A Director of Product is responsible for overseeing, leading, and managing product teams throughout the product development process. The role has visibility of all levels of product development, from design to UX to Agile product delivery to marketing and beyond.
Their role is to guide other product leaders (and the teams they lead) in the delivery of a final product — one that meets or exceeds specifications and is delivered on time. It is essential for the Director of Product to have a clear product vision that they can share with the people they lead, in turn steering the entire organization to a successful product launch.
Just as with any other leadership role, it’s unlikely that anyone would simply step into the role of Director of Product right away. Instead, the most common trajectory for a Director of Product aligns well with the overall product career path.
In most cases, the Director of Product is a role that evolves over time, with the individual generally starting their career as a Junior Product Manager or other forms of junior role. From there, with time and experience, an individual can progress through the hierarchy until they are promoted to Director of Product. Depending on the company, the Director of Product will report to the Vice President of Product, Chief Product Officer, SVP, EVP, or CEO.
As the name suggests, a company’s Director of Product sits at the top of the Product organization, though this can be interchangeable with the VP or Head of Product. So, while there is no definite structure to which all companies abide, here’s a broad outline of the hierarchy (and, indeed, the career path) within which the Director of Product role is located:
Junior / Associate Product Manager
Senior Product Manager
Director of Product
VP Product / Head of Product
Chief Product Officer.
While the product manager role is quite common, we often hear about another similar-sounding role: Director of Product. Both the product manager and director of product roles are crucial to the development process and are key parts of the selling process, regardless of industry. However, defining the difference between the two roles can be tough.
Despite the confusion, the difference is quite simple. If you think of the two roles hierarchically, the Director of Product sits above the Product Manager, overseeing high-level work with a focus on leadership.
Product managers oversee and implement any required strategies to improve productivity and achieve the product’s goals. They’re experts at product strategy and will be the go-to person for any product-related queries.
A Director of Product will come from a management background and be there to oversee the product team’s work. They work closely with product managers to ensure the project remains on track, but they’re often more focused on building employee knowledge and skills to help make the entire team more effective.
In a nutshell, Product Managers are product experts, while Directors of Product are people experts.
The Director of Product is primarily responsible for high-level tasks and people management. Of course, there are still various product-related tasks they take on. The scope of their work can be broad, but most daily responsibilities commonly include the following:
The Director of Product will handle the vision and strategic direction for your product. They will explain a business case for specific initiatives or features to help the team understand why they’re building them.
Product managers are responsible for crowdsourcing, developing, and curating ideas to add customer value to the product. The Director of Product will then ensure that the customer feedback and requests are incorporated into the planning and development processes. They will also communicate the status of any submitted ideas to customers, partners, and internal teammates.
The Director of Product has to prioritize features by classifying them in relation to strategic goals and initiatives. They need to make difficult market decisions about new feature suggestions based on the value each would add to your customers and business.