sales Skills

As a product lifecycle manager, you will need to be able to sell a vision to potential partners throughout every project.

Naturally, having a way with words will help you sell your vision to potential engineers, manufacturers, marketers, stockists—the list goes on. But in the digital age, having digital selling skills is also imperative. These competencies include the following:

  • Targeted content creation to engage specific users and generate leads
  • Building trust through social media engagement
  •  The ability to optimize conversions through innovative promotional campaigns
  • Superior digital research skills to understand your target sector on a deeper, more meaningful level

To generate and nurture leads across a host of touchpoints—from social media and email to mobile applications and beyond—you will need to have an astute ability to be persuasive and build relationships both in person and in a virtual sense. Acquiring this attribute will boost your career prospects, exponentially.

Accountability and the Ability to Lead

As a product lifecycle manager, the ability to take accountability and lead a project with respectful authority is perhaps the most important soft skill you can possess.

Not only will you have to take the helm concerning strategic decisions at every stage of the journey, but you will need to guide each entity within any given project towards one common goal. 

If a roadblock presents itself or an issue occurs, you must be accountable and take ownership. And, if you believe that individuals require additional support or guidance, it will be down to you to listen and offer mentorship—well, you will if you’re a great product lifecycle manager.

Moreover, at the growth and maturity phases of the lifecycle, you will need to display powerful leadership skills to spearhead new commercial relationships and reach bold new marketplaces.

If you’re unable to be accountable and lead with inspiration, it’s unlikely that you will ever be anything more than a mediocre product lifecycle manager.

“The details are details. They make the product. The connections, the connections, the connections. It will, in the end, be these details that give the product its life.” 

Charles Eames

Bringing an idea to life is no easy feat, and that’s an understatement. But with the passion, drive, and a commitment to acquiring the right attributes, it is more than possible.

The role of a product lifecycle manager is indeed paved with challenges, but if you’re willing to do what it takes to be great, you will enjoy a long, rewarding career filled with excitement. Best of luck!

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About the author
Arthur is Product Manager for Flagship, AB Tasty's feature management platform.

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