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What is a Data Product Manager
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Data Product Manager

What is a Data Product Manager

Definition of a Data Product Manager

A Data Product Manager is similar to other product managers, but with one key difference: they put data at the heart of everything they do. Data PMs are responsible for designing products and features that are based on advanced data-driven insights, but it’s also their job to leverage the flow of data, too.

Using data to inform product design is nothing new. In fact, one of the earliest stages of product development is customer research — the results of which help shape a product. For the conventional product manager role, this is where the leverage of data ends — it’s essentially a means to an end. For a data product manager, however, data is leveraged throughout the development process (and even beyond).

As the world has become ever more data-driven, the collection of customer insights has likewise become more common. It’s the role of the data PM to find a way to tap into these data streams within product features.

They’re no longer tools used to build a feature, but rather are deeply integrated into the features themselves.

What is the difference between a product manager and a data product manager?

While there are naturally several similarities between product managers and data product managers, it’s really the understanding of — and connection to — data that sets them apart.

Historically, a product manager will work with a data analyst to source data with which to make decisions — customer behavioral data, for example — and that’s where the relationship ends. A data product manager, on the other hand, must be able to marry these two roles up in a meaningful way, taking on the strategic role of the data analyst and the more practically focused responsibility of the product manager.  

In terms of core responsibilities, both roles will share almost everything.

For an average PM, that includes backlog refinement, presenting new releases, customer development, and working with other areas of the business. A data PM does all of this, but is also responsible for developing ways to leverage real-time data as part of a product’s core feature set.

Here’s a practical example.

A product manager could develop a feature that references a database of historical customer GPS movements in order to make location-based suggestions. A data product manager may choose instead to tap into a data flow of real-time GPS data in order to make those suggestions on the fly.

The benefit of having a data product manager in the product development cycle

It’s clear that the data product manager role is becoming more valuable as time goes on.

As our understanding and leverage of real-time data increases, so too will the demand for product managers who understand exactly how to use it to a business’s advantage.

But how does this benefit the overall product development cycle? Here are 4 core ways a data product manager can bring value to a product development team:

  1. Product teams can fully utilize the many data-rich solutions available via modern technologies, including GPS, biometrics, and more. These real-time data sources enable new levels of interactivity and functionality, to improve the user experience and value of a product.

  2. The role of the data analyst is decoupled and merged with product development, meaning data is no longer a siloed one-use commodity, but a real-time data-stream to be tapped.

  3. The product team no longer needs to guess how customers interact with a product because real-time data-driven insights can be prototyped and tested before being deployed.

  4. A data product manager eliminates the risk of using bad or outdated data to make decisions. With access to limitless data insights, the team’s decision-making becomes more proactive and less reactive.

General FAQ

What does a data product manager do?
A data product manager’s role is to find ways to leverage data flow throughout an entire product, rather than simply using data to inform a product’s design.
How do product managers use data?
In the product development process, data is usually used to inform early design decisions about customers’ wants and needs. However, data product managers instead use data as part of the product’s core functionality, leveraging algorithmic technology to make use of data in real-time. When done well, this can improve the user experience as well.
What is data product management?
Data product management is the process of developing products that leverage data to enhance functionality throughout the development process.
What are data-driven products?
Products defined as “data-driven” are built to actively leverage data on-the-fly as part of their core functionality, usually via algorithmic technology and machine learning.
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