Product management involves not only creating products and brands, but also ensuring their success and longevity (A day in the life of a product manager).
The MBA curriculum with a specialization in product management familiarizes the students with the various roles in the life-cycle of a product.
The processes or the various stages involved would vary depending on the type of product. First comes the ideation where you’ll be responsible for gathering new ideas for the product. Then these ideas would be evaluated while touching upon various aspects including – what differentiates them from the ones already in the market and what the USP of this product would be.
Other aspects covered include product demand, targeted customers and how the new product would be able to survive competition and what the revenue-generating potential of this new product would be.
Each new product idea would also be evaluated based on its practicality. Does your company have the resources and expertise needed to develop the new product? What would the development and the associated operational costs be? What would the pricing be? What would the profit margin be?
Product management also involves managing the marketing strategy and positioning, sales and advertising, getting insights from customer feedback and addressing various issues associated with the product and working towards improving user experience.
Best MBA and Master’s programs in Product Management
Following are a few good MBA programs offering product management specialization.
1. NYU Stern
All NYU Stern students graduate with a general-management MBA. Product management is one of the specializations offered, and students can opt for up to three specializations.
Product management at Stern involves courses such as brand strategy, consumer behaviour, new product development, digital marketing, luxury/hi-tech-product marketing, and pricing strategy.
At Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, ‘New Product Management’ focuses on strategies for identifying opportunities for the introduction of new products and services into the market, strategize product design, evolve marketing plans for new products, and evaluate new products.
The MBA Track “Management of Innovation and Product Development” equips students with marketing insights and an understanding of innovation strategy and the process of innovation. The course concludes with a corporate-sponsored project where innovation on the part of the students gets a boost. Sponsors have applied for over 15 patents on the projects developed as part of the course.
The product and brand management course offers the student an opportunity to play roles from product assistant to group product manager or marketing VP. Class lectures, case studies, and coursework give the student an idea about the challenges that product managers face.
3. Harvard Business School
At HBS, product management is part of the FIELD (Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development) course. The FIELD method involves learning by thinking, doing, and reflecting.
This course is project-based and targeted for those with no prior work experience in this area and those wishing to take a plunge into product development with a start-up or a big tech company. During the term, students would work in groups of 2-3 under a mentor and present five end-products. The projects they’d work on would either be the brainchild of some student (startup ideas) or any application in the development phase by the HBS’s IT staff.
4. MIT Sloan
MIT Sloan’s MBA students can opt for Enterprise management MBA track under which Product/Innovation Management can be chosen as a career path. You’ll get valuable insights and training on managing the product line in an effective manner.
You’ll get familiar with the role a product manager plays in an organisation which not just includes innovation, strategy, and roadmap but also involves leading cross-functional teams from a product’s ideation through its launch.
5. University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business
‘Managing the New Product Development Process’ is one of the courses offered for the MBA students. This course uses various delivery techniques including case studies, student research, reading, guest speakers and applied projects to effectively cover the various phases involved and pick up the required skills for successful product development. As per the official website statistics, 20% of full-time MBA grads choose the marketing stream to become product managers and brand managers.
6. UCLA Anderson
UCLA Anderson MBA has as a part of its marketing courses both product management and the closely related brand management. Product management is about managing the process of developing new products as discussed. Brand management is about managing brand strategies and making branding-related important decisions.
7. University of Texas, at Austin, McCombs School of Business
This business school provides a concentration in brand and product management. The curriculum includes courses in market analysis, brand management, strategic marketing, consumer behaviour/strategy, marketing communications, product development, and corporate governance.
McCombs provides experiential opportunities that enrich the classroom curriculum. The Center for Customer Insight and Marketing Solutions is a forum for interaction between students, marketing faculty, and industry representatives.
At the 2015 McCombs Marketing Conference, a new model to ensure growth in the new dynamic business environment, “whole-brained marketing,” was pursued. Top officials from PepsiCo and Hershey and leaders of IT, analytics, and advertising companies put forth their ideas.
Following a discussion on data visualization and visualization tools, Prof. Art Markman of the UT-Austin Psychology Department observed that marketing experts could help improve creativity at the workplace by using group memory in the ideation process.
8. Northwestern University – Kellogg School of Management
Here, there are numerous course options for those interested in product management, start-ups, tech marketing including some recommended courses like customer analytics, technology for analytics, digital marketing analytics and others that they might consider.
Mohanbir S. Sawhney, a clinical professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management has this to say “The product manager must master the art of influence without authority—and that’s not easy”. He adds, “It’s hard for the product manager to get to either the people or the needed information, because so many interfaces are required, with sales, R&D, operations, advertising, finance, the supply chain, and executive management”.
It’s a fact that product management demands excellent leadership skills and team-building ability as the role requires excellent co-ordination with the various teams. The importance of the role in perfecting the central marketing strategy is reflected in the fact that expert brand managers often go on to become CEOs. Product and brand management degree holders are also seen as resourceful assets in advertising and communication consulting.
MBA’s are usually the top recruiter choice for product management jobs. A curriculum in product management prepares the student for key roles that determine the success of a product.
We can conclude that product management professionals need to develop strategic thinking and have a great vision as the success of a product and the future of the business ultimately depends to a great extent on their role in the decision-making process. Due to the nature of the job, product or brand management is recognized as the most valuable function of management across all industries.